Sunday, January 24, 2010

Empty handed and out of breath

This semester I am in group therapy as part of a class I'm taking. Wednesday, we had our first session and our therapist asked us to tell the group about ourselves. He said "So tell everyone about yourself. Are you married? Are you alone? Where is your life heading?" I immediately went into a mildly panicked state. "Are you alone?" I'm still not entirely sure why but those words have been playing over and over in my head since he said them.

As I couldn't seem to stop thinking about what he had said, it dawned on me that I was more afraid of being thought of by someone I respected as "alone" than actually being alone. Don't get me wrong -- being alone can be a scary feeling, especially for a girl my age. However, I genuinely believe that more and more I am getting to a place where I feel content with whatever happens. However, I HATE that the world immediately looks at me and takes pity on me. For whatever reason, I have this feeling that I will never be 'successful' or 'happy' in the eyes of my family unless I get married.

In any case, I realized that I put far too much stock in what everyone else is thinking. I spend and embarassing amount of effort trying to garner the praises and respect off men, when I ought to be trying to please God. So I decided to excersise my independence this weekend. I went to see a movie by myself on Friday night (aka date night). I used to be able to do this without flinching, but in the past year or so I have become almost paralyzed by what others think of me. And since I was certain that the world would look down on me for not having friends to go out with on a Friday night, I decided that I had to do it.

My friend Brent, recently blogged on a similar topic. He said (emphasis added):
"I remember in freshman year when someone asked me what my deepest fear was; I couldn’t exactly articulate it, but I now know that my deepest fear was irrelevancy. I hated the thought that anyone—even in church world—would ever think that I wasn’t smart or attractive or insightful or mature enough to be let in on the secrets, to be included in the inside jokes, to know the most important information about everyone."

This week I've been convicted that there is a common thread among people: we all have a deep seated fear of inadequacy. I suppose some might call it the human condition. It manifests itself a little differently from person to person. Some feel feel a constant self-doubt, others a permanent empty feeling, still others are plagued by constantly comparing themselves to those around them. The thing is, that we constantly look to things of the world like popularity, success, relationships, money, and good looks for validation, or to fill the void in our hearts, or to raise our status above those around us. And yet we always come up short. When you chase after the wind somehow you always just wind up empty handed and out of breath.

The good news is that I made it through the movie and my world didn't come crashing down. In fact, I enjoyed it. This week I think I'm going to work on making being alone not feel quite so lonely. And learning to start looking for validation, contentness, and confidence in God, and not men...

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10


Brent Bailey said...

It's especially difficult at this stage of life, where thoughts of our futures and the possibilities of us getting jobs (or getting into grad schools) almost require us to be constantly concerned with what other people are going to think about us. I still haven't decided what a Christlike resume would look like.

I've gotten to where I love going to dinner/movies by myself, if only because it is a great way to exercise my independence (like you said).

Anonymous said...

Then invite me to a movie next time!

But seriously, I'm glad that you're becoming okay with not being lonely while being alone. It's sad that there are people out there (like me) that even while surrounded by people constantly, still feel alone. I'm sorry that it seems that everyone around you has paired up or found someone-- that has got to be hard, day in and day out-- and although I won't marry you (sorry!), I am unbelievably blessed by our friendship.