I'm taking part in a women's bible study this fall that has really surprised me in what I learned about myself. The study is called "Me, myself and lies," its focus being to erase the lies we as women tell ourselves and replace it with truth. The first week involved looking into your own personal "thought closet" to see what was in there - what are the things you tell yourself? What are the negative "I am" statements that are lurking there? What surprised me is that I found my negative thought closet completely empty.
I know my parents worked overtime as I was growing up to make sure I had a positive self-image. But only upon this week of self-discovery did I realize just how well they had succeeded. I have heard told many times that we as women are our hardest critics, that we hold onto these negative labels either given by others or ourselves. "I am not smart" "I am not pretty" "I am not capable" "I am fat" "I am no good" "I am not as good as so-and-so" "I am an idiot" "I am a klutz" "I am not athletic"...the list goes on and on. I stared in front of my blank page as I searched for that lie of a label that I was "always telling myself". And there was nothing there.
I was suddenly awash in grattitude for my parents. I know I'm not the best in every aspect of my life. I know I'm not the prettiest person in the world, or the smartest, or the most talented at (fill in the blank). The reality of life is that there is always going to be someone higher up each comparative ladder we climb. But my own personal self-esteem was never built through comparison, which is why I think I never clung to any labels. If I see someone who has achieved something desirable, I simply put my mind to doing it myself. My parents also instilled an amazing sense of confidence in me: they always told me that I could do anything, and I always believed them.
I think the other large part of this confidence stemmed from my upbringing in my faith. Right from an infant I was taught that I was of infinite worth, of divine nature, a precious creation of God, and that nothing God creates is ugly or wrong or garbage. God is good, all that he created is good, and that is a piece of truth I can own my whole life. Every person is created differently, and we work together because of our differences. Somehow there has developed a human tendency to climb for superiority by pushing others down; instead I have always been taught that I can reach the greatest heights as I help others around me climb as well.
I was a little embarassingly aware of the seeming pride in my confidence as I conversed with my study group; and yet I realized the uniqueness of the outcome of my childhood and teen years, and wanted to give the deserving credit to my parents. The most valuable lesson I learned is that with all the worries I have as a parent about how my children will turn out, success really is possible.