Early in my teaching career I received a nasty email from a student. I still remember reading it and just staring at the screen for a while with my mouth wide open. It felt like a punch right in the gut. This student criticized me pretty harshly about my leadership of our music program. I first felt really angry. Then I felt very defensive that this individual had the nerve to send me such a critical note. Plus, I wanted to dismiss his comments since he had not been a good student. Clearly, he didn't know what he was talking about.
But in my heart I knew the truth: there was a bit of accuracy to his statements. There were several areas where I was coming up short and needed to improve. I could learn from this feedback, or I could simply ignore it.
In some cases, we are searching for vitamins in a bottle of poison. But in many cases, we can find truth in criticism. We just have to be very intentional about how we handle the criticism.
When you're insecure, you will find yourself wondering what everybody else thinks. Some people can’t make their own decisions because they are too concerned about getting other people’s approval. As a result, they are constantly asking what everyone else thinks about this or that. Validation and approval are what you seek. When you don't find it constantly, you're struggling to move forward. In some cases, when others give you advice, treat it like a crutch. It can help you get back on your feet and moving in the right direction. But if you rely on it too long you’ll eventually be too weak to stand on your own.
An insecure person also depends on external measurements for his sense of self-worth. There are many ways that insecure people measure their worth: their car, house, clothing, personal appearance, titles, friends and associates, income, size of their business or organization, degrees and awards, and even the success of their own children.
None of these things are actually bad. In fact, they can all be wonderful things when put in the proper perspective. But none of them is a true measurement of your value as a person. I have known a lot of people with money, academic degrees, and all kinds of outward signs of “success,” yet who were unhappy and insecure.
You can’t base your self-worth on the shifting tides of people’s opinions and other external measurements. Instead, base your confidence on these three things:
· Knowing who you are (confidence in your gifts and purpose).
· Knowing who loves you (confidence in the unconditional love of those closest to you).
· Knowing whose child you are (confidence in your eternal standing as a beloved child of God).
An insecure individual views everyone else as a competitor. Some people don’t have the emotional maturity to compliment, encourage, or publicly support others without expecting something in return. They can’t be happy for other people when they succeed, and they think a win for someone else means a loss for themselves.
A secure person sees himself and everyone else as having unlimited potential for success. He doesn’t see others as competitors, but as fellow travelers on the creative journey. He knows that your success means his success, and vice-versa. He knows that a rising tide lifts all ships.
Secure people do their work and create things from a place of generosity. Insecure people create and even live in a place of fear. Guess which type of person has more fun? Wo has more friends? Who has more influence and success?
Choose right now to be a secure person. It's a choice that slowly becomes a mindset. But it starts with a simple choice. Make that choice today.