Self-Rejection and Becoming Beloved
Ok, friends lets get real honest. I'm fighting today, fighting to believe that I am loved. There are lots of things that can trigger insecurity for me, but today I'm sitting with one particular trigger, and it's stirring up lots of self-doubt and self-rejection. Henri Nouwen calls self-rejection "the greatest trap in our life". And then goes on to write,
I am constantly surprised at how quickly I give in to this temptation. As soon as someone accused me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking: "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." Instead of taking a critical look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others' limitations, I tend to blame myself - not just for what I did, but for who I am. My dark side says: "I am no good...I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned."
Today I'm choosing to "take a critical look at the circumstances" and "try to understand".
A little over a week ago I announced that I was going to teach two special Yoga Nidra classes. I decided to try something. I decided to try pitching an event rather than just my normal weekly classes. I decided to charge money and make people pay ahead of time in an effort to value myself and what I have to offer. I thought Yoga Nidra would be a good event/workshop type class to start with, since it's very accessible for all levels, and I picked an evening time since I've had a number of people tell me it would be easier for them to come in the evening after their kids are in bed. I also decided to put myself out there and market the classes in a way that I haven't before - putting out lots of clear asks, updates, reminders, and info about yoga Nidra.
When I launched I told myself I'd have no problem filling the classes and some part of me believed that.
Now it's been a week and a half since I announced the events, the first class is 5 days away, and only 2 people have signed up.
I don't want to admit that. I don't want to publicly share that only 2 people signed up so far.
The psychology-intrigued side of me says don't share, if you make people think others haven't signed up then they won't want to either. People want to be where other people are, where things are happening. That's when the shame side of me jumps in with a very clear, "Plus, admitting only 2 signed up will just prove to everyone how lame and insignificant you are."
Shame is loud on this one.
Another voice rises up and tries to fight, pointing out that someone choosing not to come may have nothing to do with me. In fact it almost certainly has nothing to do with me. Each person has every right to make the choice that's right for them in this moment and maybe this class just isn't for them. That's fine. It's not going to be for everyone. Not everything I offer will be for everyone. I'm not going to be for everyone. I get that.
But shame doesn't stop there and back off, of course not. Shame continues to berate me with all the other classes, and projects, offerings and dreams that haven't been chosen, that no one showed up for, that failed. I begin to wonder if I'm for anyone, maybe I really don't have anything to offer the world, maybe no one likes what I put out there. I am useless. I am insignificant. I am nothing. I am nobody.
I take a deep breath. I take captive every thought and surround it with larger truth, "Jesus loves me". Then I pull myself back from the edge, "Two people signed up, that's not no one. I'm for those two. They are for me. And there's still time more could sign up."
I do battle with my thoughts as I sit in the line of cars waiting to pick up my son. My playlist from this morning's yoga class plays quietly in the background, and just as Shame roars up again, I catch the words of the song echoing, "You're enough. You're enough. You're enough." My breath catches in my throat and I fight back tears.
Statements like this used to bother me, I'd push back with comments like "I'm not enough. That's the whole point, that's why I need Jesus. Only Jesus is enough." Then I realized enough doesn't mean perfect. What I need to know in those moments when my heart longs to hear "you're enough" is that I have nothing to prove, nothing to protect, nothing to gain or force or strive after.
I am enough for Jesus right where I am, right as I am. I am enough for the life he's placed me in. I don't have to work, and strive, and pull myself up from my boot straps. I don't have to kill myself to be something I'm not. I can be me, as he made me. I already have everything I need for life and godliness through Christ Jesus. It's enough. My weak, feeble hands are enough. I don't have to kill myself to gain favor, to be accepted, to be significant. I'm enough already. For one generation the phrase that struck the heart was, "Just as I am", for another it's "I am enough."
I turn the music down and open the door for my son. As he climbs in, I think about how I never want him to feel less than, or small, to shrink back from the good God created him for, or to doubt that God created him for any good at all. But I know that he will. Because we all do.
Today I'm feeling "less than" because only a few people signed up for my class. Yesterday, I felt "less than" for entirely different reasons. What I need at both times is a reminder of my original significance, of the value God gives his children, of my identity, not as struggling floundering yoga instructor, or as failing mom, or temperamental wife, or whatever else, but a reminder of my truest, deepest, core identity as "beloved".
I am loved. You are loved. We are loved.
And so I fight shame, and the desire to shrink back, not by puffing up and making you think lots of people have signed up and I'm this great yoga instructor leading all these classes, but with Satya: truthfulness.
I fight shame by getting honest, and open, by pulling off the cover and revealing that which I'd rather keep hidden. I fight shame by showing you my insecurity, my fear, my self-rejection, and claiming something different over myself.
I fight shame by sharing that only 2 people have signed up so far.
Friends, please know I don't share that to manipulate you into signing up or to put pressure (or shame) on you - God forbid!!! There is complete and total freedom for you, friends. You don't have to come to my class to prove that you love me or that I'm significant. The truth is you can't do that anyway, even if you did come to my class. I could have a full class and still feel insignificant and unloved. As long as my self-worth is tied to other people I will always ride a roller coaster of self-rejection. What I need is not affirmation, what I need is to accept the love God pours out on me, to believe that I am valuable to him.
John Philip Newell writes in his book A New Harmony, "What is it we need to know in our lives? That we are loved. That we have always been loved." We can't know this simply by other people telling us, we have to claim it for ourselves. We have to take hold of love.
Henri Nouwen writes in Life of The Beloved:
Aren't you, like me, hoping that some person, thing, or event will come along to give you that final feeling of inner well-being you desire?...But as long as you are waiting for that mysterious moment you will go on running helter-skelter, always anxious and restless, always lustful and angry, never fully satisfied. You know that this is the compulsiveness that keeps us going and busy, but at the same time makes us wonder whether we are getting anywhere in the long run. This is the way to spiritual exhaustion and burn-out. This is the way to spiritual death.
Well, you and I don't have to kill ourselves. We are Beloved. We are intimately loved long before our parents, teachers, spouses, children, and friends loved or wounded us. That's the truth of our lives. That's the truth spoken by the voice that says, "You are my Beloved."
I am loved. You are loved. We are loved.
Breath it in friends. Claim it.
Grace and peace, Bethany