Have you ever been somewhere in public and been convinced that all eyes were on you, only to look up and discover that, in fact, not a single person was looking your way?
Welcome to my life.
For the longest time, my life has been dominated by low self-esteem and a gnawing concern that there’s some lofty standard I’m not meeting, some ideal I’m not reaching – and that the world is daily watching me fail at it.
What the heck, right? I mean, my rational mind knows that that’s just silly. I am a blessed, beautiful, healthy and smart woman. I have so much going for me. I have a side that is full of zest and light and joy. I am normal and balanced and sane and all that.
And yet there’s always been the lurking suspicion that I don’t measure up. I’ve felt clumsy all my life, as though I’m not at home in my skin. Put me in any situation, and I’ll be sure to drop something or bump something or do something wrong; I’ll be the one blushing for no reason, saying the wrong thing, and constantly feeling like I’m out of my depth.
My expectations are stratospheric, so there’s no possible way I can succeed. In fact, I’m pretty sure that not even God’s standards for me are as high as the ones I set for myself! He gives grace, but I’m merciless towards myself (and unfortunately, often towards others too).
But I digress.
What I wanted to share with you today were two thoughts that I’ve had on this topic. Two thoughts that have become two principles for me to live by as I actively try to challenge my ridiculous self-concept and worldview.
First thought: No one is watching you.
No one. No one is watching you. The other diners in the restaurant, your colleagues in the office, the strangers in the mall and the other drivers on the roads – not one of them is watching you. Don’t flatter yourself, Zest. No one has the time or inclination to watch your every move. They are all too busy with their own lives, focused on their own highs and lows.
I (and dare I say, we?) pass up so many spontaneous opportunities for fun because our first thought is, ‘What will other people think of me?’ We can become so wrapped up in others’ opinions of us, without stopping to check a) whether those opinions even exist and b) if they do, whether they’re even valid.
Sometimes this can also lead us to do things we don’t actually want to do, but that we believe others expect us to do. Such as losing weight. Or buying the latest goods. Or having kids. Or taking drugs. Or getting into negative relationships. If your self-esteem is low and you think it can be remedied by pleasing other people, you’re headed down a path of empty striving and pain.
But what of those times when you do look up and happen to catch someone watching? Or what if it’s someone whose opinion does carry weight with you? Well, then be sure to live in such a way that whoever is watching is learning something good from you 🙂
For myself at least, I know that this issue is linked to pride and a fear of man, both of which the Bible warns against. If I am going to change the way I think of myself and of others, I will have to confess these man-centred sins and ask the Lord to put my focus back on what does matter.
Which brings me to my second thought: Someone is watching you.
Someone, the only One who matters, is watching you. And me. And every person on this planet.
Years ago an unsaved friend boasted to me of a late-night tryst with her boyfriend that had taken place ‘where no one could see’. I remember cringing at her boldness, thinking, ‘But you’re wrong… Someone could see!’ She thought she had gotten away with a daring sin in the darkness, not considering that the blazing eyes of the Most High God had witnessed everything.
If we are going to live without concern for others’ opinions of us, it must be balanced with a healthy respect for God’s opinion of us. The Bible tells us that ‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good’ (Prov 15:3). We have it all wrong when we’re more concerned about unflattering human opinions rather than our standing before God.
But of course none of us can stand before God as we are. He is too holy and we are too lowly! That’s why we need Jesus Christ as our mediator. He took our rightful punishment so now the idea of God watching us brings peace instead of fear to those of us who are saved.
I believe that if I can practise these two principles – letting go of what I think people think of me, and clinging to a biblical view of how God sees me through Christ – I will have the perfect practical remedy for my low self-esteem and silly self-consciousness.
What a freeing way to live!