Finding Real Confidence

At one point or another in our lives, we all develop some sort of insecurity.  When people hear the word “insecure”, they often associate it in their mind with someone being self-conscious of their appearance, whether that be their height, weight, facial features, hair, etc.  Because of this, I often thought that I somehow was invincible to the curse of insecurity.  I’ve been blessed enough that I’ve always been happy with my appearance.  I always figured that if I didn’t like my hair I could cut it, if I didn’t like my height I could wear heels, or if I didn’t like my weight I could exercise more and eat healthier.  However, insecurities run a whole lot deeper than physical appearance.

Merriam-Webster defines the word “insecure” as the state of being “not confident or sure”.  In other words, being insecure means that you are uncertain of that area of your life.  After analyzing this word and trying to figure out how it applies to my life, the answer hit me square in the face via Facebook.  While I may be confident about my physical appearance, I have pretty much zero confidence when it comes to who I am inside.  Now, I know exactly who I am. I know my strengths and weaknesses, so that’s not what I am “uncertain” of.  My big insecurity is whether or not I belong, or whether or not people will accept or like me.  A lot of the time I meet people and they think that I’m really shy or quiet, but as time goes on and they spend more and more time with my they learn that I’m actually not quiet at all.  I’m perfectly okay with talking to strangers whether it be at school or somewhere like the store because chances are I’m not expecting to form some sort of long relationship with them, therefore it doesn’t matter to me what they think of my personality.  The big issue is when I’m trying to form meaningful, lasting relationships.  New friends, family friends, family members I don’t see too often, etc.  Those are usually the situations in which my anxiety really kicks in and I just want to hide in a corner and disappear.  Once I came to terms with the fact that this is in fact a form of insecurity, I have to admit that I felt pretty embarrassed.  I felt like a high school freshman who’s afraid of not fitting in with the cool kids.  But after thinking about it harder, I realized that it really is nothing to be ashamed of.  It’s not as though I want to fit in a worldly way, I’m simply afraid of not being able to form healthy relationships because of the fear that others will not find my personality as dazzling as I would like them to. 

Admittedly, I’m still pretty embarrassed to even be writing about this.  As a human, I’d much rather broadcast my strengths and positive aspects.  So, in an effort to make this a positive post, I did some thinking.  Following that thinking, I did some Biblical research (my favorite kind), and what I found really helped me.  First, I analyzed my issue and narrowed it down to one simple statement: I am afraid of feeling as though I don’t belong when it comes to _____.  I could finish that sentence with a couple different things (friends, family, etc.), so I left it open ended.  Then I did my oh-so-scholarly research by going to Bing and literally typing word for word “what does the Bible say about belonging”.  In the blink of an eye (what a time to be alive, am I right?) my computer was filled with various verses and explanations.  A lot of them had to do with how we shouldn’t desire to fit in with the world or to partake with worldly things, which while that is always excellent advice, I didn’t feel it was applicable to my current lack of self-esteem.  One verse that stood out was this one:

“All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

John 6:37

I felt some instant relief after reading this, because it serves as a reminder that Jesus has accepted me with all of my sins, flaws, and weird quirks, and that should be all that matters.  Then, it occurred to me that there was something I read in my Bible study this morning that went along with this.  At one in the afternoon, that seven o’clock Bible study seemed like forever ago, but after some searching I found what I was looking for, and the best part was that it was in a footnote that I myself had written this morning.  There at the bottom of my page in my first-grade like handwriting I saw, “God is greater than our self-condemnation.”  The verse I had written this in reference to was the following:

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.  Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” -1 John 3:20-21

To me, this verse was saying that no matter what I may not like about myself or what I have done or will do wrong, I have to remember that if God, who is much greater than us, can forgive, love, and accept me through it all, then I need to be able to see past my flaws.  Once I’m able to do that, that’s when I will be able to have true confidence.  I shouldn’t be so concerned about whether or not people accept me.  When I do this, I cause myself to become closed off and don’t allow others to see the light of God in me.  My main purpose in life should be to serve the Lord in everything that I do, and one of the ways I can do this is to open myself up and greet others with the love and grace that God has shown me. 

Whenever we open ourselves up to others we run the risk of being judged or disliked.  Not everyone is going to like us, and that’s okay.  That is to be expected.  Our goal in life shouldn’t be to win people over to satisfy our own selfish needs, it should be to allow other to see God work through us.  If we are allowing others to see Him at work in us, then we are doing his will, and that is all that matters.

I wish that I could say that all of this is going to allow me to open up and be myself 100% of the time without any speck of fear, but I know that wouldn’t be a realistic expectation.  The next time I’m thrust into one of those situations in which I tend to become withdrawn and quiet my anxiety will definitely kick in and the negative self talk telling me that I’m not good enough will be going on in my head.  However, the difference is that now I know how to handle it, and instead of letting those doubts and insecurities take away from who I am, I’m going to utilize the confidence I have in God’s love for me to overcome those insecurities.  It won’t be easy, it’s something that I’ll probably have to struggle with for the rest of my life, but the good news is that it’s not something I have to face alone.

Whatever your insecurity might be, whether it’s regarding who you are externally or internally, know that it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you go about your life.  Focus on those strengths and traits that you love about yourself and really work on embracing those, and once you do that those flaws that used to seem so huge to you will no longer have control over how you live your life.

 

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Early Adulthood Doesn’t Come with Directions

At an early age we have the idea seeded into our mind that after high school there is a certain way we have to live our lives.  As you get older, that seed grows into a vine that twists about in different directions as you battle with what you want to do, and what you feel you are supposed to do.  My whole life I was an honor student and always had very good grades.  On top of that, I was heavily involved in a wide range of extra curricular activities.  In my mind I had my future all planned out.  I was going to graduate high school, go straight to a four year university, graduate from that university, get a job, and live happily ever after the way everyone does.  The way we are all told we’re supposed to.

The first wave of doubts came my senior year in high school.  One day my economics teacher was speaking to us about life after high school, which he referred to as “the real world”, and that was the first time I ever heard a teacher tell me that college isn’t for everybody.  I was so taken aback at what I was hearing.  He went on and on about how some people are meant to go directly into the work force, some to a junior college, some to a trait school, etc. and I thought surely he had to be in violation of some unwritten teacher code.  I remember sitting there trying to ignore him because I knew that I was going to go straight into a four year university, I had to. But in the back of my mind I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not I was doing the right thing.  However, soon after that class discussion I received my acceptance letter into California State University Fresno, and before I knew it I would be packing up my belongings and riding off into the horizon as I began this new and exciting chapter of my life.  My plan was finally falling into place.

Well, almost.

The next obstacles in my road map came the spring and summer before I was supposed to leave for college.  In March of 2012 I began working for the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team.  It was my dream summer job, and definitely was part of my plan.  What wasn’t part of my plan was that while working there I met and began dating the man that is now my fiancé.  That summer I also began an internship at an investment firm.  Now, it is important to understand that before I graduated high school I loved learning.  I looked forward to getting up each morning and filling my mind with knowledge.  It was always an exhilarating and empowering feeling for me.  I was good at school, plain and simple.  However, that summer I learned that there was actually something out there I loved more than going to school.  I loved going to work.  I loved it so much in fact, that I spent countless hours driving back and forth from Fresno and Modesto just so I could keep both of my jobs.  But still, I was under the illusion that I was going to be able to live out my perfect little plan.

But what about God’s plan?

My year at Fresno State was a miserable experience at the time, but in retrospect it was probably one of the most enlightening and wonderful learning experiences of them all.  My first couple months there I went through the motions of what I thought a college kid was supposed to be.  I went to all of my classes, partied on the weekends, lived off of fast food and top ramen, and on the outside seemed to be enjoying myself.  But after those first few months, it became harder and harder to convince myself that I was where I was supposed to be.  I only lived two hours away from home, but I had never felt more homesick in my life.  I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that I was completely head over heels in love, but to be honest, even if I hadn’t met Eddie I would have been unhappy.  I had spent so long trying to live according to my plan that I had never once stopped and thought about God’s plan for me.  I couldn’t sleep, I stopped going to class, and I spent most of my time locked in my room lying in bed and doing absolutely nothing.  I knew that I had made a mistake.  I knew what I needed to do was own up to it and transfer to my home city’s community college.  After a lot of prayer and consideration, I knew that was what I should have done all along.  But even after making this decision, I had my doubts.

Everyone is going to think I failed.

I was convinced that once people found out I was dropping out of Fresno State and moving back home that they were going to judge me.  That in their eyes, I was a failure.  Why is that?  Why is it that our whole lives we are told that there is only one right way to do things?  Teachers, parents, and even the media teach us that there is one way to do adulthood and that if we don’t do it that way, then we won’t succeed.  This couldn’t be more false.  I wish that there were more teachers like my senior year economics teacher.  I wish teachers and parents made it a point to tell us that we have options.  That yes, it is easier to get a job once you’ve gone through college, but that doesn’t mean that if you don’t go straight into a four year university that you are a failure.  If more people had told me this, then maybe I would have got it right the first time by going straight to a junior college and then transferring.  I don’t regret my experience in Fresno because I think that in a way, I learned a lot more than any college course could have taught me. 

In the sitcoms we watch we see the typical group of friends sitting around in their mid-twenties or thirties sharing witty banter over a couple beers or a cup of coffee. They, of course, have all gone through college and now have their careers, their lives, and everything else figured out.  How extremely misleading.  The fact is, that there is no wrong or right way to be an adult.  From a moral standpoint yes there are rights and wrongs, but as far as the big life decisions we make, it really should be different for everyone.  How extremely boring would it be if everyone went through adulthood the same exact way? Where would all the diversity be?

If you had told me three years ago that at the age of only nineteen I would have a permanent position as a client associate at a big financial firm, be engaged to the man of my dreams, and attending a junior college as opposed to a four year university I would have laughed in your face.  That wasn’t my plan.  But that’s just the thing.  When you turn 18 an instruction manual for the rest of your life doesn’t magically fall into your lap.  And no matter how perfect we think our plan for ourselves is, that’s not what life is all about.  Life is about God’s plan for us, and the moment that we are willing to give Him the control, we will see Him doing things in our lives we never even dreamed of.