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Oh my worth: a struggle with acceptance

I struggle with acceptance. At my age, in my profession, I shouldn’t be struggling with that, right? I’m a student ministry pastor with a lot of students and parents around me. Most of which like me… I think. BAM! And there it is, the struggle appears.

It’s sad to me that my self-esteem is so low that I struggle at the thought and wonder whether people like me. If I don’t get invited somewhere, I try to act cool about it, but the reality is that my fears and insecurities rise up and stare me in the face, attempting to remind me that I am unworthy to be anyone’s friend. I’m almost positive it shouldn’t be like that.

What I’m discovering in counseling at the moment is that our esteem should be healthy enough to handle the most extreme highs or lows and NOT be moved around by circumstances. No matter what occurs, our thoughts about ourselves should be healthy enough to handle anything that happens.

How cool would that be? If I failed a test, but it didn’t devastate my self-worth? If I bombed a job interview but it didn’t prevent me from applying again? Or what if you asked someone out on a date, were rejected, but didn’t feel the need to drown yourself in ice cream and Netflix?

I understand feeling disappointed, but when the result is a loss of self-worth, isn’t that too much? How often have we gone through a moment only to look back a few weeks later and wonder aloud why we ever let that bother us in the first place? How different would your life be if you had chosen to care for yourself first? I think there are so many critical moments in our past that could have resulted in something completely different if we had just chosen to listen to the wisdom around us and cared for ourselves first. This brings up a different thought I want to mention and discuss in a future post. But have there been moments in your life when you realized after the fact that your decision wasn’t in your best interests and now you’ve built up this resentment about the people involved? Wouldn’t it have been better to just choose wisely in the first place? Maybe you deny yourself some pleasure, but you prevent a ton of pain, too?

I make decisions based on everyone else’s comfort. That’s a flaw I am discovering about myself. It’s not bad that I care. I’m not saying that at all. I should care, I should care a lot! That’s the basis for my belief system. Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with everything I have – heart, soul, mind, and strength AND the second is like it… to love your neighbor as yourself.

Love your neighbor as yourself. We focus a lot on the neighbor part, but the definition of love is first applied to how we care for ourselves. I liken it to the description the flight attendants give when they explain the oxygen masks falling from the ceiling of the airplane. It’s one I use to help my students understand how critical self-care is. If you’re lost, here it goes: In the event the oxygen mask falls from the ceiling, please activate YOUR mask BEFORE you help your neighbor. That seems selfish. Why would I do that?! Because if you choose to help someone else out before you take care of yourself, there’s a good chance you might not survive. Imagine, you’re sitting next to a little kid. Your instinct is to help them, the oxygen runs out, the child has no idea how to help you. It’s over. Dramatic, I know, but it’s the truth. We take care of other people to the detriment of ourselves and we lose, over and over again until, eventually, we can no longer help anyone.

I’m not saying don’t sacrifice. I firmly believe we should sacrifice more. What I’m getting at is that we should take care of ourselves so that we can sacrifice for the long term, not the short term.

So, here’s the critical understanding for me: I see a lot of people giving way too much and I see a lot of others giving little to none. I firmly believe in the commandments to love God and love others. What I think I’ve come to understand, though, is that if we’re all doing this, more people get impacted and more gets accomplished and less people get burnt out along the way.

Our calling from Jesus is to love as He loved. If we’re all doing this, aren’t all of our needs met? If everyone YOU knew that said they believe in Jesus acted this way, how much better would your OWN life be? How many times have you wished that someone would just pay attention and help you out? I think that if Christ’s followers actually believe His command and follow through on it, we’re all going to be better off.

Back to the self-worth conversation. Too often, I base my self-worth on the opinion of everyone else around me. If sacrifice means another pat on the back, guess who’s giving more of himself? I hate that about me. I have sacrificed simply for the sake of approval. I discovered way too late that caring for a few meant I could accomplish more than caring for a lot. It’s the same amount of care I have to give, it just gets spread way too thin when I try to take care of everyone instead of a few.

My struggle with acceptance taught me lot about myself. My need for approval and inclusion has, for too long, determined how I feel about myself. I am learning to not let it devastate my day. My worth is not found in the opinion of others. I’m pretty good just as I am.

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