Perception is a tricky thing. How we see ourselves, how we see others, the filter through which we process, the tone we hear things, the way we see events, reactions, self-talk – all of these things shape who we are and shade the way we function in society.
It’s easy to pass assumptions. That youth was abused as a child, hence the violent outbursts. This woman goes from one abusive relationship to another, building in herself a victim mentality. That man grew up with money and opportunity, explaining his rise to success.
The problems surface when our neat expectations are threatened. The abused teen becomes a calm and caring adult. The abused woman breaks out of her destructive relationship cycle and goes back to school. The man with the world at his finger tips is also excellent in his field, earning advancement through hard work rather than money.
While the voices and influences around us certainly shape our confidence, it is how we perceive ourselves that ultimately defines our success. (The term success is here used broadly, being as intricate or simple as personally applies). Which voice is stronger – the one that restrains you to where you’ve always been, or the one that pushes you beyond societal expectations of your social status, race, gender, heritage, location, or anything else we use to define someone?
It takes changing a few words around. It’s also a matter of accurate perception. Telling myself I’m not good enough for that does nothing but discourage and hold me back. But telling myself I am good enough for that may set me up for disappointment. Adjusting the phrase again to say I can/will be good enough for that may more accurately reflect the situation, and then pushes me to work.
This obviously applies to our interactions as well. She is not pretty becomes she has unique features. As silly as it sounds, the change in tone gives the option to see other attributes as well. She has unique features…and is very graceful…and has a nice laugh…lets be friends. I wonder how many meaningful relationships I miss out on simply because I judge the book by its cover and leave it on the shelf.
I wish I could get inside the head of Jesus, the man on earth. Was he struggling with his thought life? Did I’m not good enough to save them or Can I withstand that temptation ever cross his mind? I must assume that they did – he was a man after all, facing the same physical desires and mental struggles that we face. The difference is Jesus simply knew he was good enough. That he was strong enough. That he was God. Most of the time I feel like there are three or four me’s talking in my head, and maybe it was the same for Jesus.
Me 1: Can I endure this?
Me 2: By the grace of God I will stand strong.
Me 3: But I’m not good enough.
Me 2: I know I’ve been given and earned the skills to accomplish what is before me.
Me 4: What if God leaves me hanging on my own?
Me 2: I know he is faithful to his people, even if I don’t see it from my perspective.
The choice is which voice to listen to. I know I can do this, You can do well in college, He will move above the poverty line, She doesn’t have to use her body as a tool, They have earned their success. We need to make that inner dialogue, or quatralogue, or decalogue, a true inner monologue, with the affirmative voice sounding strong.