I just read an astounding statistic from January of this year. In the blog, Tracking Happiness, the author writes “‘I’m a loser, I’m not quick enough, I’m never able to do that, I deserve to be happy.’ These feelings of inadequacy occur more frequently than you might think. About 85% of people suffer from low self-esteem and imposter syndrome.” Can you imagine, 85% of everyone around us feels inadequate or as if they don’t measure up?
What does this say about us? I believe we struggle with these feelings of inadequacy due to a cultural myth. We grade persons, either consciously or subconsciously, as to their competence and suitability. We try to determine who measures up to our expectations. It’s done in job interviews, in social interactions, in planning guest lists for special occasions, and in deciding who we will date or interact with. So much goes into our grading of others. It is definitely a subjective process. It has been proven over and over that the “beautiful people” get better job opportunities, better treatment in social situations, and even better offers to join organizations and groups. The cultural myth is what’s judged on the outside indicates what’s on the inside.
This process of judging, assessing, and choosing leads to the gradations from unacceptable to perfection. The further you get from perceived perfection, the less acceptable you are to others, and the more inadequate you feel.
We tell children all the time, “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up.” Why do we do that? That’s not at all true, is it? We can reach for whatever we desire, but it doesn’t mean the world is always going to comply and reward our efforts. There’s a hard truth out in the world, and that hard truth is much of who we become is a direct result of what privileges we have grown up with, or without.
There’s no wonder 85% of people feel inadequate, the world we live in may seem to be stacked against them from the beginning.
So how do we combat those feelings of inadequacy? How do we find our place in the world? Maybe one way is to remind ourselves this is still God’s world, and God judges on a completely different scale from what humans consult. God made each and every one of us unique and distinct. God made us to be images, albeit not exact replicas, of the Divine. We have within us the very imprint of who God is, and we know God is perfect in all ways.
Why would God make people of so many different colors, so many different ethnicities, so many different body types, so many different intellects, so many different abilities, and so many different orientations? Could it be that no one person is capable of carrying the entire Imago Dei, or image of God? Might that just be too much?
God made me and you to be exactly who we are. The part of God that is in us, is the part God gave us. We, humans, try our best to judge, place criteria on, assess, and give greater or lesser emphasis to others because we only judge by the standard the world has shown us. What would it be like if we began to use God’s standard? God loves each part of the creation with an open heart and mind. I was born with freckles and I hated it. It made me look so different from so many others. It made me feel less than others. There was no way to hide them, but I always wished for even-toned skin so I could be considered one of the “beautiful” ones. Growing up and maturing, finding out you are different from others gives way to feelings of inadequacy. For the longest time, my sexual orientation was a source of shame and inadequacy. Everyone else was the norm, yet again I was the lesser one. I’ve traveled a long road to self-acceptance, and have discovered to my delight, I am exactly who God made. Not better than others, but equal to them, loved by God the same as they are.
When we look at what the Bible says about such feelings as 85% (or more) of us have to deal with, we get a better understanding of who God is and who we are. In Romans 12:2 we are told, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Apostle Paul is not saying the world gets to judge what is perfect and acceptable. We get to judge that by seeking out God’s will for us. In other words, no one else can have a say over us, we and God do that together. Again, in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, in chapter 4:7 he writes, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” Paul was fully aware of all human failings. We are too. We know them all too well. We’ve been judged for them, we’ve even judged ourselves using those standards. But what we have inside of us is a treasure from God to us. As inadequate as we may feel, the power and love of God in us can rise to any and all circumstances. We may feel as if we are not good enough, but God makes us so much more than enough for everything we face. Isaiah reminds us in 64:8 “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Do we see it? Do we get it? We are the product of God’s handiwork, we are immensely better and more perfect than we can ever realize.
When we face those times when feelings of inadequacy rise to the surface in us, we have only to remember who made us. We are perfected by God’s love, and no person can ever take that away. We have nothing to be ashamed of when we are fully who God made us to be. We should celebrate daily who we are continuing to become. Knowing and believing God loves us as we are, and God is ever calling us forward to becoming even more of who God wants us to be.
I used to have a real quarrel with the Apostle Paul, I thought he was a little too puffed up. I thought he thought too much of himself. I’ve come to realize Paul was struggling with his own demons, his own feelings of inadequacy, of not measuring up. In seeking God’s will for his life, he discovered God made him just as he was in order for God to shine through him. In his second letter to the Corinthians 12:9-10 Paul gives us this glimpse of who he believes he is, but more importantly who God is through him. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
If you and I find ourselves worrying needlessly about our inadequacies, failings, and shortcomings, we can revel in being in good company with a whole host of biblical characters. Not one, NOT… One was without faults and failings. Only Jesus was without blemish. All other characters which God parades past us in the biblical story had problems and deviations, and wouldn’t ever be good enough to serve according to the way the world judges. And that’s the point, isn’t it? The world will never see what God sees.
You and I are more acceptable, filled with more potential, more possibilities than we can imagine. When we stop listening to what the world says to us, and start listening to what God is whispering in our ears, we can and will measure up…EVERY TIME.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,