These three words have driven the lives of many women in the world. But there is also a dark side, a trap that can lead to a very different outcome. Just thinking about these three words makes my heart rate accelerate. As I ponder them I know they have influenced many of the choices through my actions in wanting to be accepted, to be seen and even how I saw myself.
PERFORMANCE being funny and acting happy was my way of making those around me feel happier when life was hard or painful. That was a great burden to carry as a kid. When it didn’t work, I somehow felt responsible that I couldn’t fix the situation or even make it better. I believed that somehow it was my fault. What a lie. By listening to those lies my self-worth has taken some hits.
In high school and during college performing took the stage as I found myself winning tournaments, receiving accolades, and attention, only to feel horrible and not good enough when I didn’t come out on top every time. Second place was less than, another lie perpetuated by my own need to find my value in performance. I remember one time being asked by a friend at school how I made out in the tournament over the previous weekend. Shame swept through my body as I answered, “second place”. Who I was equaled how I performed. If I wasn’t the winner I was the loser. I know our culture has a part to play in that kind of thinking, but my internal voices did plenty to affect what I thought of myself.
PRODUCTIVITY was instilled early in my childhood. Both my parents were hard workers and my mother, a stay at home mom, made sure we all learned and valued hard work by giving us chores and responsibilities as early as three or four years old. We produced by doing what was asked and expected, and by getting good results. If we did our work we gained acceptance. It's the message I received. I came to believe I was a producer, and if I wasn’t producing every minute, something was wrong with me which led to shame. Consequently, as I grew up I found it hard to rest. For so long I pushed myself in doing, so that I would feel better about myself.
PERFECTIONISM weaved its ugly talons into my soul at an early age, which unattainable, left me feeling flawed. It was directly tied to my productivity. Doing what was valued and doing it perfectly was highly esteemed. Perfectionism showed up in how I saw myself as a student, as a wife and then as a mother and homeschool teacher and later as an employee. As much as I tried, nothing I did ever measured up to what I thought it should be. It's pretty hard living under such high expectations of oneself. It drove me to be way too hard on myself and inevitably left me feeling disappointed and not enough. Striving for excellence is a good thing. Not being satisfied until things are perfect, leads to discontentment and heartache. Shame is intricately tied to performance, productivity and perfection. Even if your early childhood home was filled with acceptance and belonging, with lots of love and affirmation, bad things can still happen, causing us to question our worth. It doesn’t help that the culture we live in, as well as social media, are all saturated with shaming messages.
I really appreciate Dr. Brene` Brown's thoughts on shame. "Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. It’s the fear that something we’ve done or failed to do, an ideal that we’ve not lived up to, or a goal that we’ve not accomplished makes us unworthy of connection. “I’m not worthy or good enough for love, belonging, or connection. I’m unlovable. I don’t belong.”
We all want to belong, to be loved and to feel connected. We all want to feel worthy. We are hardwired to feel that way, it’s in our DNA. But seeking to find our worth and value outside of God, and how He sees us, can lead to exhaustion, mental illness, addiction, co-dependency, and just plain emptiness.
Thankfully, we can find our way out of these deep rooted feelings of shame and the lies that perpetuate them. Healing and restoration can happen! When we discover for ourselves how God sees us, how He feels about us and who He says we are, everything changes. Jesus, Emmanuel, the God with us, goes with us into those places of our shame. He identifies with our hurt and pain, cups our face in His hands and lifts our head so we can see His Smile as He calls us His Beloved. Find time to be with Jesus, you're worth it!
“What’s the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don’t be intimidated by all this bully talk. You’re worth more than a million canaries.”
“You, beloved, are worth so much more than a whole flock of sparrows. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. So do not fear.”
Matthew 10:29 -31 (Message)
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” The Voice TranslationMay you rest in His love, Matthew 10:30 (Voice)