In my late 20’s and early 30’s I struggled with anxiety. Specifically, I struggled with social anxiety. While most people care what others think of them, I cared so much it became almost debilitating. I’ve come so far, it’s a distant memory in many ways. I’m grateful for that, because, what I do recall is that it was a miserable way to exist.
One of the things I’ve learned through this is that I can’t control other people. One of the hardest lessons is that I can’t control what other people think of me.
I had to learn to be true to myself and not be such a people-pleaser. But it has been a journey to find a balance of not letting other people’s opinions rule my life, while also valuing my relationships. This is something I’m feeling called to write, but it’s so much to sort out, that I decided to make a list of some of the changes I’ve gone through to become more confident and happy.
- Some of my self-criticism was warranted.
Besides caring what others thought of me, I was extremely self-critical. My self-talk was horrible. I would never talk to anyone else the way I addressed myself in my mind. I was not kind, caring, compassionate or grace-extending toward myself in any way.
My thoughts about myself were harsh, and often unfair. On the other hand, I was making a lot of poor choices. When you lack self-respect, it’s impossible to expect respect from others with any credibility.
I needed to set the bar higher for myself. While I’ll always have flaws, I have matured in my handling of most situations.
- It’s necessary to achieve a balance between not letting other people’s opinions rule your life, and still caring about other people’s feelings.
When I stopped using my emotions to try to control others, I started recognizing when other people were using the same tactic with me. I had learned to disconnect my thoughts from turmoil and conflict. I had learned to put it out of my mind, and get on with life. But sometimes, it may have come at a price.
As I matured, I started to deem people who I thought were less mature as unworthy of my energy.
First of all, just because someone may lack maturity in an area, doesn’t mean they have no wisdom to offer. Second, all of us handle some situations poorly – no matter how far we have come. Third, maybe I could use some things I had learned to help other people, instead of writing them off.
I had gone from thinking too little of myself, to thinking too much of myself. I had to remind myself that not everyone had the same experiences I’d had. Not everyone had been forced to address some of their bad habits in dealing with others and themselves.
- Say, “I’m sorry” easily, but only when you mean it.
Have you ever been around people who say, “Sorry” constantly? I used the wrong word. “Sorry.” I dropped something. “Sorry.” I walked into the room. “Sorry.” It can be annoying because it’s obviously not sincere when it’s said repeatedly. It’s just a bad habit and an indication of the person not valuing themselves. It’s annoying, because it’s used inappropriately.
However, it’s more frustrating to be around people who are defensive, and have great difficulty saying they are sorry. Some people have the philosophy that you always need to win power struggles with your kids, to show them who’s in charge. But, I think it can send a pretty powerful message to acknowledge you were wrong, and to tell your children you’re sorry, as long as it’s sincere.
Only voice your opinion if it’s helpful.
I won’t pretend to be perfect at this. But, I have become better at biting my tongue. While I can’t say I never participate in gossip, I pass up the opportunity often. If someone asks for advice, I’ll give a thoughtful opinion. But, I’m not afraid to tell them that I don’t know what they should do. I can share my experience with something similar, but that doesn’t mean I know the right choice for them. Of course, suggesting someone pray on the matter is always good advice!
Value others AND yourself.
Last Sunday, our Pastor talked about Mark 12:30-31 “and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (NASB)
I had heard this scripture many times before. But, he pointed out something I had overlooked. God wants us to love our neighbor, but he also wants us to love ourselves. Never in a prideful way. But, to me, this means to remember how much He loves us. We are worthwhile to Him, each one of us.