In the realm of performance issues, in which area do you struggle the most: perfectionism, people pleasing, or both?
Definitely people pleasing—but this turned into a type of perfectionism because if I didn’t please everyone with everything I ever did or said, then I would fall into a terrible cycle of shame in which I would beat myself up unmercifully. If I did one thing wrong, then I felt completely worthless.
Where do those issues play out most in your life: family, friendships, career, or in your relationship with God?
The terrible need to please haunted me in every aspect of my life until I learned practical things I could do to journey from feelings of worthlessness to worthiness in Christ.
Where do you think your performance issues started?
I know exactly where it started:
“You’re stupid!” “You’re fat!” “You’re lazy!” Everywhere I turned while I was growing up someone was putting a different label on me, and they penetrated deep into my soul, leaving me with scars far more disfiguring than ones that are just skin deep.
Stick and stones can break your bones, but names can hurt far worse.
When I was about nine, I remember writing a list of everything I hated about myself—about 20 items. I took my list to my mother and when I showed it to her, tears filled her eyes. She hugged me and told me to write a list of all of the good things about myself. But hard as I tried, I couldn’t think of one. I didn’t like anything about myself and even though my mother did everything she could to help me to overcome my feelings of worthlessness, I spent the next 30 years feeling ashamed and hopeless, striving to please people because I believed the lie that if people liked me, I would finally like myself.
When I became a Christian, I added God to the list of those I needed to please. I worked hard to deserve His love because I was sure that every time I sinned, God got disgusted with me and was sorry that He was my Father. I was also sure that after I had sinned just one too many times, He would give up on me completely, kick me out of His family and not let me into heaven. I reasoned that if I did good things, God would see me as a good person, and then, maybe, I would too.
As I studied the Bible, I knew what the words said, but it was impossible for me to believe the gospel message–that I was God’s beloved child and He saved me because of His mercy, not because of the things I had or had not done. I kept trying to deserve His love and earn my salvation.
Thankfully, over the years, the gospel went from my head to my heart. The old scars began to heal as the good news penetrated my soul, and I began to grow in confidence and contentment—knowing without a doubt that I was, and always would be worthy, the beloved child of God.
In the realm of expectations, how have you learned the art of disappointing people?
I like that! I have never thought about being able to disappoint people (without going into a frenzy of shame or defensiveness) as an art, but it is something that I have learned–and am still learning how to do. The unrealistic expectation that I will never disappoint anyone keeps the vicious cycle of shame whirling around in my head. But I am learning to capture that thought and replace it with these: Just because I can’t do things perfectly doesn’t mean that I should give up and to them terribly. And just because I make mistakes, doesn’t mean that I AM one.
What is one verse you feel every performer could benefit from internalizing?
It’s so hard to choose one verse, but I love this one:
1 Corinthians 1:27 (NLT) “God deliberately chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose those who are powerless to shame those who are powerful.”
Even when I was a little girl I wanted to make a difference in the world. I really wanted to help people, but how could I? I couldn’t even help myself. I was just an insecure, overweight, unhappy little worrywart. I didn’t understand the exciting truth in this verse then, but I do now. I have learned that when we surrender our lives to the Lord–no matter what kind of mess they are in–God takes our mistakes, our weaknesses, our hurts and even our past sins and uses them for our good and His glory. And He chooses us for specific work in his kingdom because of our unique qualifications.
The world may consider us to be foolish, but God doesn’t. When we cooperate with Him, He uses us to do things that “wise” people could never do.
Someone could be a brilliant psychologist, but not be able to help an overweight person to lose weight like I can because I have been overweight and God has changed me. I can tell people with weight problems about what God is doing in my life and they are amazed—not at me, but at what God can do. And I can help worriers to quit worrying because I have been a worrier and God has changed me. And I can help people to deal with their feelings of inferiority and shame because I have been where they are, and God has changed me. God is using me to help others, not in spite of these weaknesses, but because of them.
I am learning how to relax—to enjoy being me. When I make mistakes, I don’t waste my time beating myself up like I used to. Instead, I usually focus on learning from my mistakes so I won’t have to repeat them and looking to the Lord for my worth—rejoicing that I am His precious child… no matter what.
Tell us a little bit about the book you are giving away?
From Worthless to Worthy (www.worthlesstoworthy.com) takes you on a 30 day journey that will help you to overcome low self-esteem, perfectionism and people pleasing. If you spend just 10 minutes a day reading this inter-active Bible study, you will learn how accept God’s unconditional love for you the way you are and you’ll receive many practical tools that will help you to make progress toward becoming the person you want to be.
Check out my other websites!
If you’re interested in losing weight by relying on God’s power, look at www.guidedbyhim.com. Guided By Him is a 12-week Bible-study weight-loss program that has groups meeting across the country and in some foreign countries as well.
If you want to quit worrying, go to www.worrytoworship.com. From Worry to Worship is the sequel to From Worthless to Worthy and will help you to discover the antidote to anxiety.
If you struggle with any of these, I would love to hear from you. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.