The Problem in a Nutshell

A few years ago, I read that if you drop a frog in boiling water, it will jump out.  If you drop him in room temperature water, though, and heat it up, the frog will sit there until it boils to death.  Sounds ridiculous and stupid, doesn’t it?

What if I said that most of us are like that?

Before you get offended and leave (and if you are offended, that actually proves you need to hear what I’m about to say), think about your self-confidence for a moment.  How high is it?  This is not the time for hiding the truth or empty blustering about how great you are.  Deep down, you know exactly how easy you are to offend, how afraid you are of dying alone, how nervous you are about being exposed as worthless at work, how badly you need sex to prove you’re attractive, how much you need a certain relationship to validate you as a person, and how tightly you want to hold on to your money.  You know how afraid you are to introduce yourself to strangers, how much the prospect of failure makes you tremble inside, and how even the idea of success can make you uncomfortable.

The problem is that many of us have never really questioned our level of confidence directly.  We seem to assume that we are either confident or we’re not or that confidence comes through success.  Neither of these are really true.

For the first, practically nobody is truly confident, at least not in the terms I’ve described in previous entries, and I have yet to meet anyone whose confidence is entirely unassailable.  Generally, those who seem confident either have never considered the issue, have built up a fantastic facade to guard against seeming vulnerable, or believe their value comes from a different source than God, usually in their abilities, relationships, possessions, looks, etc.  To give an example, I know someone who has an IQ of 168, was making a six-figure income at only 25, did P90X six days a week, was well-respected at church and practically irreplaceable at his job.  He had a number of close friends, read most people well, was honest, a good cook and a decent photographer.  If you’ve guessed that I’m referring to myself, you’re right.

And I hated myself.  Passionately.

Why?  Because nothing I had done, nothing I had, and no friendship were giving me what I wanted most: a girlfriend and being valued by my company as I thought my contributions deserved.  For the former, that desire had plagued me for so many years because I had always been single.  I saw my close female friends stop hanging out with me so they could go out with former drug addicts, cheaters, guys in dead-end jobs, guys with no sense of humor whatsoever, among others.  One by one, nearly all of them ended up getting hurt while I just watched, wondering what was so wrong with me that these guys were all better than I was, more deserving of having someone.

At work, I was making money, yes, but I was constantly getting 2/3 or less of what my boss was getting in bonuses and salary, despite working much harder and on a wider variety of projects.  It seemed that everyone in the company saw how much value I provided, except for the CEO, who determined pay.  I was butting up against a glass ceiling, even though I felt I should be busting through it on a rocket ship to the top.  Was that arrogant?  Yes, a little, but it’s not arrogant to say that I worked extremely hard and did my job excellently.

Still, I was single and stuck behind my boss and it seemed nothing would ever change.  I was confident in my abilities, but those weren’t enough.  And when I failed, I felt stupid and incompetent.  I was relying on the things I did well to provide at least some measure of self-worth and they couldn’t.  When they went away, so did my perceived value.  Nothing was constant, and so everything had to be earned.

Does this sound familiar?  Do you feel like you always have to prove yourself?  Do you feel you need to constantly give to someone to earn their love?  Do you have anything in your life that, if it were taken away, would make you feel worthless?  I urge you to question, deeply and honestly, how strong your self-confidence truly is.  Every bit as importantly, I urge you to not put it in what you have, what you can do, or with whom you’re in a relationship.  Don’t put it in what you look like or how sexy you are.  Don’t put it in a position or the respect of others.  Put it in something that will never change.  Put it in what God thinks of you.

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