That continual striving to be perfect, to please everyone, to make everything alright, to stay clear of making mistakes at all costs...that pretty much sums up my life up to this point. It sounds silly, especially when actually put into writing, but that is how I lived my life for the most part. Being the oldest child, especially by quite a few years, probably didn't help alleviate any of that unhealthy sense of responsibility. I was Practice Child #1, and although I know that I was loved and that my parents did the best they could, I still had baggage to sort through that I have carried with me into my adult years.
The past few months, I began noticing that I despise weakness in myself. I feel ashamed of myself when I don't "perform well," berating myself and trying harder to cover up it up so others don't know. I find it difficult to be truly vulnerable with someone, even my close friends. I think that, because I feel shame, I assume that they will look down on me as well. I'm also used to being the "strong one."
When I started looking closer at my relationship with God, I found that I have had similarly negative aspects in that relationship as well. Although I've been a Christian most of my life and technically know better,I felt like I needed to perform well in order to earn God's approval and love. That any sign of weakness must be an indication that I'm not trusting Him or that I am not "doing Christianity right." I constantly felt like a failure.
Thankfully, God has been showing me otherwise. It's still hard to wrap my head around this, but God perfectly loves me: always, completely, and unconditionally. I can't do anything to gain more love or lose His love. He also approves of me, just as I am. He's not surprised by my weaknesses at all. He knows I don't have it all together and never will. Yet I am His masterpiece, His beloved. Although there are still issues and negative behaviour that He is working on with me to align with His truth, He still approves of the person He created me to be no matter what. Wow!!!!!
From there, I've had to learn how to embrace the fact that I have imperfections, faults, and weaknesses...I always will. I can certainly learn to improve in those areas, but I also want to focus primarily on my strengths. I've learned that what you focus on is what you become. The more I focus on my faults and what I don't want to do, the more I tend to do those things. On the flip side, when I focus on the good that God has placed in me as well as His unconditional approval and love, the more I become what He originally intended me to be.
I'm free to be myself when I allow myself to rest in the safety of God's love and approval. As I walk through this journey of focusing on God's truth about me, I'm learning to truly love myself. The self-disgust and berating ceases and the declaring of God's truth becomes my reality. I also feel like I am better equipped to have closer relationships with others while remaining authentic to myself and willing to risk being vulnerable. My mindset of expecting disapproval and disappointment is being replaced with assuming the best of others and my relationship with them. As I love myself in a God-honouring way, I am able to love others the way He intended. What a beautiful joy and freedom in being me!