Do you ever feel like you are living your entire life under a microscope? Like a little bug in a laboratory you feel every word you say, every move you make, is being observed and assessed.
The truth is we have been brought up in a culture of assessment. From the age of 5 we are being tested in school; examined and scored. Then as we grow up and get a job we are given targets to meet, measures of success. I understand the need for all of this but the problem comes when this feeling of being assessed passes over into our mainstream life; when we can’t shake the feeling that everyone around us is making judgements about our worth and value.
It can be crippling can’t it?
So I’m going to be honest; while over the years I’ve managed by God’s strength to shake a lot of that old way of thinking off and see myself as God sees me, every now and again, like an unexpected wave, the paranoia from the past engulfs the present. In those seasons I find myself reading too much into people’s texts and comments, glances and quips, always assuming there is an undertone of disappointment. And honestly it is crushing! When you are in this place every moment feels like a struggle.
So just in case some of you out there are feeling like this right now, this is what I’m learning to help me regain my footing in seasons like these.
1. People think a lot less often about you than you think they do.
Honestly it is helpful for me to remind myself that people have busy lives full of their own struggles and realistically spend way less time assessing me than I think they do. I’m genuinely not that interesting lol.
2. Just because people think it, it doesn’t make it true.
There have been times in my life where I have been crushed by a person’s poor opinion of me. In those times I’ve been left wondering, “Are they right? Am I really this person they think I am?”
That train of thinking can lead to a whole heap of self-doubt. I’m learning when someone criticises me to bring it before God and ask him to provide the truth. After all he knows me better than anyone.
3. You don’t need to convince people of anything.
Often when we have been criticised we can feel the need to defend ourselves, to convince the world and its wife that we aren’t who they say we are. You know what this leads to? Endless conversations about the situation with people who aren’t even involved. We relive the story over and over again hoping that people will jump to our defence too and agree that the other party was wrong. We want to convince everyone that we are good and kind and wise and capable. And secretly we want them to convince us we are too. And at the end of it all we don’t feel any better. Why? Because people are fickle and deep down we know that. Deep down we know even if we convince them to like us today we can easily lose their good opinion tomorrow. That leads to an endless cycle of people-pleasing, leaving us distracted and exhausted. You know what, you don’t need to convince anyone of your good character. You just need to live your life before God as best you can, allowing him to make changes where you need it. Sooner or later good character shines through. And even then, we have to recognise that the best of people still have enemies. Even Jesus had people who hated him, and I have yet to find a place in scripture where he tried to convince them to change their mind. He just shook their opinions off and went about the business God had given him.
So if you are struggling today under the burden of people’s opinions, set it all down for a while and fix your eyes on Abba. With him you will always know what to expect. Look at him ready to see love; dedicated, loyal, perfect love. Breathe it in, breathe it out and let everything else melt away.