Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Insecurity and accepting who you are... part one.

I talked in my very first blog post about a tendency I have had in the past to people please. I am certainly in a better place with this than I used to be, but every now and then the whole area of "what do they think of me?" rears it's ugly head. I have been feeling quite insecure these last two weeks, this could possibly be for a number of reasons: spiritual attack; I'm stepping out and saying and doing things publicly which is making me feel nervous about potentially being judged; I've been too busy and haven't spent enough time with the Lord either just praying or reading, or listening to a podcast. I thought it could be good to write about this because I know a lot of people struggle with feelings of insecurity and with feeling paranoid about what others think about them - what they say/do/dress like and how they live their lives.
When I use the term "people please" I mean the tendency to make decisions to do or say things based on what we think others would want us to do or say, rather than what we want to do or say, or what God would have us do. I think deep down most of us just want to be loved and accepted. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that we can be those things by just being who we are, so we try to adapt ourselves to suit our situation and the people around us.
I didn't so much pretend to be things I wasn't, I used to just hide. I found it really hard to talk to new people, at church or anywhere really, because I thought so hard about what I was going to say and how they would interpret what I'd said, that I'd sabotaged myself before I'd even begun! I've found nothing kills conversation more than overthinking it. Now I don't believe that we should shoot our mouths off either. But I think that when we are living in tune with Jesus and trying to be who he wants us to be, praying and seeking him, we can trust him to help us to be naturally ourselves when we talk to others.
The times when I have felt the worst about myself have been the times when my view of God has been the most twisted. About 5 years ago on summer holiday I read a book which opened my eyes to where my thinking had gone so wonky. The book is "A stone for a pillow" by I think my most favourite author, Madeleine L'engle. The book is about Jacob. The first chapter talks about how we as the western world have taken a "forensic view of God". Here are some quotes from that chapter:

"Far too often we view God as an angry judge who assumes that we are guilty unless we can placate divine ire and establish our innocence"

"This is not God, not the God of scripture who over and over again shows love for us imperfect creatures, who does not demand that we be good or virtuous before we can be loved. When we stray from God, it is not God's pleasure to punish us. It is God's pleasure to welcome us back, and then throw a party in celebration of our homecoming."

I always felt like I was on trial with God. Constantly measuring myself against some crazy, perfect, unattainable standard which I always fell short of. I was so insanely disappointed in myself, and though I knew in my head about grace, I knew God loved me, it had not clicked through to my heart. I'm thankful now that it has. It took time, it took prayer, it took good people around me. But God got me there. When I think of the Lord now and when I'm in his presence I feel 99% of the time just relaxed, free, at peace. I know he cares for me regardless of how often I read my bible, or study, or whether I said something I didn't mean that hurt someones feelings, or whether I lost my temper at my kids, or I thought about things that weren't healthy for me, or ate way too much chocolate when I wasn't even hungry. He doesn't stand in judgement towards me on those things. But if I want to talk about them and deal with them with him, he's cool with that too. And this is not to say that he isn't Lord, King, Master. The line is a tricky one but I think it pays sometimes not to overthink it. 
So I've been trying, this year in particular, to be a bit more me. I used to be very extroverted and I think that is part of who I am that I lost - the chatty part that laughed alot. I think that God would have me be that person, because that was who I was as a child, and I believe that's part of who I am - because the reasons I wouldn't act that way were full of regret and shame and guilt, and I don't believe that God is about those 3 things. God is love, God is hope, God is peace. But it's hard. I do go home sometimes after being out at church, or a practice, or visiting someone and have the "did I talk too much? why did I say that? I hope they don't think I'm being pushy?!" thoughts. But I need to learn to get past those. I know God has things for me to do. And I will not ever be able to do those things if I hide. Our pastor used a quote (he had said it was from Nelson Mandela, but I found online that this is a common mistake and it is actually from Marianne Williamson) in a sermon a few years back that struck home for me, and I try to remember it when feelings of insecurity arise inside me:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others"

I'm done with playing small. If by being friendly and by being myself I alienate some people, then I will just have to accept that. I know that it's not my heart to hurt or offend. I know that I am just trying to love and welcome people. And over time God will help me grow and mature and perhaps I will get a bit better at saying the right thing and have a few less foot-in-mouth moments. Or maybe I won't. Because the more foot-in-mouth moments I have, the more it keeps me humble and keeps me running back into the arms of my God who is waiting to welcome me.
I think I'm going to leave it there for now, but I think I could be often returning to this subject.
xx Sarah

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