I am not in high school anymore, yet hear me tell you that this battle of self-worth is not something that the enemy uses as a tactic only on teenagers. Nor is is something that he just uses on females. All of us at some point have struggled with our belief in our self-worth. I wish I could say that as you get older this war of believing in the value of who you are disappears—it doesn’t. However, you get better at fighting it. You start claiming small victories that you can tuck into your back pocket and use as ammunition when you find yourself back on the battlefield.
I have a deep fear of rejection. It is something that I became aware of about a year ago. The fear of rejection has created in me an achiever mentality, paired with the desire to be seen. These two make for a combination that leaves you exhausted because both are components of striving. I thought that the way I ensure security in my friendships, relationships, and even within my own family was to be a doer. If did enough “good” things people would notice. If they noticed, I would feel seen and accepted.
This worked for a while. Until I realized that what I was putting out to the world, even those closest to me, was my checked off to-do lists and filtered self. I would give them what I believed were the best parts of me. When I stepped back, I saw that what I was putting out was all things external. I would let people see the highlight reel. I wouldn’t dare let them see the condition of my heart because if they knew the unpolished parts of me, rejection might be what I had to taste.
We refine and better the external because we think that our outward appearance is what people will find the most attractive. So we spend the extra hour at the gym, we skip a meal, we change clothes a million times, we delete the picture that didn’t get as many likes as we were craving, and the list could go on and on. I can say all of that because I have done it. I have done it, and it didn’t work. I have stood on stages, heard the applause. I have hit the gym day after day. I have posted the picture that I actually liked and gotten the likes. I have been commended on how great the things I was doing were. Yet, I leave every time still empty and longing. Or I leave still believing that I need to do better.
How is it that I can experience the acceptance that I crave and still feel like I need to do more? It is because the external parts of our life are not what we ultimately want people to accept; it is the internal - it is our hearts. Our heart that often doubts and is weary. Our heart that wants to speak up to our friends and tell them what we need. Our heart that wants to confess that we don’t have this whole walking with Jesus thing figured out. Our heart that still is fighting the same struggle as it always has. That is what you are really looking to be accepted— not the good, but the messy.
When we finally get our thinking aligned with the Lord’s, things will change. He says, “the Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) I can fine tune my outward appearance all day long. It might temporary satisfy my longing to be accepted and seen my man, but scripture tells us that He has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11). The only thing that can fill the gap in our heart that is looking for something eternal is He who is eternal Himself.
Man’s acceptance will not give you what you are looking for. If it will not give me what I am looking for, then I need to focus on what will. Jesus is telling us that it is our inward appearance that He is most concerned about. I love that He does accept the messy in us, and then He uses it.
I wonder what this world would look like if we spent the same amount of time we committed to working on our outward image as we did the conditions of our hearts. I think we might find that the world would, as a whole, feel less insecure because it would be full of people who are walking around with hearts that are full of eternity - the very thing they are looking for.
I want you to ask yourself today a couple of questions:
1. What is beautiful about your life that is not related to anything external? ex: passionate, caring? The harder it is to identify just shows the extent to which you rely on outward things. Don’t worry it was hard for me at first too. Ask the Lord to show you.
2. How can you start working on more internal things? ex: more time in His word, prayer, honest conversations, etc.