Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_ (2)

The teenage girl stands in front of the vending machine, a frown on her face. She scans the snack selections uncertainly. Several minutes tick by. She is unaware that anyone is behind her. I am a few feet back and notice her thin shoulders.

She has lost a bit of weight in the last year. She has a new boyfriend on her arm. He is not with her now, but even though she smiles when she is with him, I notice something worried in her expression. I see a bit of a desperation in the way she clings to his hand, attaches herself to him in her every spare moment.

She surveys the snacks carefully one last time and selects a bag of chips. I get the impression that she is choosing carefully — that perhaps this one item will be all she eats today. Although what I am thinking is merely conjecture — I see myself in this girl. No, not in the selection of Doritos or the rapid weight loss — but in the fear. The desire written all over her face to be loved. The fear that maybe he’ll find out she’s not enough.

And I know he will — not because she doesn’t have enough to offer — but because she doesn’t believe that she does.

Another Story of Broken Self-Worth

I think back to 18-year-old me. I am excited. Cheeks flushed. I am packing to go on a trip. A trip to see a boy that expressly asked for me. But as I pack, I am also worried. He hasn’t seen me in a few months. Does my hair look all right? Do I look too thin?

I have never flown across the country alone before. I combat my nerves for seven straight hours with each dip of the airplane. I have written dozens of letters to this person, but I have never met his family. I haven’t been alone with him for more than a handful of hours. I want this trip to be amazing. I want everything to be perfect.

When I get off the plane, I look around expectantly, but I don’t see him. After waiting for some time (this is pre-cell phone era, people), I notice that no one is standing around.

I walk in the direction of the other people. I don’t know where I am supposed to meet him. I am not even sure I remember what he looks like. At last, just when I am getting a little panicked, I see him standing by a wall in a sweater I would never pick out. I go up and hug him, but things feel awkward and off right away. He tells me that his mom bought him the sweater. I decide that I don’t like it. I keep my opinion to myself. Tacky sweater or no, this boy is the boy of my dreams. I figure that we just need a little time to warm up to each other again.

But that doesn’t happen. In fact, the whole visit, it feels like he drifts further and further away from me, and I can’t get through to him. He is distracted, busy. He tells me he is going hunting with his friends. He has a doctor’s appointment. He doesn’t want to walk outside in the snow even though I ask. He beats me in checkers every time and laughs at the way I try to lift weights. I feel stupid. Inadequate. In the way.

At the end, when it is time to say good-bye, he hands me a letter. There is no explanation in it — just a “sorry” that is vague. He tells me that he won’t be riding with me to the airport. He is going to sleep in.

I call him twice more — once when I get to the airport and once more when I get home. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk. What did I do wrong? I obsess. Was it the way I dressed? Talked? Acted? When he doesn’t call again, I let him confirm what I was afraid of all along.

Moving On: Finding Self-Worth in the Wrong Places

I start college with high hopes of stepping out as a new person — in leaving behind the past, but I am immediately pursued by a boy I don’t even like. Initially, I go out with him just because I don’t know how to thwart his advances, and I am flattered by his attention.

We enter into a relationship. But he, too, helps to dig my self-esteem further down. He is critical of me. One day when I don on shorts (I was already self-conscious about my skinny legs), he squints and tells me he notices some cellulite forming on my thighs. (I laugh now when I write this because I definitely had nothing like cellulite on my legs at the time. Now might be a different story!)

He flirts openly with other girls on campus, and he discusses different features of attractive girls in my presence. I feel insecure and plain in comparison. I put an end to the relationship. I make the decision right then and there that I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t care if I just throw myself away.

Not too long after that, I meet a young marine. He pays attention to me. He is kind. He has money to pay for his bills. He doesn’t talk about other girls in my presence. He never makes fun of me, and I never worry that he wants someone else.

I am not ready for marriage. I am too young, but I say “yes” when he asks. He is going to have to travel a lot, and he wants to move to Georgia when he gets out. I think about how wonderful it would be to run away from my problems and be loved for the rest of my life.

But I quickly find that my problems follow me. After marriage, I find myself homesick and depressed. My husband’s love isn’t enough to convince me of my worth. I keep striving and seeking. I remember getting a break-through one day at the altar when I go forward for prayer. God tells me to forgive the boy who hurt me all those years ago (and I conclude later that that includes the others who have hurt me as well) — and He tells me something else: Carol, it wasn’t your fault.

The Question Every Woman Asks Concerning Her Worth

In Your Captivating Heart: Discover How God’s Love Can Free a Woman’s Soul, Stasi Eldredge asserts that women go through life asking this question: “Am I lovely?” The problem is that they take this question to the wrong people. I took my question to the boy in another state, the boyfriend in college — and I let them answer it for me. And the answer I got back was this: No, you are not. You are defective. You can’t hold a man’s love. Other women have something you don’t. As Eldredge notes:

You see, every girl is asking one fundamental Question, a question that is core to her heart. Little boys have a core Question too. Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? All of that rough and tumble, all that daring and superhero dress-up, all of that is a boy seeking to prove that he does have what it takes … Little girls, on the other hand, want to know, Am I lovely? Do you see me? Am I worth fighting for? The twirling skirts, the dress-up, the longing to be pretty and seen — all of that is about seeking an answer to our Question.

What if, instead of taking our question to bosses or fathers or boyfriends, we take our question to God? What if we let Him answer it, and it is from that place of security that we are able to operate out of a stable identity?

Yes, I believe that God designed a woman to want to be noticed and pursued by a man, and it’s not wrong for us to want to be what Eldredge describes as “captivating” to that special person in our life. But what if we decide to see ourselves the way God sees us so it won’t completely derail us when someone doesn’t treat us the way we should be treated or offers an opinion about us that doesn’t line up with God’s?

As Eldredge asks in a book she co-wrote with her husband, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, what if the truly most unbeautiful parts of me or you aren’t the flaws others have pointed out in us or we have imagined in ourselves, but the belief in us that says we are not enough? What if the way we can be the most beautiful is to be us without trying to morph into a more polished, prettier, smarter version of us?

Because here’s the thing that I wish I had known as a young person, and I wish I could tell the girl at the vending machine and all of us desperate women unhappy with ourselves: that we have to risk sharing our beauty with others knowing that not everyone will affirm it or acknowledge it (Eldredge, Captivating).

But if we are firm in our identity and beauty because we are daughters of God, even if another person rejects us, they can’t convince us that we don’t possess beauty or worth. Because we are too convinced (based on the fact that One bigger and more important has already convinced us) — that we do.

 

 

 

 

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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How Can I Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns and Depression?

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If you’ve suffered from depression, you may have read my last post on overcoming depression and the limitations of medicine curing depression and still had lingering questions: So, how do I change my thinking? Is there any way to stay out of the dark valleys of depression?

I’ve collected some truths to add on to my previous posts that have helped me address my own dysfunctional thinking. The reality is that we change when we believe what God says and act on His Word rather than act on how we feel. That is where lasting transformative change happens.

Depression and Negative Thinking Patterns

Like many of you, I have often looked at my circumstances through the lens of what should be instead of what really is. Although it sounds pessimistic, it helps me to know that people will hurt me and let me down — and I, in turn, will hurt others. According to Bob George in Victory Over Depression:

All depression begins in the mind with improper thinking patterns that consist of unrealistic expectations or misplaced dependencies. Unrealistic expectations occur when a person simply does not face life as it really is, but looks at life and people as he thinks they should be. It is expecting perfection from ourselves and others. Misplaced dependencies occur when a person depends upon someone or something other than God for his happiness, self-worth, meaning to life, etc.

For the longest time I held people accountable in my thinking when they didn’t treat me like I thought they should. I was a victim, and until they came to acknowledge their wrong to me, I couldn’t let go of the offense.

This is a very unhealthy way to live because people rarely do or even get what you want. Clearly, I had unrealistic expectations and misplaced dependencies.

I relied way too heavily on the people in my life for my happiness. In particular, as a young person, I had a relationship where I looked to the other person for my sense of worth. I bought into the idea in our culture that significant other persons complete us — and when I couldn’t control how this person treated me, I got depressed.

While I should not possess a doormat mentality where people walk on me and hurt me, I can’t expect others to fill me. That’s what I have God for. Not only have my high standards for others led to grief, my own high standards for myself — self-imposed to avoid rejection — have led to depression.

Again and again, I’ve fallen into the trap of feeling I have to perform to be worthy in relationships. I have to accept the truth that I have value not because of my effort but because God says so. I make mistakes — I mess up — and God still loves me! I’m a work in progress, not a finished product, and that is the reality of the Christian walk.

Handling Disappointment: Key to Dealing With Depression

Facing what George refers to as a “seedbed of disappointment” is where you and I can choose to let thoughts about how disappointed we are fester, or we can choose to release those bad feelings over to God. As George says:

When you choose to respond to an adverse circumstance in anger, you have begun to spiral down to depression, for all depression is rooted in anger — anger at God, a mate, a friend, an enemy, a boss, a parent, etc. Anger leads you to employ defense mechanisms in order to change a person or circumstance. As these efforts fail, you sink into self-pity. In the pool of self-pity, your anger multiples as you ponder past offense, imagine future offense and experience further disappointment at your inability to control your circumstances. Your anger and self-pity result finally in a state of depression.

For many of us, when our actions and others’ haven’t been perfect enough for us, that has led to disappointment; despair because we can’t do better (or they won’t change); self-pity; then depression. As noted in Victory Over Depression, a better way when facing disappointment is to allow our mind to be renewed.

Renewing My Mind to Overcome Negative Thinking Patterns

Renewing our mind means to literally allow our mind to be re-programmed by Christ. That means we have to spend time in the Word and do what the Word says and the Holy Spirit prompts us to do. According to Romans 12:2: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is — his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The New Living Translation states it like this: “Don’t copy the behavior of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

In essence, we have to choose not to conform to the world’s way by reading the Word and allowing our thought processes to align with God’s. As this happens, we learn God’s will for us. And when we act on His will, He changes us!

According to George, the world’s order of thinking is “mind — emotions — actions” whereas God’s way is “mind — actions — emotions.” As we act in the right ways even when we don’t feel like it, our attitude changes.

In her study One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp states this idea a different way, stressing that trust (acting in obedience) is the bridge to joy. We can’t make ourselves godly, but by acting on what He says, we experience the byproduct of that which is godly attributes of love, joy and peace.

To do this, we have to choose to believe who we are in Christ — what He says about us, and not what others say. For many of us, this is a struggle. Old patterns of thinking still like to creep back — they tell us that it is no use, that we will never be good enough, that we failed again, that nothing will change.

We have to reject those thoughts and instead replace them with God’s truth that we are forgiven, righteous and holy. We can tell God how we feel, tell Him we don’t like the adverse situation we are facing. However, instead of demanding that He change it, getting angry at Him and others when they don’t do it our way, we address it with the other person if necessary, let go and trust God to take care of it.

And switching out our faulty thinking patterns for God’s perfect wisdom gets us on the pathway of healthy thinking.

Related Bible Verses:

Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”

Additional Resources:

For further reading on disappointment and the fickle nature of our emotions, Joyce Meyer writes about avoiding disappointment in “How to Prevent Slipping into Depression.”

*Updated October 10, 2017.

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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