Do you ever question your value and worth as a person? I do, and far more frequently than I care to admit. During the past few years, God has been trying to show me how extremely valuable I am.
Although I want to base my value and worth on what God says, rather than on what other people say or how well I perform or function, it is extremely challenging to change how I’ve done things for most of my life. I have always been a high achiever, and for as long as I can remember I have based my value on my performance. The old patterns are so deeply ingrained that it is taking a while for His truth to become reality for me.
Many of us successfully portray an image of self-confidence, when in reality we are plagued by fear, self-doubt, and self-hatred. Yes, some of us fit the stereotypical mold of the insecure person but others of us do not. In fact, many of us are outwardly high-performance people, while inwardly we are driven by poor self-esteem, hoping we can prove our value by what we achieve.
“We live in an era when personal sense of insecurity has reached near epidemic proportions,” says Dennis Rainey in his book Building Your Mate’s Self-Esteem. Women in our culture are particularly vulnerable to insecurity as we receive messages from our families, media, and elsewhere that tell us what an ideal woman is, how she looks, and what she can accomplish in a day. But none of us can measure up when comparing ourselves with gods or goddesses.
A Father’s Love
One of the most fundamental areas that impacts our self-esteem is a father’s love and affirmation. No father is perfect, but it is God’s intention for us to have a strong foundation of love and security through our relationships with our fathers. Obviously, that doesn’t always happen. In his book, Father Hunger, Robert McGee writes the following:
The love of a father provides emotional and spiritual ‘nutrition.’ We can learn to do without it. We can substitute other things for it. But we will never feel as healthy as we should, because we haven’t been provided with enough of an absolutely necessary ingredient for adequate growth.
My own father was unable to give me the love and acceptance I needed as a child. He is manic-depressive but did not get treated for it until I was in college. Growing up in a home with a mentally unstable father did not give me the kind of security I needed as a growing girl.
He was quite self-absorbed, and I was starved for attention. So, in an effort to feel good about myself, I turned to activities and achievements to find value. I am convinced that these issues were instrumental in my struggle to believe that I am valuable as a person just because God created me. This struggle still plays out in my life—I try to find my self-worth in how I’m performing, and if I’m not doing well, I struggle with insecurity and self-hatred.
God has better things for us. When Jesus was baptized by John, before He had “performed” at all—that is, before He started His public ministry—“a voice from heaven said, ‘This is My Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’” (Matthew 3:17). It wasn’t only after Jesus had accomplished what He came to do that the Father was pleased with Him. It was before He even tried! And it is this kind of love and acceptance that motivates, gives vision, and empowers a person to be who God created him or her to be and to do what God created him or her to do. Jesus was empowered by God’s love and acceptance from the very beginning of His ministry. I want to be empowered by that kind of love and acceptance. Don’t you?
Value Based on Performance Is Trouble
Today, I am a mother to three children—a six-year old boy and twin boys who will be four this month. Being a mother is the most important job I’ll ever have, but the past several years have been some of the most frustrating of my life. If I am basing my self-worth on my performance, I am a failure every day! I know I can’t be a perfect mom, but how do I solve the recurring problem of who had the toy first? And why aren’t the twins potty trained yet? What can I do to finish a project with two three-year-olds hanging onto both my legs? I want to succeed at something! I want to finish something!
I know not everyone is a mother, and some who are feel confident in their ability to be good mothers, but we each find ourselves failing in some area daily—whether at work, in friendships, at church, in our support groups, or even in our struggles against insecurity. Each of us has recurring problems we don’t know how to solve or goals we haven’t achieved. If we continue to base our value on our performance we’re in big trouble.
Body image is another area where many women feel insecure. In a society where we are bombarded daily with images of “perfection”, it is difficult to accept our own flawed bodies. Who among us has the time to work out three hours a day or the money to afford a personal trainer and chef? If we had this kind of time and money perhaps we could achieve a Halle Berry body; but let’s be realistic, there are more important things.
I’m four feet eleven inches tall, so I’ll never look like a five-foot-nine supermodel. It’s impossible. Even if we were five-foot-nine, the way most of our bodies are shaped, we would not look like what we see in the movies. Women were made to have curves! Have you ever looked at sculptures in a museum? This is where my husband, Jeff, convinced me that a woman’s body really is beautiful, side-saddles and all. I have always called the few inches below my belly button my pooch. It’s not perfectly flat like a model’s. It sticks out! When we’d look at sculptures together, Jeff would say, “See Jude, she has a pooch too!” I have come to accept my body the way God made me because I don’t have unrealistic ideas about how I should look.
The book of Revelation reads, “You [God] created all things and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:11b, italics added). You and I were created because God wanted to make us! That is an amazing thought to me. In The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren states, “God’s motive for creating you was His love.” In The Message paraphrase of the Bible, Ephesians 1:4b reads, “Long before He laid down earth’s foundation, He had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of His love.” As I continue to bask in the love of the Lord, He whispers His truth to me—that He delights in me, not because of how well I perform but because I’m me. And He delights in you, too, no matter how well you _______ (fill in the blank). A new parent does not love her child because of all the great things a baby can do. A baby is loved deeply because she is an incredible miracle . . . a new life . . . a gift from God.
There are three things I’ve been practicing to overcome my insecurities, and they’ve been pretty effective when I do them perfectly. Just kidding! I do not do these things perfectly, and neither will you. We don’t need to. But if we persevere, we will see results.
1) Know God and believe Him. This is something Beth Moore talks about in her Living Free workbook. I came to realize that I didn’t believe a lot of things God says, particularly those things that pertain to His love for me. As I have meditated on the truth of His Word and made the choice to believe it, I have begun to experience more and more freedom. When I realize I just can’t seem to believe a specific truth, I seek healing prayer. Sometimes a person has so much wounding that he or she can’t grasp the love of God. God longs for you to know how much He loves you, and He will be relentless in His pursuit of you.
2) Be honest about your insecurities. It’s actually quite freeing to admit it! For me, it has also helped to know that most people struggle with insecurity at some time or another. I’m not suggesting that you spill out all your insecurities in a job interview, but choose a few safe people with whom to share honestly and ask them to pray for you. The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem.
3) Surround yourself with people who build you up. If you are around sarcastic, angry people, chances are you leave them feeling beat up rather than built up. Hang out with people who love you and affirm who you are. God knows you need this! In 1 Corinthians 14:3, Paul writes, “But everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement, and comfort.” God wouldn’t have gifted people to be encouragers if the people who make up the body of Christ (you and I) weren’t in need of encouragement and comfort.
“God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made” (James 1:18, The Message). As that truth penetrates our hearts, we are changed. We are significant to God. He created us for his good pleasure. May God move that truth from our heads to our hearts so we can live in His grace, love . . . and security.
By Judy Johnston
Originally Published July 2004