Monday, November 22, 2010

Learning to Embrace Your Not-so-lovable Self


Self-discovery is a Necessity

When it comes to self-discovery—learning to embrace the shadowy side of our persona is difficult. Generally we fall into one of three categories of people:


  1. Those who like to self-reflect—dig soul deep to do the dirty work
  2. Those who consider the past the past—why drudge up the negative
  3. Those who ignore the promptings—that’s just heartburn

Self-discovery is a crucial component to our wholeness because it causes us to get in touch with attitudes or unresolved issues we don’t like to face. Some might behave in a certain manner and not understand the root causes. Taking time to do some self-discovery: why I do what I do, or think the way I think—can bring about freedoms and a new look on life.

Yet you might say, I can’t look at those aspects of my soul, it gives me the heebie-jeebies, and those places are just too dark. Anyhow, you say, I’ve locked the door and thrown away the key. I know what you mean—I call that self-preservation. And self-preservation does three things:
   
  1. Hides from self
  2. Hides from others
  3. Develops perfectionism

There are other reasons, too, with which people develop a perfectionist persona, or want to hide, but for space I’m just focusing on thoughts in which we try to develop flawlessness to hide what we don’t like about ourselves, and especially the stuff we do not want others to know about.

Perfectionism demands that:

  1. I must do all things well
  2. I must never let anyone know my dark shadow(s)
  3. I must handle all crisis with the strength of ten armies
  4. I must bury the part of me that causes me to be imperfect
  5. I must always look my best

Self-discovery Exposes the Impostor

Through my experience, striving for perfection slings one into the sphere of unending, did-I-do-it-right, how-do-I-look . . . it’s like riding a Ferris wheel—you’re on the top, now you’re on the bottom, and you can’t find satisfaction within.

When we strive for perfection, for whatever reason, we allow people to see only one dimension of us. Additionally, we do not want to acknowledge the un-good in ourselves. This becomes our burden as we create the perfectionist impostor. We become enslaved to “being good,” and in the process of “being good” we develop an impostor self. There is nothing wrong with striving for goodness, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that we’re trying to be good for all the wrong reasons.

One time I asked God to allow me to see what others thought of me and as quickly as I asked, he spoke, (yes he spoke), “And Diane who would that be?” In a flash he presented peoples faces and names before me. Suddenly it became clear that it does not matter what others think or feel about me because we tend to see each other through our own imperfections—we all look through plum-colored binoculars. Therefore it does our soul well to learn to see ourselves only as God views us.

Self-discovery Embraces our Shortcomings

But that is easier said then done, as we all desire acceptances in some form. It is a shame that we have to be apprehensive around each other if our “bad self” escapes. I remember a time, when I was with a group of Christian women, having some girl time, I received a phone call from hubby that exasperated me beyond words and . . . well . . . I used the “hell” word.

A friend of mine, teasing, told the group of my mortal sin, certainly not knowing the outcome. A woman in our group, in front of everyone, began to question and reprimand me for using that word. It was, I say, a most embarrassing moment. I felt criticized, belittled and immediately created this guarded wall, which I erected in that moment.

People are always at their best when mad or in a crisis. Right? No, usually not. Although we want to react in a godly way, “Oh Praise Jesus,” something different can certainly flow from our lips. This is why I love the apostle Paul’s remarks, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is in my flesh for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not,” (Romans 7:18).

I believe there are times for exhorting one another in love; however it should be for a reason beyond using the hell word. We hide and strive to put on our best to avoid such confrontations because Christians have a tendency to shoot darts at each other.

            “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love,” (Galatians 5:13).

Self-Discovery Cleans Our Internal Home

Self-discovery aids us in cleaning our internal homes. Cleansing our inner abode helps us to understand, all the more, God’s grace and love for us. It reminds me of the old hymn by Charlotte Elliott:


“Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”                            

 Throughout my adult life, I’ve sought to understand why I do, say, or struggle with certain aspects in my life. I’ve become a gardener looking for the roots to my weeds. And when I find them, no matter how painful, I yank them out of their dark place and expose them in the light of God’s grace.

On one of my self-discovery tours, I found a hiding place, which surfaced like a submarine plunging out of the ocean. What was I hiding from?

  • Pain, guilt, fear, silly notions about my true thoughts and feelings

In that I found how dishonest I was toward my self, keeping me from accepting the “whole” of me. I thought about why I would neglect the “bad” or “imperfect” aspects of myself and I concluded:
    1. They had no value
    2. They were undesirable and unpleasant

Yet logic said these aspects of me are important; and therefore I must forge into the dark side of my inner woman to find out why.

Self-discovery Learns to Accept the Whole Person

We can’t just be half a person, emotionally and spiritually. Those “imperfections” have framed the other side of our character, whether we like it or not—they exist within us. By not accepting this other half of ourselves, we create an impostor. The impostor masquerades as faultless, like posing for a picture, you know, always needing to have your best side showing.

In Abba’s Child, Brennan, the author states, “Hatred of the impostor is actually self-hatred. The impostor and I constitute one person . . . Self-hatred always results in some form of self-destructive behavior. Accepting the reality of our sinfulness means accepting our authentic self.”

Do you hate yourself? Perhaps you’ve made a choice in which you cannot forgive yourself. Maybe you love you, but don’t like you. But as Brennan says, “Hatred of the impostor is actually self-hatred.” We’ve got to embrace the whole self, pure and simple.
             
It’s a tall order to accept the authentic self. We must do away with:
  • Continuing to judge ourselves by the standards of others
  • Creating an impostors to be loved or accepted
  • Covering our weakness, failures, and inconsistency as if they didn’t exist

The authentic self is all the substance of life, which has shaped us good or bad. And no matter how hard we try to ignore our not-so-lovely imperfections, they are there within us. Brennan, again, writes, “If I am not in touch with my own belovedness, then I cannot touch the sacredness of others. If I am estranged from myself, I am likewise a stranger to others” (Italics mine for emphasis).
 

Self-Discovery Helps to Redefine Who We Are

John Eagan wrote, “Define yourself radically as one beloved by God. This is the true self. Every other identity is illusion.”

When we define our self as one “beloved by God,” we can then accept the “whole” me and eradicate the impostor who hides hers or his imperfections. Why? Because we know God does. When God gazes on us, he sees only the love he has for his Son and his righteousness, not our soul sinned imperfections but his Son’s righteousness—that is what makes us in right standing before God.

So get a pen, a computer, or whatever writing tool you can find. And start asking yourself what you don’t like about you or the fears you’ve been carrying around with you. Then begin to explore where that idea(s) came from. Lay aside your impostor, and claim freedom to be you. Love your whole self, because God does.

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