Reacting to Rejection in a Healthy Way

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“Why is she sitting here?”

The question came hurling across the table like a comet at full-force from a boy with Ken Barbie-like blond locks. He had been in my fifth grade class, and we had exchanged notes during math lessons. But suddenly, just two years later, he pretended like he didn’t know me.

He was asking the question about me.

Our middle school had a strict eight-person-to-a-table rule, and he made it clear that I was taking up valuable space.

My best friend shrugged off his question while I sat frozen in shame. She had risen to the top of the junior high social stratosphere in the first few weeks of school, while I remained somewhere near the bottom. I munched my sandwich in silence the rest of the period, and when lunch mercifully came to a close, I never returned back to that table.

Obviously, that was middle school, but as I mention in a previous article, the reality is that rejection is not isolated to the middle school setting. And those rejections that happen to us — even from a long time ago — can have real and lasting impacts on our sense of worth.

So, knowing that rejection can damage us greatly if we don’t work through it in a healthy manner, how should we react when we are rejected? I’ve listed three truths to keep in mind when processing through a painful rejection:

1. What we believe about ourselves makes all the difference.

Here at Beulah Girl, we preach that what we believe about ourselves is important because our actions flow out of our beliefs. Proverbs 23:7 (NKJV) tells us that as a man thinks in his heart so is he. If we are being told in a situation that we are [fill-in-the-blank], we may believe it and act accordingly. Has the rejection you experienced or are experiencing making you believe that you have no value? A mistake? Someone who always ruins relationships?

Particularly, when we are rejected, we might take a person’s negative words spoken over us and adopt those as truth. Or, we may take our anger we feel when others are unkind to us and funnel it inward with negative thoughts such as, “I always mess up relationships. I knew I shouldn’t have said that comment. If I was just [fill-in-the-blank], this wouldn’t have happened. No one could ever love me.”

Instead of reacting in unhealthy ways in our anger when we experience rejection, we need to refuse to embrace lies about our identity. We need to replace the wrong statements others have said with truth from God’s Word: He loves us. He has plans for us. He wants to use our unique gifts and abilities to minister to others. He chose us to be His sons and daughters! Rejection from others doesn’t have to cause us to reject ourselves. But we have to be more aware when we are rejected about the thoughts we are allowing to play in our heads — as the enemy would like to use our pain to turn us against ourselves and God.

2. Know that sometimes our actions are contributing to rejection.

Clearly, as I mentioned, when we are rejected, we shouldn’t adopt the malicious words spoken over us or channel anger inward when situations don’t go our way. Many times, rejection just comes out of the blue — and we did nothing wrong. A person or group just doesn’t like us or simply chooses another person for a position or promotion.

However, there are situations when the fault isn’t entirely the other person’s and we contributed to the fallout or loss of opportunity. Often, if we have been rejected multiple times, we may be trapped in a cycle of rejection and not even know it! We may be so angry and hurt by the rejections and abuses that have happened to us that we have developed unhealthy coping behaviors to protect us — and these may be causing us to experience more rejection.

While we shouldn’t walk around in self-condemnation every time we are rejected assuming perceived deficiencies about ourselves that don’t exist (or blame ourselves for situations that were not within our control), we need to allow God to give us His perspective on what happened. If we receive an accusation or are rejected in a relationship, is there truth to what the other person is saying about us? Is there a way that we behaved that caused the other person to lose confidence in us?

If we truly want to come to a place of healing in a place of hurt left by rejection or break out of an unhealthy cycle of rejection, we must be willing to surrender our anger and offense over to Jesus. We need to approach the circumstance not just by looking at what the other person did to hurt us, but by asking: “Lord, is there an offensive way in me?”(Psalm 139:4).

God will help us to clearly see if we acted in a way that needs to change and how we should proceed forward in a relationship. We can know that God doesn’t point out our failure to condemn us. Our wrong choices come out of our sin nature and are not who we are in Christ. He points our wrong so that we can confess our wrong to Him (and others in some cases) and get the closure and healing we need (James 5:16; 1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19).

3. Know that some relationships and opportunities are not meant to be.

Rejection is painful and is that which has negative connotations for all of us. When we are left out or aren’t chosen for an opportunity, we obsess about how we could have acted differently, what we could done to make events go the way we wanted — but the truth is that some situations and relationships are not meant to be. The Bible tells us that we make our plans, but it is the Lord who directs our steps (Prov. 16:9).

In the case of my middle school table incident I described earlier, I desperately wanted acceptance from this group. But in looking back at that situation from an adult perspective, I am glad that I wasn’t welcomed by these kids. They were a popular group that wasn’t always nice to others and were not kids that would challenge me in my walk with God. The rejection that felt so painful at the time was God’s protective hand steering me away from influences that weren’t good for me.

Similarly, in your place of rejection, is it possible that God is not allowing an opportunity or friendship to work out because it won’t be good for you in the long run? While it’s not always easy to make those assessments in the moment, we need to trust in those painful relationship fallouts and opportunity losses that God is sovereign and may not be allowing what we want because He’s got something better for us down the road.

Conclusion:

No matter how many times we’ve been rejected, we don’t have to become crippled by our pain. Even if we have been horribly treated in multiple situations, God can use even those situations where we were mistreated for good in our lives.

By processing through our rejections with the Lord and opening ourselves up to His honest assessment of our actions, we can receive the healing we need to move on from our rejections, as well as embrace new relationships and opportunities as they come.

While we won’t always be welcomed to the table by others, we can know that there is One who always invites us in.

Related Resources:

This is the final article in a 3-part series on rejection. Check out the first two articles in the series on how we get trapped in a cycle of rejection and getting out of a cycle of rejection.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Healing Your Low Self-Worth and Wounds of Rejection

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My husband teaches high school health, and in looking at a textbook of his, I came across the statement that people who suffer from low self-esteem should focus on the things they are good at and things that they like about themselves in order to boost their self-worth. Obviously, such a practice is positive in that it helps students focus on what they like about themselves, when so many high school students are caught up in negative self-talk and self-hatred.

However, such an exercise is limited in that it encourages students to think about their worth in terms of what they look like and what they do. While both our appearance and abilities contribute to our overall make-up, we feel better about ourselves not when we merely focus on ourselves — our external qualities — or even by looking internally as an end to itself. We feel better about ourselves when we understand that our worth doesn’t come from ourselves but from God. And we can have a better self-image when we understand who God has made us to be and how much He loves us.

To Feel Better About Ourselves, We Have to Know Who We Are

A year ago, as I was writing a project on self-worth and looking up some passages in Genesis, I came across an idea in this same vein in the commentary I read: To know ourselves we must know God. This idea may seem illogical at first glance. But the truth is that we come to know and love ourselves more when we seek God. This happens because as we come to know Him — we, in turn, become more aware of who we are and how much value we have. This happens for the reason that as we grow to know Him, we better understand how loved we are. And believing we are loved or un-loved is at the heart of our worth issues.

Pastor Mike Riches says in Living Free that we are made to love and be loved by a God of love. As he says, people thrive in an environment of love and respect. Such experiences set in each person value, worth, significance, and security.

Conversely, according to Riches, those who do not live in such an environment will lack a sense of value and will live with feelings of insignificance and insecurity. Understandably, a person who has experienced “malicious rejection, injustices, or abuses” will be “severely damaged at the very core of his or her being.”

You may be reading this and be able to recall in your own life specific experiences that hurt you so badly that you questioned your worth as a result. And perhaps you have struggled with those feelings of unworthiness ever since. Or perhaps you are facing a painful rejection right now. Maybe an important relationship in your life has ended or there is a situation at work where you have being mistreated.

As Riches argues, these rejections or abuses can create in us wounds of “love-deprivation.” These are places that can become open doors for Satan to gain access into our lives, if we are not careful. From the time we are young, according to Riches, Satan attempts to get us to believe lies of rejection, abandonment, and fear. If he can do that, he can get a foothold, or territory, in our lives. If we believe we are unloved and unimportant, this absence of love creates the perfect environment for the enemy’s schemes.

You may wonder how it is that the enemy can gain territory in your life if you belong to Christ. While Satan cannot possess a believer who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit, he can certainly oppress a believer, if given access. Ephesians 4:26 says, “ ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” Satan can gain a foothold in our lives through our wrong responses to the injustices and wounds that occur to us. If he can get us bogged down in wrong thinking and sinful responses to the injustices done to us, he can make us ineffective Christians tormented by wrong thoughts and sinful behavior patterns — and possibly even get us to turn our back on God.

What are some wrong thoughts and responses? They can vary, according to Riches, but they can include bitterness, resentment, and negative thoughts about ourselves and others. Perhaps if we experience rejection in a relationship, we begin to allow an unhealthy script to play in our head such as, “No one could ever love me. I am different than everyone else. I will just have to be alone for the rest of my life.” Or the script could read, “If God really loved me, He wouldn’t have allowed this to happen. He must hate me.” These are all lies that directly contradict what it says in the Bible about our worth and how much God loves us.

In addition, these feelings can lead to a desire for revenge or retaliation against the person who has hurt us. As Ephesians declares, we are not to sin in our anger. Anger in and of itself is not sinful, but anger that is left unchecked that we nurse and allow to grow can turn into not only wrong thinking, but wrong behavior toward a person. In our anger, we might gossip about a person that has hurt us or attempt to make the person look bad in front of others or lash out at the person. All of these are unbiblical responses that can give Satan a foothold in our lives — and may even, as I discuss further in my next section, be a place where we develop a stronghold in our thoughts or behavior.

Why It’s Important That We Understand How Much Worth We Have

Clearly, as Riches notes, it’s “a biblical and valid concern for us to address the need for human beings to realize their significance, worth, and value” so that we can understand how to react correctly to rejection and abuse and not allow the enemy to gain territory in our lives. However, even if we have reacted wrongly to injustices, we can recover what the enemy has stolen from us and embrace how much God loves us.

The truth is that many of us don’t understand how our wrong responses to the rejection in our lives have put us in bondage. As Riches says, we go through life thinking that we are victims without taking responsibility for how we have reacted wrongly to the rejections. In addition, not only do we, in many cases, respond the wrong way to the rejection and abuses we face, we may also look to replace our feelings of unworthiness with a substitution that can’t give what only God can. As Riches observes, most people don’t even know they have issues with love-deprivation and employ coping mechanisms to compensate. They might become workaholics. Or they might turn to relationships or a substance to attempt to feel better about themselves. Whatever the case, these continued wrong responses and fleshly coping mechanisms become strongholds in the life of a believer.

What are strongholds? Strongholds are patterns in our thinking or actions that become refuges for us apart from God. According to Beth Moore in Breaking Free, strongholds in ancient times were high places near a city that governors could flee to when a city was under attack. The stronghold was high and heavily fortified so that it would be difficult for an enemy to penetrate. In a similar way, strongholds in our spiritual life are fortresses we erect, particularly in times of insecurity, to help us feel protected and safe. However, these strongholds that provide us so much comfort initially cannot save us and will become obstacles in our spiritual life.

As the Bible warns, the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63). When we rely on something else to feel better or base our worth on — whether that be a job, relationship, or talent, we will be disappointed when that thing crumbles. And we will crumble, too. Unfortunately, at times we will fail despite our best efforts. We might get fired. Other people will leave or disappoint us.

The Bible tells us that a wise man builds his house on a rock and the foolish man on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). A wise person builds his identity and sense of worth on that which can never be taken away: God and His love. Understanding that God loves us not because of anything we have done but because of who He is and understanding He chose us to be here and live out a special purpose gives us worth. As Riches emphasizes, when we understand God’s great love, we are made complete in our spiritual walk (Ephesians 3:18-20).

We can’t attain this love or God-given worth from a stellar education, high-paying job, prominent position, large social media following, attractive physical appearance, or romantic relationship. In addition, however ugly it sounds, fixing our attention on something other than God to be our refuge or salvation is idolatry. We begin looking to the job, relationship, material item, or hobby to fill us in a way only God can.

Former NFL player Tim Tebow had to learn this the hard way. For most of his life, he wanted to be a starting quarterback. He lived that dream all through college, but once he got in the NFL, his dreams shattered when he was told by his team that his services weren’t needed anymore. When his NFL team let him go, he struggled because so much of what he had considered part of his identity was gone.

He had to embrace the idea that his worth wasn’t found in a quarterback position or in his athletic ability — his worth was found in Jesus Christ alone. Note what he says in a devotional he wrote about the experience:

When life throws us curve balls or shatters into tiny bits before our eyes, it’s easy to doubt ourselves, God’s plan, even God Himself. But when we’re hurt, disappointed or frustrated by the negative side of thwarted plans, crushed dreams and painful losses, we can still hold on to God’s truth.

We can set the Lord continually before us. We can choose over and over to trust God and believe He’s still got a plan for our lives, even when we don’t have a clue what that is. We may feel shaken by emotions and circumstances, but we’ll always have Someone to hold on to. Someone who will never let us go.

Basing Our Identity on Christ Helps Us Get Through Life’s Injustices

As Christians we need to know that identity and worth come from God. We can find healing for our feelings of low-self-worth and wounds of rejection when we choose to believe what it says in Scripture about who we are in Christ and how much God loves us.

We are told in Genesis that we are made in the image of God and that He made us as the climax of His creation (Genesis 1:27, 28). No mistake on our part can take away the worth that has been bestowed on us by our Creator (Romans 8:38, 39). As followers of Jesus, we are adopted sons and daughters in the family of God (Galatians 3:26-29), co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17), seated in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 2:6), considered saints (1 Corinthians 1:2), forgiven and considered holy (Hebrews 10:10), and chosen to do God’s good works (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:12, 13).

Therefore, when bad things happen, we have truths we can speak over ourselves to remind us of our position as Christ followers. However, if we have allowed certain rejections or injustices to give Satan a foothold in our life and establish a stronghold, we have the power through Jesus Christ to break those areas of control we have given Him and find freedom. We can repent of the ways we’ve raised up strongholds in our lives to “fix” our feelings of unworthiness and demolish those fortified places by replacing the lies we are believing with truth. We can also forgive others for the ways they have hurt us and ask them to forgive us for our wrong responses to their rejections and abuses.

Throughout the month, I’ll be talking more about healing from past rejections and the steps to break from a cycle of rejection. To learn more about how to heal from feelings of low self-worth and past rejections, check out my next few articles, and I will explain more in detail about how to see yourself as God sees you and heal from your rejections and injustices.

*Updated May 4, 2018.

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Avoiding Comparison That Leads to Depression

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Hey friend, have you ever looked at someone else and wanted her house, her looks, her promotion, her life? Comparison — looking at others and assessing what they have that we don’t — can lead to negative thoughts that spiral into depression. In this second podcast episode in our depression series, we discuss the common problem women have of looking at others and experiencing discontent. We explore three practical ways we can avoid falling into the trap of negatively comparing ourselves to others and instead celebrate the person God made us to be.

If you haven’t yet listened to episode 5 (our first episode in the depression series) and read the corresponding post, we encourage you to do so. In addition, you can tune in next week for our final episode on depression. We will wrap up our series by taking a candid look at the place depression sometimes leads — suicide — and why suicide is never the answer.

Related Resources:

Want to listen to co-hosts Carol Whitaker and Suzy Lolley talk through and explain the points in more of our latest posts? Subscribe on Soundcloud and receive all of our latest episodes!

If you’d like to take a look at the resources mentioned in the podcast, check out Sandra Stanley’s Comparison Trap: A 28-Day Devotional for Women and Bob George’s Victory Over Depression.

In addition, though not mentioned in the podcast, the following are a few more articles related to overcoming negative thinking and depression that may be an encouragement and help to you: A Christian Perspective: Overcoming DepressionHow Can I Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns and Depression?, and Why Medicine Won’t Cure Your Depression.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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4 Reasons Why You Should Forgive Yourself

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I watched a “Dateline” episode recently where a woman had previously had an affair with the man convicted of killing his own wife. The wife was the woman’s friend. Though she had been cleared of any involvement in the crime, she still felt immense guilt for her involvement with her friend’s husband.

She had this to say: “I will never forgive myself for what I’ve done.”

At one time I would have thought her statement noble. Why should a person forgive herself for getting involved with a friend’s spouse? Like the woman in the “Dateline” episode, I, too, used to hold the belief that I should punish myself for wrongdoing when I didn’t measure up to my own standards. I didn’t think there was anything wrong with being angry at myself. I thought Jesus would want me to be mad at myself when I did something wrong.

But that is actually not what Jesus wants from me or the woman in the “Dateline” episode. Although Scripture talks about a godly sorrow that can lead to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10) — this is not a continual unhealthy beating up of oneself over wrongdoing.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I even realized I had a problem with unforgiveness of self. I was sitting in a counselor’s office, and she had me write a list of everyone I was angry at that I needed to forgive.

It turns out, I was on my own list. And I was surprised to discover that Jesus wants me to forgive myself. He advocates that I do — and for several important reasons:

1. Because not forgiving yourself rejects Jesus’ work on the cross.

A verse that has become my favorite is Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Even though Jesus is clear that we shouldn’t live in sin, and we need to resist sin and temptation, Jesus never expected us to punish ourselves for our sin. He is very clear in Romans that we are under no condemnation for our deeds.

Earlier, in Romans 7, Paul explains that grace doesn’t give us free license to sin — however, when we do fall short and make mistakes, God tells us in His Word that we don’t have to condemn ourselves.

Condemning ourselves rejects Jesus’ work on the cross. He became a sacrifice for our sins. We can brush ourselves off when we fall, ask Jesus to forgive us (and ask forgiveness from others if we need to) and keep going. To continually think about what wrong we’ve done or the mistakes we’ve made and beat ourselves up for them isn’t biblical.

2. Unforgiveness of self leads to relationship problems.

Not being in right relationship with ourselves affects our relationships with others. Unfortunately, when we choose not to forgive ourselves and carry around this idea that we are “too bad” to forgive, we are not able to embrace or like ourselves. We see ourselves only through the filter of what we’ve done. This affects not only our relationship with self but our relationships with others as well.

Someone who can’t let go of a past wrong may feel inferior to others and feel “too bad” to be liked by another person. Satan can get his way in and convince us we are so unworthy of relationships that we become isolated — all because we won’t accept what Jesus has done for us. Sadly, not only may we begin to feel not good enough for others, we may convince ourselves that God doesn’t want us either.

However, the idea that we’re not good enough to be loved is a lie that Satan spins to get us out of relationship with others and out of a relationship with God. God is clear that He loves us in spite of what we do! He wants us no matter what we’ve done.

 3. Unforgiveness of self can cause health problems.

In a book I reference often in my posts, A More Excellent Way, Henry W. Wright details three ways that we can open the door to what he calls “spiritually rooted disease” — disease that has a root in a relationship breach with God, ourselves or others. Not forgiving ourselves can lead to feelings of shame, self-hatred and low self-worth. Even if we have made a really bad choice and there are earthly consequences for that choice, God wants us to repent and forgive ourselves.

According to Wright, continual negative emotions towards ourselves — rehearsing words of guilt or unforgiveness or shame — can lead to health problems such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and other autoimmune diseases.

Also, not forgiving one’s self can lead to mental torment — emotional instability, depression, anxiety, and negative thinking. As I was preparing to do this article, I felt that this term “mental torment” kept coming to mind as something I needed to include. The Bible is clear that anger that is not dealt with can give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27), and we will be handed over to tormenting spirits if we choose not to forgive (Matthew 18:23-35).

One reason we may not want to forgive ourselves is because we are so angry at ourselves for what we have done. We may not even have sinned. We may have made a careless mistake that caused great damage, and we can’t get over what happened.

I remember after a significant breakup with another person the feelings of anger I held not only towards the other person but towards myself. I felt like what happened was my fault. I kept replaying scenarios in my mind of what I could have done differently to keep the relationship. I spiraled into a dark depression that lasted for several years — and only when I let go of my unresolved anger and forgave the person and myself did I begin to feel free from the dark thoughts that had tormented me about that situation.

4. Because the Bible says to do it.

One of the reasons I haven’t really known about self-forgiveness until recently is because I didn’t know that this mandate was in the Bible. I had read all of the verses about forgiving others, but I didn’t realize that this instruction about forgiving others also extended to one’s self. Recently, I read an article on a deliverance ministry site I have frequented before, and the author pointed out that the “one another” referred to in Colossians 3:13 in the Greek also can be a reference back to one’s self. The verse is as follows:

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

I had skipped over this because I generally don’t make it a habit to study the Greek translation of words — however, “allélón” (the “one another” used in the verse) is a reciprocal pronoun that refers not only to others but yourself.

God knew that we would make mistakes and mess up. Romans 3:23 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Often, unforgiveness of self makes us feel like we’re the only ones with a problem or broken behavior. The truth is all have fallen short. Because we can’t achieve perfection, God made a plan for us, so that we can be made a new creation, by accepting Jesus’ free gift of salvation.

We shouldn’t abuse that gift by doing whatever we want, excusing bad behavior with, “It’s OK, Jesus will forgive me.” But when we fall into sin, we can call out to Jesus and ask for forgiveness. We were not meant to carry the burden of our guilt or shame. We can give it over to Jesus, knowing that He doesn’t expect us to self-punish or hold unforgiveness against ourselves.

He wants us to confess our sin, accept His forgiveness, forgive ourselves — and move on.

Suggested prayer for self-unforgiveness: Jesus, forgive me for the sin of unforgiveness. I forgive myself for ______________________. Help me to see myself as you see me and not hold my mistakes against myself any longer. Help me to walk freely in the freedom that I am under no condemnation for my sins because of your work on the cross. Amen.

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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Self-Worth: How to Start Accepting Yourself

heart-462873_1280She walked past me, and I caught sight of the stump of her right arm and the deep pock marks on her face.

This was not the first time I had seen her. She worked at my doctor’s office and had conducted a few billing transactions for me. She had always been friendly and cordial.

But this time when I saw her, something was different. I felt two words press down into my soul like boot marks on muddy soil: Self-rejection. Anger. Although I knew very little about this woman, I suddenly knew so much about her. I felt the pressure again on my spirit. Those words again: Self-rejection. Anger.

Are you serious, God? Do you want me to say something to her? Although I felt compassion for her, I most certainly did not want to say anything to her. I most certainly did not want to ask her if those words meant anything to her. I most certainly did not want to get involved and embarrass her by bringing up a painful past where perhaps those words had begun to define who she was.

How I Started not Liking Myself

If her story was anything like mine, I could trace my own dislike of myself back to when I was a child. I had developed an anxiety very early on about my worth in relationship to others. The feelings had developed because we lived in a house that was a never-done work-in-process with particle board floors, door-less cupboards, and knob-less doors.

These feelings of inadequacy intensified when I went to school in shabby hand-me-downs and developed much later than my peers. I was scorned for being skinny, unfashionable, and poor. And without even knowing it, I began to feel less than other people. I masked this pain with a brave front, but all the while I had a negative tape playing in my head.

I felt angry at myself for not measuring up. I felt angry at God for making a “mistake.” I felt angry at the cruelty of my friends. I didn’t know that the relationship I had with myself was one of the most important  — the one that would impact how I felt about God and others. I didn’t know that self-rejection would separate me from my peers even more than I already felt separated.

When this scorn for myself got to a level where constantly beating myself up was a normal part of each day, I had to find an out to overcome the negative voices. My method for relieving myself of my pain and feeling good about myself was looking to others to fill what I felt was empty in myself. I vowed to not upset or confront those around me so that I could avoid rejection. I became a perfectionist to perform enough so that I could be useful and acceptable to convince myself and others of my worth.

I married young and used my husband’s attention and love to try to feel good about myself. Even as a married woman, I became flirtatious with the men around me to attempt to further convince myself that I was beautiful and smart. I became a workaholic to try to out-perform others and be the best so that, again, I could quiet the voice inside myself that said I was not worthy.

Getting Rid of Self-Rejection and Self-Hatred

According to a 1990 radio message by Charles Stanley, self-rejection is generated from “chronic feelings of unworthiness.” People who have problems with self-rejection are “willing to base their self-worth on the opinions of others rather than on [their] relationship to God.” Causes for self-rejection can include “an early-in-life deformity, deep emotional hurt from childhood, death of a parent, abandonment, divorce, abuse, guilt from past mistakes, and criticism from others.”

I didn’t know for the longest time what a healthy self-image even looked like and through some study I discovered that God really wants me to be confident in the person He has made me to be. When I turn against myself, I am essentially turning against God and telling him that what he created is defective.

In addition, self-rejection is a strategy Satan uses to get us out of relationship with God and relationship with others. It is based on lies from the master of lies himself. When I look back at pictures of myself and see a beautiful, brown-haired girl, I feel so absolutely sad because the way I saw myself — and still see myself at times — was and is so very distorted.

Because of the lies I began speaking over myself (mainly those I assumed were true or believed from the words of a small handful of people), I stopped seeing myself the way God saw me and instead embraced a version of myself that simply wasn’t true.

What I have learned in my journey to a healthy self-worth is that a confident person does not base his or her self-worth on the opinions of others. A confident person gets his approval from God. As Joyce Meyer says in Approval Addiction: 

We can enter the rest of God concerning what people think of us and whether they approve of us. We can become so secure in Christ that as long as we know our heart is right, we know whatever people think of us is between them and God and is not our concern.

Meyer gives the example of Paul as one confident in his position in Christ. She notes that in 1 Cor. 4 we see a situation in which Paul is being judged regarding his faithfulness. Paul responds to the criticism by saying that he is concerned with God’s judgment rather than man’s, emphasizing, “I do not even put myself on trial and judge myself” (1 Cor. 4:3).

What is encouraging to me (and what Meyer stresses) is that Paul had people questioning him and yet he chose not to let their accusations define him. Although he was concerned about his reputation among men, his primary concern was a clear conscience before God.

I don’t know about you but I struggle with that kind of confidence.

Where Healthy Self-Worth and a Sense of Acceptance Come From

What Paul knew about having a healthy identity and what I am learning is that we can be confident because of Him who lives in us and what He has done for us. We can choose to accept and love ourselves as children of God because He has claimed us and cancelled our failings. We are acceptable because of what Christ has done in us and not because of what we have done for ourselves.

It takes the pressure off when we acknowledge this because we don’t have to worry about gaining the approval of others. We won’t please everyone around us all of the time. We simply have to follow Him where He leads and depend on Him in moments of insecurity when we are afraid we won’t get it right.

When we hear a negative thought creep in such as “There is something wrong with you” or “No one likes you” — we can immediately reject it as a thought from Satan. God convicts us of wrong actions that need to be addressed, but his conviction never comes to destroy us but always to restore us.

As Stanley notes in his radio address, turning away from self-rejection involves identifying the feelings of rejection, rejecting the feelings of rejection, and affirming that you are “unconditionally loved, completely forgiven, totally accepted and complete in Christ.”

To get to that place of acceptance of myself, I have had to forgive myself for not being perfect; forgive my parents for not parenting me perfectly; forgive my tormentors for making fun of me; and forgive God for giving me parts of my story that I thought were imperfect.

Self-Acceptance: How Can You Like Yourself?

The woman at the doctor’s office. I didn’t know anything about her. I didn’t know her story. But in some ways I did. I didn’t have to know every in and in out of her past to see the scars left behind. I felt it so strongly again when I was sitting in the room waiting for the doctor to tell her my own tale of overcoming my own self-rejection and forgiving those who had hurt me.

As if to confirm my assignment, I caught sight of the woman on my way out of the office. She was hurrying along, papers clipped under her disfigured arm. Coward that I am, I did not stop her then. I needed time to examine this, think. I made my next appointment and left. It was not until a week later that I called the office and with a shaky voice told her on the phone that I felt that God had something for me to tell her.

She didn’t say much in response but thanked me for my call. I hope that my words to her will begin a process in her that He began in me some time ago — of learning to accept His love and His version of me.

And I hope my words will inspire a work in you if self-rejection or self-hatred is a struggle, knowing that there is a God who loves you and wants to restore you to Himself. Getting there means believing what He says about you and resisting messages from Satan or peers that would tell you otherwise — and taking yourself off trial.

Related Bible Verses:

1 Corinthians 4:3: “I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.”

Galatians 1:10: “Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be servant of Christ.”

 Related Resources:

Charles Stanley, a pastor and author, suffered rejection as a child and has written extensively about the the damaging effects of rejection and self-rejection. Click here for his devotional on self-rejection featured on Crosswalk online magazine or here for notes from his radio message.

Have you experienced rejection and as a result find yourself trying to perform to avoid rejection from those around you? Do you have a hard time standing up for yourself or saying no because you fear others’ reactions? Joyce Meyer talks about how to not let the desire for others’ approval dominate your life in Approval Addiction: Overcoming Your Need to Please Everyone.

Photo Credit: Celeste Lindell, Flickr

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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