By Ashley McIlwain
I’m going to get very honest and candid with you. I struggle with major feelings of inadequacy. Spanning from my work to my friendships to my marriage, I constantly battle the feeling that I fall so short of what I should be. That I’m a complete failure and will never measure up. At times, my next breath seems impossible as I’m swallowed up with discouragement, despair, and self-inflicted insecurity.
A well-known perfectionist, I set the bar so high for myself that my expectations are completely unrealistic and unachievable. In simplified terms, I’ve set myself up for failure. The demands I’ve placed on myself are to be everything at all times to everyone. That’s an impossible task, and yet, that’s somehow what I’ve convinced myself I must be.
If I miss cooking dinner for my husband one night because I got caught up in work, or if he runs out of his favorite yogurt, instantly I label myself a terrible wife who has failed my husband. If I don’t get that article written or fail to see the growth and numbers I’m looking for at work, I deem myself incapable and inadequate. If a friend asks me for help and I just have too much on my plate to run to their side that instant, I’m the worst friend ever.
It’s silly how I’ve allowed myself to find my identity in my accomplishments. Self-worth and value aren’t quantifiable. You can’t measure them in meals made or checklists completed. My value is not in what I do or don’t do. I repeat: my value is not based on what I do or don’t do. And the same is true for you because I have a feeling I’m not alone on this one.
Satan feeds us this lie that we aren’t good enough. We aren’t smart enough, pretty enough, skinny enough, or strong enough. He strategically dangles in front of us our failures, flaws, and shortcomings while creating major insecurities by convincing us that everyone else around us doesn’t have those struggles or blemishes. We get caught in a quicksand of self-pity, despair, and hopelessness. Eventually we are like an empty shell chasing the wind in hopes of happiness, fulfillment, and a sense of purpose.
It’s a lie. All of it is a lie.
Matthew 10:29-31 says, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” The truth is: our value isn’t dependent on what we do or how much we accomplish. It doesn’t matter our social status, material wealth, or social media numbers. We are handcrafted by a meticulous and artistic Creator (Psalm 139:13-14) who loves and adores us. He has a specific plan for our life (Ephesians 2:10), and He rejoices over us (Isaiah 62:5).
Neither you nor I have to earn our identity or value. While we want to always work at fulfilling the calling God’s placed on our lives along with striving to be the best wife/husband, friend, sister/brother, daughter/son, man/woman we can be, our worth never changes and isn’t dependent on our performance or the outcome. What a relief that is to me as I remind myself of those truths.
The Comparison Game
I look around, and it seems like everyone else is doing big things. They’re happy, successful, and they seem to have it all. The thing that is the dagger to my heart is how it appears that the world is on their side. No matter what they do, their friends, family, and perfect strangers seem to sing their praises. They rise through the ranks and are given a platform to scream their message from.
Don’t get me wrong. I rejoice in others’ blessings. I find great joy in their accomplishments and am often in the front row cheering them on. My heart’s desire is to see others achieve success, make a difference, and pursue their dreams. The problem isn’t them; it’s me.
I get caught up in the comparison game. The problem with that is … well, there are a lot of problems with that. For one, we all have our own calling, and God has created a unique path for each of us that is completely different from every other person’s. He’s personal like that. It reminds me of when I’m driving. If I start looking at the car in the lane beside me, I begin to drift into their lane … the wrong lane, and that is dangerous, even deadly. The same is true with our life. We cannot get caught up in looking at what the person beside us is doing, or we will end up in the wrong lane and facing dangers we were never meant to face. We’ve got to stay focused and keep our eyes on the road in front of us – our road.
While we were created for relationship and community, we were never meant to compare ourselves with others. God’s purpose for your life is meant for YOU. His purpose for someone else’s life is meant for THEM. He will open the right doors at the right time for you. We are simply called to remain faithful in what He’s called us to do. He doesn’t ask me to be anyone other than me, and the same is true of you. The pressure to “perform” is all on Him, and I believe that’s why He tells us in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
It’s Not About Feelings
A while ago, one of my aunts gave me a book called A Leader in the Making by Joyce Meyer, and I love it. There’s one thing that really jumped out at me and has stuck with me ever since I read it. She says,
If we ever want to see a release of our potential, we must display stability … If we have stability, we do what is right when it feels good and when it doesn’t feel good – we pray when we feel like praying and when we don’t feel like praying; we give when we feel like giving and when we don’t feel like giving; we give away not only what we want to give away but what we don’t want to give away, if God tells us to do so … I am going to do what I believe God has told me to do in my heart and in His Word, no matter what.
There are times where everything in me wants to throw in the towel. I’m convinced that I am a failure, and my emotions leave me paralyzed. At times I want nothing more than to sit by myself in my bed with the covers over my head and just cry forever. But, what I’ve discovered is that emotions are like a smoke screen – they come and go and have no bearing on what I do and don’t do.
There’s a temptation to follow our feelings. In fact, our culture advocates a message that we deserve to be happy and should do whatever it takes to maintain that happiness. That’s impossible. Emotions are so fleeting, and we cannot allow ourselves to get pulled out to sea in their ensnaring undercurrent. Our identity must be established, our purpose and passions locked in, and our stability fixed. It’s ok to acknowledge and deal with our emotions, but we simply cannot give into their relentless tugs and pulls because we will end up far from where we want and need to be.
Life is complicated. I’m sure, like me, you’ve figured that out by now. We are inundated with messages of inadequacy, and many of us are already our worst enemy. The thing is: we are all broken, imperfect, and kind of a mess, but it’s a beautiful mess. Those moments when we are so overwhelmed by our insecurities, it’s a great reminder of why we need a loving Savior to rely on in the good and bad times. We aren’t meant to be perfect. God just wants us to embrace the masterpiece He created in us and to live our lives accordingly – with care, intentionality, and purpose – trusting in and leaning on Him.