Sitting in a corner of the office, I once again felt deliberately excluded as people whispered around me. Old paranoia triggered feelings of shame and hurt, causing me to withdraw. The once cherished, supportive work environment suddenly became a place where I didn’t belong.
It all started with an almost-argument with my kind co-worker. Her sharp retort and the uncharacteristic turning of her back on me during a conversation felt like a slap in the face. Immediately, I plunged into feeling unworthy and unlikeable.
Her slight only served to magnify my long-term struggles with my image. Accusing thoughts started to taunt me: She must find me irritating. Unlikeable. My comment today is the last straw and everyone else agrees with her. Perhaps I annoy them all. Why else would she have reacted as she did?
In the past, I would’ve indulged these thoughts. But instead of entertaining them, I got up from my desk and took sanctuary in the ladies room. There I cried out to God. My cry was a healing and essential one that turned my eyes once again from me to Him.
I have come so far in recent months in the area of self-esteem. Before, my deeply rooted feelings of unworthiness and rejection would have been much worse. Instead of passing thoughts, I would have hung onto them and believed them. Resentment would have been close behind.
My twenties were not entirely unsociable years, yet I never made close friendships. Not one. I now realize it was to protect myself from anyone getting to know who I really am, only to then reject me.
But that all changed 15 months ago.
I remember clearly when I heard Joyce Meyer speaking on freedom from fear of rejection and disapproval. And the following days when God gently showed me she was talking about me!
“For I have loved you with an everlasting love,” is the promise of Jeremiah 31 and one I was finally able to understand in a way I never had before.
My inability to really know God’s love for me, to see myself as He sees me through His eyes was impacting how I related to other people. The revelation that I was projecting my own self-image onto the way people saw me explained many things including the recent loss of a friendship that was very precious. Among other things, I was unable to really be myself with this individual, instead battling fear each time I received an email as I scanned the lines for the rejection and disapproval I expected to see.
2 Corinthians 5:17 tells me that those in Christ are “a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.” When God first impressed this verse on my heart, I inwardly rebelled, “Lord, I’m not a new Christian!” Yet, how I needed to know this truth!
It’s only as I’ve been freed into understanding His love that I can see just how much my wrong, deeply ingrained self-image impacted all of my life and relationships. Now I know, really know, in whose image I’ve been created. I know who loved me before the creation of the world and has enabled me to be a “new creation.” How easy it was for me to see myself through the eyes of other people. How much better it is for me to see myself as Jesus sees me, through His eyes of love.
I know that part of the reason for my over-reaction to my co-worker was because I love this kind-hearted woman and her thoughtful ways. Her rejection impacted me deeply. Still, it didn’t pierce me as it would have before. Instead of harboring hard feelings, I decided to respond like Jesus. That weekend I sent her an online message, wishing her well for the next week and telling her she’s still my favorite co-worker.
The following day at work she once again included me in a friendly comment. It’s all the encouragement I needed.
“I wrote you a message…” I began.
“I know,” she smiled, “I just saw it. Thank you.”
It hit me. It was my message of love that enabled her to revert back to her old friendliness towards me. I wondered, Could it be she also lacks confidence? That her kindness masks shyness of her own and in fact, I have the capacity to hurt her?
What a realization! Not only can a poor self-image blind me to the hurts and needs of myself, but also to others. It inhibited me from responding with grace and mercy.
I’m still learning how other people’s reactions and opinions don’t accurately reflect who I am. I may still have moments of paranoia when rejection and fear chase me, even with close Christian friends. But I’m free to be more and more established and rooted in Jesus’ love and image of who I am. Now I find His image of me is reflected in my health and well-being. I walk taller, feel whole, filled with purpose and confidence. I even feel more awake! There is even a change in the way I present myself on the outside.
Perhaps, the best thing about my esteem being deeply-rooted in the truth of God’s love for me is the way it has increased my love for others. Reflecting back a true image of God only happens as I understand who I really am in Him, as I see myself in the mirror of His love, focusing on the truth in His Word.