Last week I stood in front of the mirror and stared into the face of a woman who is a complete and utter disappointment to myself. I sighed and frowned and declared her to be a poor excuse for a human being and then put on a brave face and walked out of the bathroom to tackle the day… pretending everything is “A-OKAY!” And that has been my morning routine for the past 5 months.
I’m not pretty enough
I’m not smart enough
I’m not good enough
I’m a failure at almost everything
I’m not the great mother people think I am
I’m a dismal failure as a wife
Everything I try only fails
The current version of me is just… not enough.
I’m not enough.
If only I could be a better future version of me. If only…
How long will it take until I can live up to a superior unachievable standard I set for myself? When will I be strong enough to jump high enough to touch the lofty bar of excellence I’ve erected for myself that is so far beyond my own reach?
I shouldn’t have spent that money so unwisely.
I shouldn’t have over-eaten all day today.
I shouldn’t have walked by that pile of laundry 8 times today.
I should have stopped and said hi to that new neighbor
I should have called my friend who was having a rough day
I keep missing opportunities to be who I want to be
I should have been kinder to my husband
I should have grabbed that brief opportunity to play with my kids
I shouldn’t have entertained those thoughts
I should have loved that unlovable person
I shouldn’t have overslept and missed my chance to exercise
I shouldn’t have been so lazy
I shouldn’t have said those mean words
I should have practiced what I preached
I should have put more effort into my job performance today
I should have spent time with God instead of looking through that catalog I’ll never buy anything from anyway
I shouldn’t have been so prideful
I shouldn’t have been a hypocrite in that situation
I should have… I could have… I didn’t…
Yes, there are many times when my fingertips graze the top of the bar of excellence, and for a moment I feel good enough. But surely all the failures completely outweigh the few moments of success.
I keep beating myself up. I stand at the mirror and wonder how anyone can possibly love me? And especially God, who is perfect in every way. How can He love me? Certainly He’s rolling His eyes by now at my daily cycles of failure. Certainly all the people around me who say nice things are just giving me lip service. They don’t really mean it. If I could read their minds, I’d probably hear a totally different story than what’s coming out of their mouth. And my husband… He’s probably blinded by love and could never see the truth of the matter… that I am just not good enough. My friends encourage me to get back to doing the things I do best and channel a little self confidence, but they’re probably exaggerating about my talents. Friends generally gush over each other and stretch the truth… it’s a well-known fact.
I used to have a certain measure of self confidence in the talents and abilities God gave me, but then I kept second guessing myself and doubting that I was any good at all in any area of life. I second guessed repetitively at every turn until I became handicapped and unable to even try anymore. I stopped writing. I stopped serving and volunteering. I stopped helping my friends. I had nothing valuable to contribute and nothing worthwhile to say. The world would be a better place if I would just be quiet. Half of what I say I can’t even live up to anyways, so isn’t that hypocrisy? I don’t want to be a hypocrite, so I should just shut up.
I don’t deserve God’s love, and the fact that He still loves me like crazy makes me feel that much more guilty. I tell Him He shouldn’t love me as I drift off to sleep at night. I hope secretly that He’ll still love me in the morning, but then morning comes and I push Him away because I don’t deserve His love. I haven’t earned it.
5 months of torched self-confidence. The enemy of my soul whispered lie after lie after lie after lie, and when the apparent evidence placed at my feet seemed too true to ignore, I stumbled just long enough for him to light a match and burn all my confidence to the ground.
If you’re honest with yourself, you’ve experienced this same thing either sometime in the past in varying degrees, or you’re currently stuck in it right now. Don’t tell me I’m too hard on myself, because you’ve done it too. We are the only ones who really know the deep dark truth about our own selves… that we are so depraved we can’t even do anything to save ourselves. We can look at everyone else around us and see “good enough” people who are wonderful and should stop being so hard on themselves. But when we look at ourselves, it’s a whole different story.
Sunday morning God gently said, “Stop. You need to stop now.”
Two things happened. First, I went to church, and heard this sermon. I’m posting it here for anyone brave and daring enough to watch it through to the end. The whole time God kept telling my spirit, “This. Pay attention. Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten the whole foundation of your faith?”
The sermon lodged in my chest and followed me into the week. Then my husband gave me a pep talk and basically said that I had become so held back by my own fears and lack of self-confidence and self-inflicted unachievable standards that I was self-fulfilling all my fears.
I retreated to pray and ask for help to exit the tailspin. And that’s when the truth came rushing over me like a raging storm… washing away twisted truths and trash heaps of lies.
This is the truth. It’s the same truth for me as it is for you.
WE ARE NOT ENOUGH. We are not good enough. It’s true. Everyone in this society will pat us on the head and tell us that we ARE good enough, that we are too hard on ourselves, and that we must reach down deep and find the beauty within. We must find our inner strength and become who we want to be. And anyone who tells us we are not good enough is a liar. We embrace this concept and try our hardest to be a walking billboard for self-confidence. We shove down any insecurities that pop to the surface and rejoice in our successes and try to hide our failures. It works for awhile. Then we crumble again. Because if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that we know that we are not enough. We stare down the abyss of hopelessness and reject the truth and continue clawing to save ourselves and be better, do better, appear better, and hit the standard.
The truth is that we don’t have to be enough! It’s no longer required of us. Everything that Jesus did was so that we wouldn’t have to remain trapped in the unending vicious try/fail cycle of attempted perfection. All we have to do is let go, accept that gift, and relax in something far better than self-confidence… something called “God-confidence…” A revolutionary, life changing confidence… A hope-infused confidence that lifts us up and clears a path to wide open spaces of grace and success. We no longer feel the need to push God away because of our own guilt and self-condemnation. We can throw open our doors to Him and find that His door is already open to us, and it will inspire us to become all that He wants for us.
I’m not enough in myself. But I am MORE than enough, because I have given my heart and soul over to Jesus. When God looks at me, He loves me like crazy and sees me as His forgiven child… because of Jesus. It is pure pride for me to push His gift away and keep clawing for my own redemption and striving to build my own resume of perfection. It’s prideful and futile. I can’t earn it. Even just the act of TRYING to do this is like throwing His gift back in His face and saying, “I can do it on my own. I can be enough if I try hard enough.”
This week I was released from the oppressive lie that held me down for many months saying, “You’re not good enough, and there’s no hope for you. So stop trying.” I was ushered into the freedom of the truth that lifts me up and says, “You don’t have to be enough. You are a child of God, and He has called you holy. He is all you need to stand tall even in the midst of your imperfections. He won’t give up on you. He will keep changing you and growing you the rest of your life. You don’t need to compare yourself to others. You don’t need to prove yourself to Him. His love is free. The standard of perfection was reached by Jesus. He hit the bar on your behalf and handed you the trophy. No, you really don’t deserve it. Not at all. But He loves you, and you can rest in it. Don’t push that gift away because of your own pride or a bizarre need to punish yourself for all the things you think you are not.”
I can smile again. I can write again. The words flow. I can serve again. I can try again. I can be the imperfect mother that I am and know that God will use it all… my strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures… to mold my children into the beautiful people He wants them to be. He will use my words however he sees fit. He will be everything to my husband that I can’t be. He will make me into something beautiful. But even while I am still unfinished and a hot mess, He still loves me just as much as He will love the future better version of me. There is nothing left for me to try to earn. My God-confidence is restored.
I looked in the mirror this morning and saw a woman I can be OK with. She is loved, and Jesus is all she needs. She can fail and stumble and fall and yet never lose the love and acceptance of God. She is enough in Him. She lacks nothing. He has clothed her in strength and dignity. She can smile at the days to come… however messy and imperfect they may be.
I walked out of the bathroom and smiled. For the first time in a long time I sat down to write, because I want everyone I know to also have the ability to look in the mirror at themselves and see…. freedom.