When I first felt God calling me into a leadership position with the MOPS group at my church, I was frozen with fear. I sat silent for months with this ever present nudge in my soul because I was afraid; Afraid if I raised my hand to volunteer for the position they would only see my incompetencies and reject me.
The reactions I feared played over and over in my head:
“Andrea, you’re really nice but we just don’t think you’re the right fit for this role… We really need someone who is strong and confident… Someone who won’t get her feelings hurt so easily… You’re just so tender and fragile…”
I was 100% convinced someone else could do it better. So WHY would God be nudging ME to volunteer?
My struggle with low self-esteem and self-consciousness had raged for years and my knees felt wobbly as I thought about standing up to lead.
Basically, I believed what other people thought of me determined my worth and value.
Merrium-Webster defines self-conscious as:
- “intensely aware of oneself;
- uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.”
If I felt you felt good around me, I was OK. But if I felt any sort of tension between us, I would spend countless hours pondering what I did wrong and what I could do to change the way I thought you perceived me so you would like me and feel good around me. I would beat myself up replaying my words again and again and thinking what I could have, should have said differently to not upset you. At this point of my healing journey, I was missing a foundational truth that we’ll discuss in a minute.
In one of my therapy sessions, I was struggling to navigate communication with a gal I had once been very close with but had grown apart from. Instead of seeking clarity, I sat in misery. Her opinion was so important to me that when it seemed she no longer wanted to be close with me, I felt like an utter failure. It seemed I had become “known and unloved”.
It’s like my greatest fear had come true: Someone got close to me, got to know me, and decided I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted to be close to – so they left.
I began running into this gal again and the feelings of insecurity began to skyrocket when I was around her. After describing the situation to my therapist, she paused for a moment then asked me a question:
ANDREA, ARE YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR HOW PEOPLE FEEL ABOUT YOU?
Wow. I sat stunned for what seemed like hours. My initial thought was “Yes! Of course I am! I spend a lot of energy determining how I think people feel about me and adjusting myself accordingly”. But the longer I sat there, looking into the caring and non-judgmental eyes of my therapist, a light bulb when off: I’m really not responsible for how people feel about me or perceive me.
She went on to describe how each person uniquely filters words, experiences, body language, tone of voice etc. We may have a sincere heart and the best of intentions when we’re talking with someone on any given subject, but how they take in the information we share is largely based on how they process information and any previous experience they have with the subject at hand.
She also helped me process the role anxiety and depression played in regard to my self-worth. I was stuck in an absolute way of thinking: it was either black or white, all or nothing. I was either all good or all bad. I was either a great mom or a terrible one. People either loved me or hated me. There was no balance or perspective in how I processed my relationships. My brain was trapped in this unhealthy cycle, and had been for most of my life. It took me months of intentional positive self talk to embrace this truth and live confidently in it. And friends, things started to change.
Let’s go back to that leadership position at MOPS I was so afraid to volunteer for.
After timidly putting myself out there, to my surprise, I was welcomed into the position with open arms. Now, several months after being in the role (mind you, this was three years after starting therapy and six months after finishing Life Skills), it finally became clear why God was nudging me to volunteer for this role:
I never would have known how much I had healed and how far I had come from letting fear and self doubt rule my life had I not been given the opportunity to serve in this role. A role that left me wide open for critique: both positive and negative. A role that years before would have crushed me under the weight of insecurity. But here I stood: confident. I had truly grasped the truth that “I’m not responsible for how others feel about me.”
Friends, what I want to encourage you with today is that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE. There’s a phrase I learned in my Life Skills class:
If you are teachable, it is fixable.
IF YOU ARE TEACHABLE, IT IS FIXABLE! It IS possible for us to embrace a new way of thinking – especially about ourselves. We are so often our own worst enemy and greatest critic. We do not have to live in fear of what others think. We can learn a new way to live, free of allowing others opinions or our circumstances to determine our value.
If you struggle with that nagging feeling that you’ll never change, take heart. You are not alone. I’ve been there. I know how debilitating that feels. I encourage you to lean into that discomfort and tap into the amazing resources available through therapy and classes like Life Skills.