A few years ago, I equated confidence to arrogance. I felt it was good to lack confidence, because it was the humble people that were Godly people. God, in His graciousness, destroyed what little confidence in myself I had in a summer. I broke down slowly, piece by piece, and kept crediting my feelings of inadequacy as righteousness. When I realized what I was doing, it was a huge slap in the face.
The truth is, confidence is not the opposite of humility. Confidence is built on humility. As I spent an entire summer sacrificing myself to extremes, telling myself it is what Godly people do, what I really meant was I was insecure and had to spend all my energy proving myself worthy. Parallel to confidence and insecurity, arrogance is built on insecurity.
Spreading myself as thin as I could, I fought to prove myself worthy of my calling. I slept an average of five hours a night and spent the other nineteen working, discipling, or planning. I made little time for God because I was too busy trying to force my way into His presence with leading devotionals and giving to my ministry. I read my Bible as work preparation rather than self-preservation.
What took me so long to understand was that God never required confidence in myself to do His work. He required confidence in Him. Instead of resting in that, my insecurity told me I needed to embrace it in order to be “humble” in my ministry. I took all the ways I felt I wasn’t good enough and overcompensated for them. Though I never spoke it verbally, my actions said to God, “Don’t worry, I have the power to fix myself so I can be good enough. I don’t need You to be good enough, and You aren’t enough.” That’s where my insecurity led me.
The irony of insecurity is that it is self-seeking and self-focused. We often devise ways of satisfying that need, both consciously and subconsciously. Even more interesting is how our society caters to insecurity. Businesses profit on our insecurities (women especially experience this). People compare themselves to others, striving to be the best or to at least not be the worst. We’re exposed any time we’re jealous of someone else, or their relationships with other people.
If we didn’t want the attention, we wouldn’t seek it. But we do. We want to see our insecurities satisfied via public support (Instagram selfie, anyone?) or justified by someone telling us exactly what we feared. When we choose to satisfy others’ insecurities, we are heroes, and when we choose to justify them, we are villains. Either way, we are gratified by focusing on ourselves. I sometimes wonder if this trick wasn’t revealed in a letter beginning with, “My dear Wormwood” …
What I’ve learned in the past two years is that to be humble you must reconcile your insecurities to the cross. Because we’re absolutely right about one thing– we aren’t good enough. We never can be, and we never will be. The good news is Jesus is, so we don’t have to be.
And that’s it right? We tell ourselves Jesus is enough and POOF! The insecurity vanishes!
I think the reality is we must be aware of the ways in which we seek to gratify ourselves and actively unpack our motives. Sin is generally much more complex than we give it credit for and combatting sin can be equally as complex. Sin can manifest not only from ourselves, but also in response to generational sin and the ways we have been sinned against. For example, I might judge someone based on their body type because someone had always judged mine, and I accepted it as a social norm.
When I recognized my lack of confidence was truly a lack of confidence in God, it took me years to unpack. I’ve worked through fears, traumas, and insecurities in therapy and with the help of good friends. It forced me to recognize toxic behaviors in my life, and work to correct them. Even when I wrote down this blog post idea over six months ago, I was less equipped to speak to it than I am today. With that work came a sense of confidence and boldness I never expected from myself.
I discovered I am a bold person. I can’t say it hasn’t gotten me into trouble, but I will admit it has led me to some good conversations and reflections.
As words have fallen out of my mouth (or nimbly left my typing fingers), I have been surprised at their eloquence. The same girl who once introduced herself to someone by the wrong name was suddenly speaking with a power unbeknownst to herself and led by the Holy Spirit.
I’ve found the confidence I rejected four years ago.
This is what I’ve been learning, friends. We are responsible for addressing our own insecurities, especially if they are barriers to relationship with God. The enemy will use them against us. This is a personal journey. Even more so, other people do not exist to satisfy your insecurities or justify them.
At the same time, other people can support you. What are your insecurities? Name them. There is power in bringing them to light. I can tell you one of mine is that I fear people are lying to me; I’m afraid I’m blind to the truth and being manipulated, used, or pitied and the target of some giant joke. Those of you who are also victims of gaslighting in close relationships may relate.
So, I communicate that to my friends. I’m direct and ask if they are being honest. When people lie to me, I explain why it’s a big deal. If I start to spiral and think my world is turning against me, I lean on them. Not by trying to manipulate them, but by saying something along the lines of, “I’m having a really hard day, and I’ve been feeling like you said (blank) but you actually meant (blank). Is that just me? Do you mind if we talk about it?”
By being aware and honest about what my insecurities are, I can communicate them to people that care about me and explain the ways they can support me in combatting them. Another example is that a guy calling me a “bitch” became a trigger for me a few years ago. One of my long-time guy friends called me it playfully, which wasn’t that unusual for us, and I completely unraveled. On the two-hour drive home, I shallow-breathed myself into questioning our entire friendship and that he probably always thought this about me, and he was just hanging out with me because he felt bad for me.
I called him that night, and it went something like this.
“Hey yeah do you really think I’m a bitch? Because like I know you were probably joking, but my dad called me that at Thanksgiving two years ago and it just really gets to me now, and I know you didn’t know that and it’s not your fault and sorry for calling you I know I’m crazy.”
“Uhh no definitely not, sorry. I was just teasing you.”
I’ve improved this skill over time, thankfully. My friend heard me, understood, and whenever I question our friendship, he takes my phone calls to remind me he’s there for me. When I spiral, I do my best to remember when we’ve had those conversations and tell myself the same things he’s said in the past rather than depending on his affirmation constantly (satisfying the insecurity). I don’t cut him out of my life because he accidentally hurt me or retaliate to make myself feel better. I don’t provoke him to admit he actually meant what he said (justifying the insecurity). When my efforts fail, he’s there, but it’s on me to put in the effort before leaning on him. There are always hard days, and that’s okay.
This is where the people in your life can step in. Community can hold you accountable to toxic patterns and behaviors you use to gratify yourself. Community can also empower you to build confidence in God. In short, trust your friends and mentors. The people who love you enough to call you out and in are your support system. Community requires honesty and asking for help, and with that comes humility and a humble heart.
Humility is incredibly freeing. You know what freedom feels like? For me, it’s driving with the windows down on a back road, blasting music. It’s singing Hamilton in my kitchen while making dinner. It’s calling my friends and always telling them I love them, not to hear it back but because I want them to never question how I feel. Confidence thrives when you feel free.
This is why we must address insecurities in our own lives and speak truth into the insecurities of others. I think of Paul’s words in Galations 5:7-8.
“You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.”
Don’t cut in on yourself. Don’t cut in on others. Don’t let others cut in on themselves.
P.S.: For those wondering, the name I introduced myself incorrectly as was “Zach”. Like earnestly. I wasn’t even close.