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”The Self That I Long to Believe In - The Challenge of Building Self-Esteem” - Part Three
Success has been accorded an endless array of definitions. Some of them are crafted to make failure seem more like success so that we can limp through life and fail without remorse or guilt. Other definitions are quite lofty, written to give us opportunity achieve in a manner that has little to do with the achievement and everything to do with restoring blunted self-esteems. At times success is defined by whatever will accord us the accolades of others or advance us socially or professionally. At yet other times, the definition of success is more about giving ourselves a sorely needed boost when our spirits have been lagging.
Sometimes definitions are crafted as we go along, granting us permission to fluidly and rather nonchalantly alter the definition of success in order to form-fit whatever the outcome of our choices have been. In doing that, we have granted ourselves full license to define the outcome in whatever way suits our choices. We can craft a definition of success to embolden a faltering cause or create support when our base is splintering and our people are wavering.
Then there are other times when the definition of success is modified to diminish the works of those we’ve come to abhor and elevate those upon whom our favor has fallen. Some definitions of success are those shaped by the shifting pen of political correctness, or the placating tenets of the culture, or by the gnawing need for acceptance, or formed from the dictates of a particular social grouping that demands adherence to a prescribed set of standards. Sometimes success is defined by the proclamations of some revered leader, or the family system that we grew up in, or the job description that shapes our nine-to-five lives.
Lost in the Array of Definitions
Whatever and wherever their source, a dizzying array of definitions abound. Many seem to be a target created after the trigger was pulled, making every decision a bulls-eye even if the aim was horrid. Some are thrown out because they’re easy, or we’re not certain what success is so we just come up with something that might pass for success if people don’t pay too much attention. And in the squalor of definitions gone awry and rogue, we seem to have lost a genuine definition of success.
Subsequently, it is this mad array of definitions that sends us scurrying in a million different directions in order to be successful in whatever way success is defined at the moment. We might not know what success is, but if we do well enough in enough areas, or if we adhere to enough of the things defined as trendy and vogue, or if we chase whatever everyone else is chasing we just might happen to land on something successful. Maybe it’s the proverbial ‘shot in the dark’ that might altogether miss, yet the fact that we took the shot itself was defined as success regardless of what it hit. In the end, success becomes more defined by figuring out exactly what success is rather than actually fulfilling the definition.
It's interesting that success, in whatever manner it is defined, has come to define our worth and value. That’s why a lack of perceived success will tank our self-esteem quicker than just about anything else. Success appears to have become the litmus test as to the credibility of our existence and the unforgiving gauge of our worth. Success has evolved into the exclusive commodity by which we ascribe value to ourselves and others. It’s the thing that gives us status, grants us credibility, authenticates what we say, lends weight to our opinions, and awards us with the sense of a life well lived. It is the crown jewel of our existence; something to be vigorously pursued and rigorously obtained at all costs, for not doing so is a life squandered, opportunity lost, and self-esteem decimated. We are led to believe that to ‘not’ be successful is to live out the story of this sorry existence of ours without
”The Self That I Long to Believe In - The Challenge of Building Self Esteem” - Part Two
“Who Am I?” What the Question Evidences
“Who am I?” The question seems a bit overused these days. It’s something more like a vogue, trendy kind of question that pulls us out of the doldrums of living among the masses and plants us in the more desirable currents of the intellectual mainstream. In our culture, I tend to think it’s less about thoughtfully unearthing who we are as a means of living in awe of what God wrought within us. Rather, I think it’s more about creating something that’s culturally acceptable and that adheres to the contrivances of whatever trend is currently trending in the culture. It’s the creation of a self suitable to the world rather than discovering who we are as both in and above the world.
The question of ‘who we are’ suggests that we’re exercising our intellectual acumen to probe our existence. That exercise itself lends weight to the fact that we have an intellect to exercise and an existence to live it out in. By its very nature the question of ‘who we are’ poses the thesis that we are something other than being nothing, and that ‘something’ has relevance when ‘nothing’ doesn’t. By asking the question we reveal the need that we possess to believe that we exist and that our existence is purposeful. We want to believe that we are supposed to become ‘something’ rather than float around being ‘nothing’ going nowhere in the going. To ask the question is to evidence the fact that we are beings in need of asking the question. And that in and of itself evidences the incredible depth and unparalleled richness of our humanity.
In addition, the question of ‘who we are’ also suggests that a simple answer is simply not suitable. That some cheesy pabulum will not suffice. That the definitions proposed by innumerable philosophers and those who for centuries have probed the inner-workings of life aren’t quite enough. That holding ourselves up against everyone else in order to grasp some sense of who we are by comparing ourselves to who everyone else is simply repeatedly comes up short. That aligning with political hashtags or running off after a litany of causes that have caught the wandering eye of those without a cause don’t answer the question. That even though we’ve gorged ourselves on self-help philosophies and immersed ourselves in the rigors of mindfulness (or any one of the many other popular contrivances) we still don’t have the answer.
And that is not necessarily that all of these things are incorrect or that they don’t speak something of truth into our lives. It’s not that at some level they don’t have some sort of value. It’s that they’re not enough. The cumulative weight of their collected insights falls short. Mankind has asked the question of “Who am I”? for as long has mankind has existed. And yet in the end, we don’t have an answer that explains the whole of who we are. After untold millennia we are still on this search and we are still asking this question.
And if all of this evidences anything at all, it evidences the depth of our depth. It speaks to the innate and persistent complexity of who we are. Stored within the body, mind and soul of each of us there is a vastness that all of the combined explorations of mankind have yet to fathom, much less understand. And can we not correlate this complexity and depth with our value? Everything in existence has value for the place that it holds in relationship to everything else in existence. But we stand apart in complexity, intellect, reasoning and ability. We have been equipped for and tasked with the responsibility to care for everything else and nothing else has been assigned that role…except us. Indeed, does this not evidence our value?
How Do We Not Know?
The ever-baffling fact regarding the question of ‘who we are’ is that we live with ‘us’ every single solitary day of our exi
”The Self That I Long to Believe In - The Challenge of Building Self-Esteem” - Part One
The Self That I Long to Believe In - The Challenge of Building Self-Esteem
By Craig D. Lounsbrough, M.Div., LPC
“We’re driven. Whether that’s for our good or our ill, we’re driven. That drivenness may be born of a free spirit bent on living with unimpeded freedom, or it might be a drivenness used to hold ourselves captive. It might be a drivenness to face ourselves, or a drivenness to run from ourselves. We can be driven to do great things, or to hide from great things. Being driven grants us the ability to fly, but we can use it just as readily to die.
If we are bent under the weight of a low self-esteem, our drivenness is often exercised to our own demise. It’s used to create places to hide, excuses to run, rationalizations to justify the awful person that we are not, and the freedom to embrace beliefs about ourselves that have no basis in reality other than the reality we’ve crafted from the skewed messages of others. On the other hand, we might become driven to prove ourselves as worthy through various accomplishments and achievements. We work, we strive, we reach, and we relentlessly press on to show that we are more than what we’ve come to believe ourselves to be. If we fail in such an endeavor, we’re driven to convince ourselves that we are nothing of the sort so that we don’t ever take on such a preposterous task ever again. Either way, we possess a drivenness even if it isn’t used in our best interest.
Driven to Prove Our Worth
Maybe this whole mentality of drivenness has been a product of our life story; having to do it all ourselves because no one was there to help us. Maybe this left us with the need to prove ourselves and to establish our worth by whatever means we chose to prove that. Often we have the need to display our intellectual prowess, to exercise the muscle of our skill-set, or flaunt our expertise in order to secure our place in some sort of ill-defined and vague pecking order that defines our sense of worth and value. Our identity then becomes entirely defined by all of the things that we do to prove our worth and the efforts that we put forth in doing them.
In some instances this happens because we’ve lived in someone’s shadow and we need to show ourselves as bigger than the shadow that was cast upon us, or at least prove that we’re as big as whosever’s shadow that was. At other times we’re out to prove people wrong, to conclusively show beyond any shadow of a doubt that we’re competent even though people repeatedly said we were entirely incompetent. It can be the product of a deeply ingrained behavioral pattern where we grew up being affirmed when we performed, with such affirmation being clearly withheld when we didn’t. In the end, it’s typically ourselves that we’re really trying to convince simply because the toughest audience that we play to is ‘us.’
Driven to Prove Our Lack of Worth
Or we’ve done the opposite of all of this by being driven to surrender to minimums. We’ve decided to withdraw from it all and just do what we need to do to get to the next day. It’s about being driven to draw away and hide so that others won’t see us for who we are and thereby judge us, or we won’t see them and subsequently judge ourselves by comparison. We’re driven not to be driven so that we avoid failure, or anything might even remotely resemble failure. Or, we’re often driven to surrender before the battle ever shows up so that surrender was a choice and not a pathetic manifestation of our inabilities to fight the battle.
In embracing this mentality, we’re not driven to disprove this sense of worthlessness. Rather, we’re driven to prove it by not disproving it. It’s a battle of a different sort. It’s not a surrendering to any battle that we’ve fought. To the contrary, it’s a surrendering to the need to fight for something that doesn’t exist to
A World That's Lost
Everybody seems lost these days. People don’t like to admit that, or they refuse to admit that…but everybody seems lost these days. I suppose that the greatest kind of ‘lost’ is to be ‘lost,’ but to deny that you’re ‘lost,’ even though you are. That’s about the worst kind of lost that I can think of, and we certainly see a whole lot of that kind of ‘lost’ today. Everybody seems lost these days.
Let’s face it, we live in a world that’s lost. In one way or another (or to one degree or another), the world’s always been lost. There’s a pattern to our humanity that should cause us to wise up a bit, and that pattern is that (as a species) we’re pretty consistently lost. It just seems that we’re a bit more lost these days.
Of course we’re lost. We’re lost because the woods that we’re in are bigger than the resources that we have to get out them. And those woods become increasingly bigger the more that we convince ourselves that we can get out of them by ourselves. Where we are is too big for any map or any compass that we can create. And while we tend to bristle at the idea, God holds the map and has the compass. A sure map and a steady compass. And while we’re likely to continue to refute that reality, or work to ignore it in light of our incessant stubbornness, He’s got the map and the compass. And all we have to do (all we have to do) is ask Him for it. And I wonder (I wonder) exactly how lost we’re going to have to become before we finally ask Him.
New - It Does Not Mean Better
New. We like new things, or things to be new, or to do away with the old to make a place and a space for something new. The idea of ‘new’ is appealing. And because it is, we chase it. But ‘new’ does not mean ‘better,’ and I think that quite often we associate the two way too much. We tend to automatically think that if something is ‘new,’ the fact that it’s ‘new’ somehow guarantees that it’s ‘better.’ Certainly, some things that are ‘new’ are clearly ‘better.’ But many are not. And at some level we know that. But I think that we rather casually (and maybe unconsciously) associate that which is ‘new’ as somehow, someway, through some degree of some sort of magical thinking, as always being ‘better.’ However, ‘new’ does not mean ‘better.’
The Frightening Call of Great Things
Great things scare us, as they should. If something doesn't scare us then it's probably not all that great. All of us are called to great things. Those things will likely be different for each of us. However, in whatever way they are great, they are great. We are not here to pass through this existence as some distant observer of whatever's going on in this existence. Our lives are not passive and our role in the lives of others is not passive either. Whether large or small, we are here to do great things.
However, our fear often keeps us from doing great things. The task is too large. We don't have the knowledge or the time. Our resources are far too inadequate. The task would be better left to others who could do it better than how it would be left if we did it. Great things are for those 'other' people. We might be called to do a few 'good' things, but great things are beyond the scope of who we are. Nonetheless, we are called to great things, and to avoid them or miss them would be one of the most tragic ways that a person would waste the wonder and potential of their life.