So, someone recently said to me, and I quote, “you’re not that pretty.”
Just what every girl who’s just recently turned forty and gone through a divorce because her husband left her for another woman needs to hear…
The question is, how did I react?
Did I get angry and hang up on the person?
Did I sit down and cry and feel as if I was the doggy doo-doo you need to scrape from the bottom of your shoe?
Did I end a relationship with this person?
No, no, and no.
What did I do?
Yes, I was offended. Yes, my feelings were hurt. But my sense of self is not dependent on what anyone else thinks of me. It didn’t rock my world. It didn’t send me to the depths of despair. I confronted the unkindness, and I moved on.
Sounds simple, but it’s really not something most of us can do without a little practice.
I’ve been thinking a lot about self esteem lately (for obvious reasons as mine took a pretty brutal hit over the last couple of years!!).
There are so many misconceptions about self esteem: that a healthy sense of self is arrogant, that we need to be successful to have a healthy sense of self, that a lack of failure equals a healthy self esteem, that if we are told we’re awesome enough, we’ll believe it.
All of these are false. Our sense of self isn’t reliant on what we do or don’t do, how we succeed or how many times we’ve failed. And it isn’t dependent on what other people think of us.
Having a solid sense of ego comes from knowing who we are, independent of what anyone else thinks of us. Knowing both our strengths and weaknesses, and with that knowing, still knowing that we bring a meaningful contribution to this thing we call life. It isn’t in our successes, but in how we react to our failures, that we can see how healthy our self esteem is.
Most of my life, I’ve had a pretty healthy sense of myself. I’ve had a healthy awareness of my strengths and weaknesses. I haven’t allowed the weaknesses to overshadow my strengths, but neither did I ignore them. I worked on them, and some became better, and some still need more work. But in the midst of this, I never lost sight of my value as a human being. I’ve weathered my failures with grace knowing that they were opportunities for growth. Not perfectly, but consistently, always looking for ways to do better the next time around.
And then came my divorce. Talk about failure! And such a public failure! I felt like I had a scarlet D tattooed to my forehead. And the stigma that goes with having your husband cheat on you…I don’t like feeling a victim, but that’s what it made me. Publicly.
And then there is the stigma…people look at you as if it is your fault that your husband cheated on you. You can almost hear the thoughts in their heads: “What’s wrong with her that he cheated?” “Is she frigid?” “There has to be a reason…”
Despite knowing in my head that my husband’s cheating on me was all about him and nothing about me, my ego struggled to accept that knowledge. What was it about me that caused him to walk away from me? Why wasn’t I worth his faithfulness? Was there something wrong with me?
My self esteem became a battleground.
But I battled, and I didn’t give in. I didn’t accept the lies, but countered the lies with what I knew to be the truth. And I did that over and over again until I started believing it for real.
And I stopped worrying about what other people thought. The truth is, people are going to think what they’re going to think regardless of what the truth is. For some people, thinking less of someone else makes them feel better about himself and his life. For others, it adds some interest to a rather boring life. For others, it might give them a feeling of vindication for some perceived slight along the way or maybe a feeling of fairness for someone who struggled with jealousy.
Whatever the reason, people are going to think what they think, and we can’t change it. We need to stop worrying so much about what “people” think and focus on what God thinks.
Am I good with God? Did I walk in obedience with Him? Did I submit to His will? Am I where He wants me to be?
If I can say yes to all of these–if you can–then guess what? It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. He’s the only one that matters.
Self esteem is not about affirmation. It’s not about ability. It’s about taking an active part in what goes on in your head. It’s about confronting the lies we tell ourselves with the truth, and it’s about worrying about who we are, not in the eyes of others, but when we stand eye to eye with our God.
It’s active and it is a process. But when you take the time, people can say all sorts of horrible things to you, and think whatever it is they’re going to think, and it doesn’t shake your knowledge of who you know you are.
You are a child of God. You are beautifully and wonderfully made. And you are loved. Unconditionally.
If you are valuable in the eyes of our creator, who on this earth can tell you that you aren’t of value?
And that is truth.