Archive for the ‘ self-esteem ’ Category

That’s Not Cool


As I was flipping through radio stations this morning on my way to work, I stopped on a station where the deejays were discussing women who continuously go back to their “anti-Christ” (presumably emotionally abusive, narcissistic) boyfriends.

The male deejay on the show proclaimed, “The best boyfriend is the one that is always trying to get you back.”

One of the female deejays said wryly, “Yeah, because he’s on his good behavior.”

I know exactly what they mean. A woman’s heart’s desire is to be pursued by a man. There is something deceptively alluring about a man who is constantly working to win a woman’s heart, telling her that he knows they are meant to be together, he loves her, he needs her. Even when his actions towards her are not loving or cause her to second-guess herself, a woman is drawn in by a man’s pursuit and words. When a man’s words and actions are incongruous, it is very difficult for a woman to be discerning, particularly if she sees him or talks to him every day, because she is constantly hearing him say those magical and persuasive words. It is very difficult for many women to break away from these types of men, especially because they will continue to pursue.

A few days ago, I saw a commercial that impacted me more strongly than most. In the commercial, shown below, a boy is harassing a girl via text message (“textual harassment”), constantly asking what she is doing (“have you told your family about us?”, “are you with your friends?”, “what did you dream about? me.”) and subtly manipulating her emotions, trying to get her to respond or react.

The commercial ends when the narrator says, “When does caring become controlling?” and directs the viewer to the website, http://www.thatsnotcool.com/.

This commercial affected me because I can identify with the young woman who is portrayed. I dated someone who constantly called and texted me to let me know how much he “cared” about me, but he was really trying to control me. Because of emotional vulnerabilities I had at that time in my life, it was very appealing to me to be pursued so relentlessly. I always knew where I stood with him, and I always knew he would be there for me (or so he convinced me to believe).

Never mind that he was a pathological liar, he pretended to get counseling to help our relationship and used things that the counselor supposedly said to manipulate my emotions, he was jealous and possessive, he faked medical issues to arouse my sympathies, he used spiritual language and shame to manipulate me, he needed to know where I was at all times, he had people check up on me and report back to him regarding my whereabouts, he played mind games, his stories were never consistent, he threatened to go back to using drugs and possibly kill himself if I broke up with him, he constantly stirred up conflict, he used silence to block communication, and he destroyed items I gave him.

Despite all of that emotional abuse, he was able to get me to believe that he really loved me, and he pursued me so heavily. He would not let me leave him. Until finally I did.

This issue concerns me for young women who may have less awareness about abuse, a smaller support network, and fewer resources for getting help. I am thankful for the Family Violence Prevention Fund and other organizations who have sponsored the “That’s Not Cool” commercial, website, and awareness of issues like controlling behavior and constant texting.

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Brokenness, Part II

Continued from Part I.

It occurs to me that the reason I am sometimes unable to be objective in dating relationships, and also the reason for a lot of my distress in relationships, is because what I intellectually know to be true does not equal what feels normal vis a vis my childhood experiences. I was abused and neglected as a child, though I really hate admitting this fact.  But I suppose that it is true whether I admit it or not.   So on a subconscious level, chaos, neglect, and mistreatment in romantic relationships feel normal. Of course I don’t consciously enjoy those things. But on an emotional level, there is a comfort because those are known experiences.

Obviously, I believe consciously that I deserve to be treated with respect, love, and support. And I know what those qualities look like. I can easily discern them in others’ relationships or even in my own friendships.

Yet on more than one occasion (not always, but more than once) I have chosen to get involved romantically with men who are abusive, or at the very least do not treat me with respect, because this is what feels normal to me. Lies from the evil one play in my head at times telling me that this is what I deserve. Because the evil one will use our circumstances to affirm the lies we have always believed about ourselves.

As a result of my history and not-so-wise relational choices, I feel guilt and shame, worrying that I am fundamentally screwed up, and of course the lie that follows is, “I am unlovable.” But I admit these experiences and self-doubts to the world, or at least the 4 people who read my blog, because I know I’m not the only one who feels this way or has experienced these things.

Like I wrote previously, this is a broken world. So many of my friends have had similar experiences. Relationships in general are broken and messed up, especially romantic ones. I think I have hit a huge milestone in simply recognizing and admitting how my past has shaped me, and now I try to learn from it and allow God to heal me so that I will make better choices in the future.

Brokenness, Part I

 

I really do not like to admit weakness. I do not want to tell you that at times I feel damaged, I am broken inside. I do not want you to think less of me. Yes, I know that in God’s sight, I am perfect and whole, as he sees me with Christ’s righteousness. But I am still a work in progress, and knowing something intellectually does not always translate to complete emotional knowledge.

I know from many conversations with close friends that countless people can relate to the brokenness I have experienced. We are all broken because of the sin that exists in this world. And more specifically, a majority of my girlfriends – women who I perceive as strong, intelligent, graceful, lovely women – have had relationships with emotionally (and often physically) abusive men. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was talking to a friend recently about people who like to get tattoos and piercings because they enjoy the pain. In addition to the end result of a cool tattoo or piercing, they get something out of the *process* of being inked or punctured. One theory is that the pain is somewhat of a “comfort,” as it brings the person back to the pain they experienced as a child, as in having been the victim of child abuse. Pain was a normal part of their childhood, and thus, it is a known factor.

Of course, not all people are motivated to get inked or pierced for this reason. However, individuals who were abused as children do often unconsciously seek out pain, whether it be emotional or physical.

Sometimes even the healthy unknown is more terrifying than the unhealthy and painful known.

What is known is comfortable. Much of this process is subconscious.  We do not intentionally seek out pain and abuse. This unconscious process of the unhealthy known being more desirable at times is simply how humans who have experienced abuse are wired. There’s nothing wrong with being wired that way, per se, but we can live healthier and happier lives if we can become aware of these processes and begin to make different choices, outside of our normal comfort zone.

So I started thinking a lot about that and how it applies to me. My issue is more with psychological and emotional pain, rather than physical pain, but there’s an element of that, too.

To be continued in Part II.

Insecurity

One of the pastors at my church said recently in a staff meeting, “What would it be like to really open up to someone about your struggles and have him/her reply, ‘Ugh, you disgust me.’?” He asked, “Can you imagine if we confessed our sin to God and He responded like that?” Thank God that He does not reply like this, that we are able to go to Him without judgment or condemnation (Romans 8:1).

But in all honesty, it struck me that I say those words to myself so often when I have sinned or erred or somehow fallen short of where I think I should be. I am so quick to judge and condemn myself for my flaws, sins, and mistakes. And often I do not even realize I’m doing it.

I recently read on one of the blogs I follow that security (versus insecurity) takes intentional effort. We can choose to think securely and positively. Without intentional effort, our broken and sinful hearts will naturally gravitate towards insecurity, and we will begin comparing ourselves (sinfully) with either superiority or inferiority to others.

Insecurity is self-idolatry, because when we are insecure, we think only of ourselves. Humility is not thinking less of oneself, it is thinking of oneself less.  Obsessing over ourselves can mean that we are vain and conceited, but it can also mean that we are constantly feeling inferior, worthless, and anxious about ourselves.

Some lies I sometimes think about myself are:
I am unattractive and ugly.
I am worthless because I cannot live up to my expectations of myself.
I am unlovable because I am different.
My friends are not really my friends, they only tolerate me out of a sense of obligation.

Of course these thoughts are not true. But as I’ve written before, the evil one uses our circumstances to affirm the lies that we’ve always believed about ourselves.

I can make a conscious decision to think, “I am a child of God and dearly loved. How would a secure woman react to this situation?” I am beautiful to God because I am His daughter. I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:4). I am free from condemnation. I am valuable. God did not make any mistakes when He made me.

I’ve been feeling a little insecure and neurotic the past couple of days, and I’m not sure why. Someone said something to me the other day that sort of bothered me, and that feeling stuck with me the whole day. It is just one person’s opinion about me. It really shouldn’t matter to me. My security is not found in the approval of other people.

I can be secure in the unfailing and unconditional love of God.

It’s Not Me, It’s You, Part I


About seven years ago, as I was talking to a wise older girl friend who I’ll call Anna* about dating and relationship frustrations, she said to me, “You should thank the guys that break up with you or who stop calling. They are doing you a favor because on some level they realize they cannot give you what you need. It’s not you, it’s them.”

At the time, I really thought Anna was just saying that to make me feel better. Anna is close to my mom’s age, though she looks a decade younger, and she has been single for most of her adult life. I trust her advice and input, and I appreciated what she was saying. What I heard back then was, “Reframe this situation. Just blame the guy instead of yourself and you’ll feel better.”

But as the years have gone by, I realize that there is a much deeper truth to what Anna told me so long ago. At long last, I am finally starting to get what she truly meant. I am starting to internalize her statement, rather than just seeing it as a cheap reframing technique.

Almost invariably in the past, when a guy stopped calling me, or when things seemed to be going well and he broke up with me, or started to get distant and weird, I always overanalyzed what I did to cause it. I always looked to see what I may have done “wrong.” While it is good to assess my part in relationship problems, I allowed these situations to cause guilt and self-deprecation as if there were something wrong with me, as if I could have performed better or been a better person.

But there is nothing wrong with me.

The truth is that I am just not for every person. And that is fine. And it is also true that some men cannot give me what I need, and they realize that and stop pursuing me. It’s not me, it’s them.

Something happened recently that helped me to realize that I finally got what Anna said.

To be continued in Part II.

*Names have been changed.

Unrealistic Ideals

It is no secret that our society promotes unrealistic body image ideals. Every single one of my female friends struggles with body image, no matter how beautiful she is, inside and out. The images we see in the movies, on television, and in magazines only serve to make us feel worse, as we can never live up to these ideals, some of which are grossly unattainable, like magazine photos that are drastically airbrushed.

If you do not believe me, you can view a before and after (airbrushing) picture of Faith Hill as she appeared in Redbook magazine.

But this, THIS takes the cake as far as fantasy and distortion.

Single Again

I’m single again.

And surprisingly, it feels pretty damn good.

The deep longing of my heart is to one day be married. I feel that God designed me for and intends for me to be married. And there are many aspects of dating and relationships that I enjoy. Yet, I have a strong sense that I am exactly where I need to be right now.

I was reading “Let Me Be a Woman,” by Elisabeth Elliot last night, and she wrote in the book, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” I get frustrated with people who exhort, “Be content in your singleness.” God put a desire on my heart to be married, and I see clear evidence of Him preparing me for a marriage relationship. God wants us to long for what he intends for us and not be merely “content.” But He also wants us to live today. This is the place I am in right now. I long for marriage, but singleness is God’s path for me today, and I will live to the fullest in that.

I have a friend who is involved with Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based addictions recovery program that is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. She reminded me yesterday to take life one day at a time. And she is right. I get overwhelmed at times thinking about the future. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of meeting, dating, and marrying my future husband. But God dispenses His grace one day at a time. He gives me exactly what I need for today. And thankfully, this enables me to rely on Him every single day. So today, I trust that I am where I need to be. Single.

The past few weeks, I had been feeling increasingly unsettled with the guy I was dating. I hate to admit it, but I knew he was not right for me, yet I was reluctant to cut it off because I liked his personality. And I did not really want to be alone. I have a great support network of friends, but I enjoy the particular feeling of companionship in a dating relationship. I like having someone to talk to before going to bed. I like knowing someone is thinking about me during the day.

I have been feeling insecure, as well, the past few weeks, much more so than is usual for me. Like anyone, I have some insecurity, but for the most part I am pretty confident and well-adjusted. Now that the relationship is over, suddenly, my confidence is back. When I opened up to my ex about how I was feeling (while we were still dating), he told me that my insecurities were coming from inside me, he denied any part in it, and his words led me to doubt myself. Now that I am out of the relationship, I see that it wasn’t that anything is wrong with me, he just wasn’t right for me. And perhaps, as well, I was reacting to his emotional unavailability.

In my Bible study group today, we discussed Philippians 1 and the importance of fellowship. One of the benefits of having true friends who love us (more specifically in the context of the passage, Christian friends), is that they desire to see us grow and be happier and healthier. If our true friends give us criticism or negative feedback, we can trust that they are saying it out of love because they truly want the best for us.

One of my weaknesses is that in dating relationships, when the guy gives me negative feedback, I want to believe that he is saying it in a loving way because he truly desires that I be a more Godly and better person. However, I think in reality, a lot of times guys say things to me out of their own insecurities and weaknesses. Perhaps they are projecting some of their own insecurities, but whatever the reason, the negative feedback is not said out of a sincere heart. Unfortunately, I have a hard time discerning when this is the case, and I take their comments seriously, which in the case of this most recent relationship, made me question myself and feel some insecurity.

As my pastor David* said, “Don’t date guys in the gym. They are screwed up.”

No, that’s not the quote I meant, although he said that, as well. He also said, “Don’t fall in love with the icing, which consists of personality and physical attraction. We need the cake, the substance, to fill us up. The icing is delicious, but when we eat only the icing, we will end up with a headache.”

If I am really honest with myself, my most recent ex was icing. And I ended up with a headache.

Now that the sugar crash has cleared, I am looking forward to working on myself and becoming more emotionally and spiritually healthy. I am also excited to have the opportunity to look for a man of substance, a man whose heart belongs to God.

One of the best books I have read is “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. He avers that spiritual and emotional maturity co-occur. (Side note: My recent ex-boyfriend was not at all spiritually mature, hence, he cannot truly be emotionally mature, either. It is not my intent to be critical of him, as he has many great qualities. But I admit that I conveniently overlooked the spiritual issue because I was attracted to him, and I wanted to date him because he was tasty icing. However, I probably should have known better.) In Scazzero’s book, he has one of the most informative charts I have seen that lists the characteristics of an emotionally healthy person. You can view this chart here. Jesus functioned at 100. He was both perfectly confident and perfectly humble.

For now, I will work on my relationship with God first and foremost. I am also seeing a counselor who can help me grow emotionally and psychologically. Beyond that, it is my aim (with God’s help) to put my trust in God when it comes to relationships. I desire to follow His will for me and not to date someone just because he pursues me or seems attractive. I want to look for the substance, the heart, the cake. I wish to fully and intentionally rely on God to provide what I need, particularly in the arena of dating relationships.

While I do wish to be in a relationship that is headed towards marriage, I am not going to go out and specifically seek to date. Rather, I wish to follow God’s direction. For now, at least, I am discarding my old List of qualities and characteristics to look for in mate, and I am going with my friend Emily’s* list, which I have written about previously.

1. He loves God more than he loves me.
2. He supports my ministry by encouraging me and praying for me.
3. He truly understands God’s grace, and is thus able to love the Lord and be forgiving.
4. He fights for me and for our relationship.

Today, I am very thankful for friends who are praying for me and encouraging me. I am thankful for the amazing people that surround me daily. I am thankful for the healing that God has brought into my life. I am thankful that my happiness, joy, peace, and hope comes always and only from Jesus Christ. I thankful that I feel confident in my identity in Christ.

*Names have been changed.

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