When we’re dealing with insecurity, brokenness, and fear, the world says, “Focus on YOU! You are great. You are special.” This message even has a God spin to it: “God has an amazing plan for you!” Those messages are not bad or wrong in and of themselves. It’s important to take care of yourself. But that can’t be your focus. The promises of high self-esteem can only take you so far.
It’s true that low self-esteem is one cause of insecurity. When you struggle with degrading lies about who you are, the answer is biblical truth about God. His love, his compassion, his acceptance, his affirmation: it’s all a healing balm for the wounded.
But there is a second cause of insecurity: self-preoccupation. Self-preoccupation assumes that every slight, every rejection, every awkward interaction is about you. Self-preoccupation raises the stakes of dating, parenting, working, and serving by turning it all into a referendum on your worth. It also magnifies your flaws, because you are constantly aware of them.
Low self-esteem and self-preoccupation intertwine, but it is crucial to know the difference between them. Why? Because they require different solutions. If you try to treat your self-preoccupation the way you treat low self-esteem—namely, with affirmation—it actually makes the problem worse. The affirmation only feeds your self-focus—and your need for more and more affirmation becomes insatiable.
The only path out of self-focus is self-forgetfulness, which is why affirming messages rarely help. In my own life, those messages didn’t pry my gaze off of myself, they simply handed me a mirror with a Jesus tint. What I needed was freedom from thinking about myself, even when the thinking about myself was positive.
The answers to life’s greatest questions are not inside you or even about you. Whether it’s the solution to your deepest needs or the healing to your biggest wounds, your self does not have them. At some point, you’ve got to turn your attention to the One who does, to fix your eyes on the only One who can heal your wounds and set you free.
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