Not being too sure of ourselves can be a positive trait but what happens when it goes too far? What happens when you don’t trust your decision making, your memory or recall of facts and your interactions with others? Where does this lack of confidence come from? This post is not about blaming others, however we will explore how others can damage our self-image, but the real goal of this post is to help us take responsibility. By taking responsibility, we learn that we do have control over what we choose to believe about ourselves.
Someone who usually doesn’t feel positive about their abilities or accomplishments, or has a low opinion of their value as a human being, might have a crushed spirit. How does a spirit get crushed? Usually it is a result of regularly being controlled, manipulated or criticized. Sometimes humans are unintentionally cruel. They may even believe that they are helping you with their words and actions, by pointing out how you are doing it or saying it incorrectly. It is only the unusually manipulative person, who actually seeks to tear down another human being with their critical spirit. Either way, a lot of damage can be done. We must be warriors and fight to retrain ourselves. We must learn to use God’s word, not the words or actions of other humans, as our guide when we question or examine ourselves.
You may find this hard to believe, but I struggle with a low self-image. Where does this come from? For me, I was created with a sensitive temperament and ironically have been exposed to critical eyed humans at every stage of my life. Critical eyed people come in many forms. It can be a parent, spouse, teacher, instructor, boss, friend or even an older child. They are people who are skilled at finding and exploiting the chink in your armor. They can be picky, demanding, critical, know-it-all and controlling. Do you recognize them? They seek to run you. Notice that I carefully chose the word seek. That cannot run you unless you allow them to. I’m not saying that this is easy, just that it is simple. They seek to control how you spend your time and who you spend your time with. They seek to control how you accomplish tasks. They correct you when you’re telling a story, even though the exact facts are unimportant to the hearer. They are full of the “you should have” or “that’s why I wouldn’t have done it that way” or “why did you do that?”. They might pay you a compliment, but then add how they think that you could do it better next time.
Being exposed to these behaviors, can over time erode self-confidence. We question our judgement. Do I understand that situation? Am I reading that person correctly? Is that the right action to take? Did I say the wrong thing? Am I the problem in every relationship that has difficulties? Did I offend that person who is treating me differently? Some even develop obsessive compulsive disorder – returning home to check if they unplugged the iron or locked the door, for example. If someone is communicating to you that you are wrong on a regular basis, it is natural for certain personalities to begin to believe it.
I would like to take a paragraph to specifically discuss these dynamics within marriage. Husband, are you crushing your wife’s spirit with your critical eye? This is a misuse of your leadership role in the home. God says “husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the Church”. Wife, are you causing your husband to be weak in his ability to trust himself to lead and make decisions, by regularly communicating to him that he is wrong? While, we are on the subject of marriage, I have extreme disdain for the “yes dear” lie, where men believe that they are to agree with whatever the wife says for fear that her wrath will be unleashed. This is a form of control and manipulation. Men, I’m all for treating your wife like a queen but technically, that makes you the king. Neither spouse should ever be allowed to “run over” the other and there should never be fear of punishment from your spouse.
So, what do we do with all of this? For me, I came to realize that I had power and that each time it occurred I was completely capable of making a decision by asking myself one simple question. Does God’s word say that I was wrong or was that just another person’s opinion or desire to wrongly control me? Like I said earlier, not easy but very simple. God defines me and also, there is the fact, that I wouldn’t have made it this far, if I was a complete idiot. Picky, critical eyed, controlling behavior is their stuff, not yours. You put a great meal on the table and didn’t even burn it. You completed that task in your own way, and the result was just fine. You told that story wonderfully and you were darn charming too, so what if some of the details are a little inaccurate – you remembered the important stuff. Put your deflecting armor on and start asking “what does God think about this”?