Question: For as long as I can remember, I have been extremely shy and self-conscious. I constantly worry about what others think about me. I don’t feel worth much and have a very hard time asserting myself. I know this isn’t good but I don’t know how to change. Any suggestions? Elaine in CA.
Answer: Being aware of your problems and wanting to change is a very good first step. God has an answer for you, but first you must understand what your problem is.
Most of us tend to see a person who thinks too highly of themselves and is self-absorbed with their talents, abilities, beauty, or success as being self-centered and full of pride. On the other hand those who tend to be more self depreciating and self-conscious, we may view as more humble and meek.
However, the truth is, both individuals have the same problem, just experienced in opposite ways. They are both self-absorbed. One person thinks too much of themselves in a positive way, the other person thinks too much of themselves in a negative way. It is good that you have begun to realize the bondage of such thinking. There is no freedom to love. You are too worried about you, and how you will do or be received, to use your gifts, abilities or talents to reach out to another person in love.
These words may seem hard, but if you try to solve your problem the traditional way, by focusing more on your good qualities, or trying to think more highly of yourself, you aren’t really addressing the inherent self-centered focus of your life. We are to be God-centered, not other-centered or self-centered people. When we take our eyes off ourselves, and put them on Christ, then we begin to see ourselves as he sees us. What does that mean practically?
1. We are created in his image and for relationship with God. We are special to God and he made us with dignity, value, and purpose (Psalm 8:5-8). No one is worthless, and each of us is designed to fulfill a special purpose that only we can do.
2. Although we have sinned, and made some terrible mistakes, God has still put goodness in us. (1 Corinthians 4:7). These gifts, talents, and abilities are to be used to benefit and serve others (1 Peter 4:10). When we are caught up in morbid self-consciousness, our fears (of failure and rejection mostly), keep us from discovering and using who we are, and the good qualities we have, to serve others and glorify God.
Now, the next step is to put into practice what God says. You probably know these things already, but knowing these truths is not the same as believing them. How would your life be different if you believed that God put good qualities in you? What might you do differently in your relationships with others if you believed that God has a purpose for your life and that you were created with dignity and value?
I encourage you to ponder those truths and then live like you believe them. Watch what happens in you and in your relationships. You may be in for a big surprise.
For more help on this topic, see my book, How to Find Selfless Joy in a Me-First World.