Have you ever based your worth on the approval of others?
I have been basing my worth on my approval ratings for many years. I don’t know when I began doing it. Once, I needed boys to love me to feel I was worth something.
When I fell in love with Jesus, I gave boys up for a time. I realized they were wells that couldn’t satisfy. I decided to go to the well that never runs dry. I pursued a love in Jesus that would fill the void in my life.
When that happened, I felt whole, happy, and filled. Then somewhere along the lines, I found a way to erect a new idol. I found a new “well”; achievement. I became dissatisfied with my life unless I was achieving some new goal.
I would achieve one goal and without even celebrating it, I’d experience a hunger for the next. As if I knew dissatisfaction would come on the heels of every achievement, I began planning the next one while still working on the current goal.
At the root of all my desire to achieve was the thought that I needed to be “somebody”. Somebody that others thought was gifted, talented, smart, spiritual. I desperately wanted people to see that I was anointed.
Perhaps having a dad who seemed impossible to please has something to do with all of this. I remember being an over achiever up until about third grade. I was in honors programs and worked really hard.
When my siblings and I would bring home grades, if we had all A’s, dad would say, “How come you didn’t get an A+?”
By the time I reached the 4th grade my siblings convinced me that it was easier to coast and get B’s rather than work hard for A’s. My father’s lack of celebration of my hard work further reinforced my resolve to be mediocre. If I can’t please him, why try?
When I began teaching after college, the accolades began pouring in. I loved my work dearly and poured all of me into it. “You’re such a gifted teacher,” many would say. My superintendent made a personal visit to school to meet with me when I became unhappy and contemplated leaving. My father heard of my excellence from colleagues, and for the first time in my life, I felt he was proud of me. I liked it.
From that time on, I strove to be better and better, but God interrupted my certain rise to education superintendent by asking me to homeschool my daughter. For nine years I would languish at home (from my perspective), being just a mom. I was dissatisfied because from this position, no one could know how gifted, talented, and anointed I was.
There was nothing to achieve here but being a great mom, something I respected because I knew what went into it, but something no one but other mothers seemed to respect.
I couldn’t be somebody from here. I couldn’t gain my father’s approval from here. He had never respected my mother, who had been a much better mother than me while working a full-time nursing job.
She managed to put a delicious, healthy, fresh meal on the table every day, wash everyone’s clothing, press my father’s shirts with starch after hand washing them, as per his preference, and still get to work for her night shift. She was super woman, but it never seemed to matter. She never received accolades or respect from anyone… even me (then).
In fact, the only time she ever got accolades was when we met co-workers or former patients. They would sing her praises for being a phenomenal nurse. So guess what I thought I’d be when I grew up.
I processed all these experiences to mean that your professional prowess is what makes you somebody. Your achievements bring the accolades, and with them comes acknowledgment of who you are.
Never mind the impact my mother has had on my life and spirituality. Never mind the way she laid a path for being a virtuous woman. No, I saw none of that as valuable then.
For years, I desperately sought to be somebody. Who I was never seemed to be enough. When I recently heard God say, “You’ve always been somebody to Me. I SEE YOU,” it changed everything and filled me to capacity.
I no longer need a particular job I thought I needed. I no longer need to be seen or congratulated by anyone. I no longer need my achievements. I once again am satisfied with my Lord. This in turn helps me be satisfied with whatever place or circumstance I find myself in. (Phil. 4:12)
Now I get what Paul meant. Little or plenty, good or bad, my circumstance does not determine my contentment because I know that…
I am somebody to Him who flung the stars and kissed the sun.