High School Insecurities
Sometimes I’m reminded that I am only one step away from retreating back to high school. No, thankfully not the final exams and the endless homework, but I am referring more to the feelings of insecurity. You know the feeling? When you weren’t invited to the party or the guy picked your friend to the dance over you? Yeah, that feeling. That sneaky little feeling (or call it a lie from the Liar himself) that weasels its way into your heart causing you to doubt who you are. I thought that once I was in the big, grown-up world all of those feelings would be long gone, just like the papers due on Monday mornings.
But unfortunately, those feelings travel with us throughout adulthood until we deal with the root causes. And even when we deal with root, the feeling of insecurity can still pop up. But thankfully as we address the underlying reasons and allow them to bring us closer to God, the feelings aren’t as intense as high school. Thankfully!
I had a classic situation recently where my feelings were hurt and it brought me back to my high school insecurities. It was one of those typical situations where my friend didn’t mean anything malicious, but nonetheless, it stung. And all of the sudden I was presented with a choice. The same choice I’ve been presented time and time again since high school: Would I allow this situation to cause me to doubt myself and the worth God has given me? Would I allow it to cause me to internally process every single exchange I’ve had with this person to figure out why it happened or to discover what was wrong with me? Or would I fall back on the truths from God’s Word about who I am in Him and find security in my relationship with Him?
Around this time Jared and I listened to a sermon by James MacDonald about change that helped jolt me into the right perspective. He was teaching from Romans 6 and made the point that “Victory over sin is moment by moment. Consider [the tempting situation before you act]. Press your mind down upon it. Where is this going?”
My tempting situation often is allowing situations like I mentioned above to plague me. Because I am a recovering people-pleaser and approval-seeker, I often go straight to “what did I do wrong that caused them to do that?” And then I scold myself for not going with them to run that errand or answering the phone when they needed to talk. When I am not finding my identity in Christ, I decide that I must not have met their expectations, and thus the disappointing situation ensued. Somehow I wrongly believe that it all depends on me and if the ball drops, then it must be my fault or a reflection on me. How plain exhausting to think that being the perfect friend would help me feel good about myself. (And to take it a step further, this faulty thinking has worked its way into my relationship with God because I decide that in order to be loved, not only by people but by God, I must flawlessly perform all my “duties” given to me. And if I succeed, I feel loved, but if I fail, I feel God’s disapproval. You can imagine the anxiety those misconceptions produce.)
I was recently talking with a dear friend and kindred spirit about this shared struggle. She told me about a book she had recently read, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, where the author, Peter Scazzero, said, “True freedom comes when we no longer need to be somebody special in other people’s eyes because we know we are loveable and good enough.” I would add to the end of that sentence, “In God’s eyes.” Security comes when we don’t have to prove ourselves to others or to God in order to be loved. Instead, we can be secure in who we are because God gives us incredible worth and identity as a child of God completely independent on how we perform. What freedom!
Such insights helped recenter my thinking at a time when I could have progressed down woe-is-me lane. Instead, I stopped and “pressed [my] mind down upon it” to consider what was happening before me. I asked God to help me see Him in the situation and for wisdom to know what to do with my hurt feelings. I asked myself a question that a wise friend has taught me: “what’s it like for you that [this] happened?” The word disappointment came to mind.
I looked it up in dictionary and the opposite of disappoint is satisfy, which got me thinking. My tendency in high school (and beyond) was to look to my friends to satisfy me. Not in an overly needy way but in an I-feel-loved-because-I-have-good-friends-who-want-to-hang-out-with-me way. God has been teaching me over the years to not look to my friends (or boyfriend—or now husband, or job, or anything else) to satisfy me but to look to HIM. As I find my satisfaction, my fulfillment, and my comfort in God first, I am able to allow disappointing situations to roll off my back more easily and focus my eyes back on God because I don’t need my friends’ approval in order to feel secure.
But let’s be honest: our first response isn’t usually “how can I allow God to satisfy me completely in this moment?” For me, it’s usually focused on me and what I did wrong or it’s on the other person and what they did wrong. (Just bein’ honest.) God is teaching me that I have a choice in how I respond and before I let myself go down these paths, I have to go back to the question James MacDonald asked, “where is this going?” Have I been down this road before? If so, what was accomplished? What is the truth about myself in this situation?
If I’m honest with myself, progressing down those woe-is-me lanes only makes me feel really badly in the end. And often, sad to say, I have to battle many lies that Satan throws my way about who I am and who God is as a result. It can take me days to recover and find my secure groove again. As James MacDonald said, “That road has a hole in it,” meaning “I’ve gone down that road before and it hasn’t produced good results.” It’s time to pick a new road!
This brings me back to the moment that I realized my feelings were hurt by my friend. For a few minutes, I ruminated about the situation in my mind and began wondering where I went wrong. But thankfully I am seeing a little victory in these moments because instead of spending too much time traveling down the over-analyzing road, I said to God, “Lord, I’m really disappointed and my feelings are hurt. What do I do with this?”
Though God didn’t wave a wand like the Fairy Godmother, He reminded me of the truth of who I am in Him and who He is. Thankfully as I choose to embrace my identity and take my eyes off the situation and onto God, I have more than enough to handle life’s disappointments. Even when they remind me of high school.
“The eyes of all look to you,
and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand
and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”
Psalm 145:15, 16
“The LORD will guide you always;
He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.”
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”