Guys, I have a confession. I am a total and complete phony. While I have a surprisingly convincing ability to fake enough confidence to get myself into all sorts of situations, I rarely posses enough real confidence for any of them. And - bonus - I also don't have the credentials or skill set that I have somehow created the illusion of possessing! On more than one occasion, people have confessed to feeling intimidated around me, which I find absolutely hysterical. In these laughable conversations, people have said that when they first met me they assumed I was very confident. I then explain the elaborate magic trick I like to call "overcompensating for insecurity!" and then we all throw our heads back in laughter and become fast friends. It's true, I have a big (read obnoxious) personality. But, that is often mistaken for being self-assured. In reality, I am just an extrovert who desperately wants to be liked. So basically, I'm a puppy.
I spent most of my adult life in an almost constant state of self-doubt. Or more realistically, vacillating between self-loathing and absurd pride. Pan over to this embarrassing sample of my inner-dialogue:
Moment #1: I can't do anything right because I am the worst. End of story, nothin's gonna change my mind.
Moment #2: Sure! I can do that! There's nothing I can't do because I am basically amerrrzerrrng. (With "Nothin's Gonna Stop Us Now" playing in the background while an industrial fan inexplicably blows my hair around like Beyonce.)
Moment #3: Why? Why? Why would I agree to that? I am not capable, I know nothing and I am a total phony. Everything I do is horrible because I am a garbage person.
Moment #4: Did that guy just say I couldn't do something? Excuse me very much... we'll see about that mister. God has been equipping me for this my entire life! I am capable! Somebody, BRING ME MY HAIR FAN!
Moment #5: He's right. I basically belong in prison. Because of definitely being a full-time, Grade-A, maximum strength, free-range garbage person.
Guys. It's sick. It's a really gross cycle of pride and comparison and insecurity and overcompensating. It made me super critical of myself, and then I felt small. And when people feel small they are intimidated and resentful of people who seem free and confident. And when people are intimidated, insecure and self-critical, they tend to be hyper-critical of other people. This would make me feel bad about myself, and then I would lather, rinse and repeat this destructive cycle all over again.
The problem is that every time I tried to break out of this cycle, there seemed to be someone waiting in the wings with just enough criticism to make me feel like my growing sense of healthy, appropriate, God-given, God-driven confidence was premature, or worse, that it wasn't secure confidence at all, but was an unhealthy arrogance. It was as though any progress was immediately set back by one critical remark.
I am not going to pretend that I am entirely through with this whole insecurity and comparison trap thing. That would be a lie. But here's what I do know: The more intimately acquainted I become with the character of God, and my worth in his estimation, the less I care what people think. I have found that God is much easier to please than people are. The closer I draw to Jesus' wholesale acceptance of me, the less concerned I am about the approval of man. I still have plenty of vulnerable moments where I am blindsided by rejection or criticism, but more and more I am letting God's love encourage in me a healthy self-acceptance. And not one that comes from some delusion that I am great, but from a much deeper security in who God made me to be. I am no longer (as) afraid to say that yes, I have gifts.
It took me 36 years to feel like I have gifts.
Maybe it sounds prideful to say that I have gifts. But, I don't think it is. For me, it is profoundly healing. For the first time in my life, I feel as if I am working toward something resembling a confidence that comes from my identity and value being so securely rooted in the God who sees me (flaws, fears, strengths and all) and has still decided to allow me the privilege of doing ministry in spite of those things. Or maybe even because of those things. Scripture is filled with so many dirtbags that God chose to love, equip and use for his glory. I am not the first garbage person with gifts that God has chosen to use. And I won't be the last. But I AM all done denying my value. It's just plain offensive to the one in whom I find my worth.
As many of you know, just last month I had the privilege of speaking - alongside two other wise women from my church - about this topic of comparison, envy, jealousy and contentment. Despite the fact that I had been studying these topics for over two years, I was honestly terrified. The weeks leading up to it, I battled to mute every voice from my past that told me I had no business being a speaker. I had to filter out those that said I don't know enough, or I'm not churchy enough, or that I'm too silly or that I just want to make it about me. Those that said I was too outspoken or stubborn or rough around the edges. I had to lean in to God's word more than ever, and I had to trust that he chose me to be a part of this mission to help others be free from the bondage of comparison. Are there more gifted women at our church? Certainly. Are there professionals with more experience and bigger name? Of course. But that's not what God did. He allowed Nancy, Julie and I up there instead. Who am I to question him? Who am I to doubt what he is capable of doing - even through the likes of me? Who am I to figuratively spit in the face of my creator by saying he made me without any gifts?
Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you feel like a total phony when your colleagues seem to know what they are doing, while you feel totally lost. Maybe you tend to be the critical one. Maybe you have a history of being so harsh with yourself that being harsh with others is an unintended, yet ugly, side effect. Even if you are a much better behaved person than I, you still have a little garbage person in there somewhere and I believe all of us can relate to the struggle of uprooting jealousy, envy, pride and insecurity in order to be more content and secure. A number of you have asked if the event was livestreamed and recorded. It was, and all three parts have since been put up on the Equip page of our church website! I generally would shy away from putting up a video from a speaking event because I hate to watch myself speak. But, I really think the content that these women and I worked so hard to present is valuable. I think we are valuable. And I think you are valuable. So this is worth sharing. If you have ever had enough pride that you fantasized about having a hair fan, you should check it out. If you live in terror that your incompetence will be discovered at any moment... you should check it out. And if it is as hard for you to recognize that you have gifts and worth as it has been for me, you should check it out. We discussed this topic in three parts, within the context of faith and the Bible, but there was still plenty of practical wisdom for just about anyone... even my fellow garbage people.