The Life & Times of Mommiehood

Here I am finding my way through uncharted waters.


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Confidence.

Remember back in July when I started my supposedly 40-day character makeover? Yeah, I don’t really either. Over the past week or two I’ve been working my way through the second character trait, confidence. Since I started this 5-day look at confidence quite some time ago I hope to remember and reflect upon what I’ve learned, both on having confidence and my own seeming inability to have much confidence. As I mentioned in my last post on humility, I’ll apologize up front as this is me processing what I’m learning and might not flow well. Maybe something will strike you and give you something to think about. Maybe you’ll skip this and hope I write something more fun tomorrow.

Confidence. “Confidence gives you courage and extends your reach. It lets you take greater risks and achieve far more than you ever thought possible.” Jack Welch, chairman & CEO of GE.

A few paragraphs later the author then says, “Confidence gives us that inner self-assurance that helps us interact effectively with others.” Whoa. Is that part of my shyness? Maybe. Is that why I so often feel the opposite of the “expert” everyone thinks I am at work? Even more likely. Is that why I often feel inadequate as a mother? Probably. So what’s a girl to do?

I often see two kinds of confidence. One I’ll refer to as genuine, the other fake, for lack of better terms. I see people who have a sort of bravado, maybe cockiness about who they are. That seems to me a fake confidence. Where is their surety coming from? Most likely other people who have fluffed their feathers, or a puffed up sense of self. Then there’s the other people. People who have a quiet surety of who they are. They don’t need to put forward lots of reminders of who they are, they just are. They are forces to be reckoned with, people who deserve our respect, people we listen to. That’s the kind of confidence I want, but where does it come from?

The author handles that by claiming that as a Christian my confidence should flow from my faith and confidence in God. “Confidence is only as good as in whom you place your confidence.” She uses self-esteem as an example citing that, “sociologists tell us our self-esteem is based on what we believe the most important person in our life thinks about us.” If my self-esteem is based on something outside me, I better hope that person thinks the world of me. My problem is that I often look to other people for that standard, the media, friends, family, teachers … and not to God. I’m not even sure I want to go where that could lead, save to say that if God loves me and created me unique and special, why do I focus so much on my weight or other physical traits I dislike? Why can’t I be confident in who I am and how I look simply because I know God loves me and made me for a purpose? This is one thing I hope to begin working on, finding my value, worth and confidence in God, not other people.

The story of Deborah (Judges ch 4-5) is brought up to demonstrate six qualities of a confident person. Confident people are problem-solvers, risk-takers, realistic about their strengths, competent, know their purpose, have an awareness of not being qualified.

Next up is dealing with insecurity, or “confidence robbers.” I need to know who I am and not constantly compare myself to others feeling superior at times and inferior at other times. I need to know why I am here, what my purpose on this planet is. I need to know what I am worth and that my worth is not tied to getting everything right (perfectionism) being in charge of everything (control) or how I feel about myself (depression). What are my weak spots? Perfectionism, control mistaking feelings for fact, projecting, comparison. Basically trying to measure up to some ridiculous standard that pretty much sets me up for failure. Guess a change in thought patterns is due, needing to focus more on God and less on myself.

How to do this? I need to change negative thoughts, “confidence robbers,” into positive thoughts that I can claim over and over whenever one of those confidence robbers tries to swoop down and get me focused on myself and how I don’t measure up. Philippians 4:8 encourages us to think about things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. I struggle most with negative thoughts in my appearance and feeling worthless and inadequate. I need to remember to tell myself often that, to copy Stuart Smalley from SNL, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.” Or more importantly … God made me perfect and with a specific purpose, He takes care of me and through His strength I can do all things.

I am a unique person created for a specific purpose. My problems, while I might like to think them unique to me are common to pretty much everyone though they may look different for different people. However, I am unique, my potential is my own. What God has planned for me is different from what He has planned for someone else.

My moment of clarity: This is not something that I can do easily. I will need to remind myself constantly and rely on God the whole way. So I need to be more intentional when it comes to prayer. When something comes up, a thought, a circumstance, whatever, I need to bring those to God and seek to gain his perspective on them. As I train myself to pray more and focus more on God’s perspective I’ll be better able to recognize the lies I’m telling myself and change those ingrained thoughts to positive ones.

Here’s to hoping another three months doesn’t go by before I finish up the five days on courage!

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Humility.

Following are my ramblings about the first five days of my Character Makeover (the book is by Katie Brazelton and Shelly Leith, check out their website here). I’ll apologize up front as this is me processing what I’m learning and might not flow well. Maybe something will strike you and give you something to think about. Maybe you’ll skip this and hope I write something more fun tomorrow.

 

Humility. This character trait, the foundation for the other seven to come, begins with this verse from Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.” (NIV)

So I read that and simply wonder how. I’m selfish, most of us are. Most of us willingly admit it as well.  It’s not easy to put others first or to consider others better than myself. Intrigued I move on.

An example is given that shows how we are often humbled, or more likely put in our place when our pride puffs us up, and then the author says, “Truly humble people are likeable, even irresistible,” and I start thinking about that. Not about that being my goal (I’m not trying to learn humbleness so people will like me), but about people who I like and want to get to know and why I’m drawn to them. Maybe it’s because they are humble, I don’t know. Never really thought about it before. Interesting though, as the five days progress one of the things that brings about humility is putting others before yourself. Maybe that’s what draws us in to those who are humble, we can instinctively tell that they genuinely care about us, no strings attached.

Next big shocker: Humility is the opposite of pride. You might think, “duh, I know that.” So did I. However, until I read this book, I didn’t realize how some of the things I was thinking/doing were prideful. (The author gives four “faces” of pride: exalting myself, belittling myself, attacking others, ignoring others.) The big thing that hit me was belittling myself. I’m no stranger to making self-depreciating remarks and have a wonderfully struggling self-esteem. I never thought of these issues as pride, though they are twisted ways to draw attention to myself, aka pride. Maybe not all the time, but probably most of the time, when I say something negative about myself I’m really searching for reassurance that I’m not as bad as I’m thinking, I’m okay. Where’s the focus? Me. Where’s the problem? Right there.

So this brings to mind where I find worth. Do I seek reinforcement and approval from others? Probably yes, which is why I often find myself feeling inadequate, I may never measure up. Where should I seek to find my worth? In God. He already loves me for who I am, mess and all. After all, He created me unique and one of a kind. He wanted me to be just the way I am, I was created for a PURPOSE! That is where I need to go when I feel I don’t measure up, to my Father’s lap where He can tell me He loves me and created me perfectly. Do I do that? No. Am I going to start doing that? You bet I’m going to. After the light bulb went off that my thoughts and actions are me being prideful, I want that to change. While this won’t be a perfect journey, I want to put the focus of my life, my energy, my thoughts, my actions, on God. He’s the one that deserves all the credit. I’m just living life, being used by Him for His purpose. He provides strength to wake up and face another day, to take care of a toddler when he’s driving me nuts, to go to work when I really want to stay home and sleep, to talk with or encourage a friend when I’m clueless. He deserves the credit for everything. It’s really all about Him, not all about me.

I think about kids I’ve worked with at school. Referred to me because of one behavior or several. Every time I feel so completely inadequate. “What can I do to help this kid          ?” You fill in the blank. I’m flying by the seat of my pants every single time. Sure I’ve got training, I have an Educational Specialist degree, but there are so many things I haven’t dealt with in the real world. Everything’s a learning experience. And boy does that learning curve seem steep sometimes. Those kids that others have seen a change in, I can’t get puffed up about that. I seriously didn’t do much. But it’s those situations where I can see God working through me. Giving me ideas, helping me ask the right questions. He’s right there guiding me and He deserves all the credit. I do appreciate little glimpses into God’s greater picture for my life and my career. I know He’s got me where He wants me but sometimes I’m like a whiny two-year-old and want to know why I’m stuck here and when I can move on to something I see as bigger and better.

Here’s another example from my life. I enjoy taking meals to people for a variety of reasons. My stage of life it’s usually following the arrival of a new baby. However, the timing’s not always right. Some people live far away which adds additional challenge. Often, due to money issues, I need to take something at the beginning of the month or they’ll get something random that might not be so wonderful. One line from a prayer at the end of Day 1 struck me. “Show me the needs of those around me;” (isn’t that the easy part?) “then help me to do something about what you show me.” There’s the hard part. Back to the meals. Someone in my MOPS group had surgery. A sign-up sheet was being filled in for people to bring them meals. Needs to be low fat. Try and throw something in for the kids and lunches too. They need help. Might this be a need of someone around me … must I do something about it?? Thankfully the sign-up went through the beginning of August, so I begrudgingly signed up feeling cornered. They live kinda far away. I did sign up on a Sunday thinking maybe I can give it to the couple at church or find someone who lives near them to drop it off for me. Can you see the selfishness oozing out of that? Thankfully God can use us no matter our faults. After chatting with another friend who had the same surgery, I have a great low fat meal idea that will provide lots of leftovers for lunches, maybe even another meal. Serving others isn’t always fun or convenient, but letting go and allowing God to use me to make someone else’s life easier, well let’s put it this way: ground turkey $4, taco seasoning $1, fat free tortillas $3, toppings $5, making someone’s day better/easier … priceless.

Thankfully, God is a pro at using my weaknesses. I just need to give Him every area of my life and see what amazing things He’ll do. Near the end of the section on humility this “formula” for humility is given, “He must become greater, I must become less,” John 3:30 NIV. Apparently, John the Baptist “got it,” we’ll see if I can too. Since anything I do to try and become humble most likely will end up being prideful, I need to once again take the focus off dear old moi and put the focus on God.

So the end is making an action plan. How can I develop humility? What can I do to increase the focus on God? 1) I can focus on Him (worshipping Him, praying continuously about what is going on, studying to understand God better, reflecting on what God’s doing in my life every day, even the small things); 2) I can take the focus off myself (the author lists several things, but my main issue is self-esteem, not tearing myself down), and finally, 3) I can focus on others (be an encourager, a helper, a servant, a receiver, or a mentor, I chose to focus on the first two).

I need to move on now to the next trait, confidence. I felt like I needed more time to let everything I learned about humility sink in so I took a week off. Might take me more than 40 days for this Character Makeover, but I don’t want to rush through it, I want what I read to stick and really make a difference in who I am and how I live my life.