I would definitely call myself an optimist. I've had the blessing that life experiences have not left me jaded and that I still have faith in my dreams. Life excites me and I look forward to the experiences God has in store. Yet, despite of the hope for the future that I carry within, I've come to realize fairly recently that I also carry a good bit of negativity - and that it's this negativity that gets in the way of my achieving what I desire to do and what God has planned for me.
It all comes in the form of my inner voice. My inner voice that chastises. My inner voice that condemns. My inner voice that belittles my actions.
Joy, why did you say that?
Joy, you should really be better at --
Ugh, Joy, you have to do this, this, and this, or else...
Having lived most of my life cultivating this creature, the voice has come to be second nature. It is only in actively seeking to silence it that I am finally beginning to obtain the inner peace and self-confidence that I have always desired.
But why? Why is it that this voice emerged to begin with? It's really rather straightforward: fear of insufficiency and inadequacy. Fear of not being enough.
Now, surely I'm not the only young woman, let alone person, to struggle with this. We all have had experiences in our past that have led us to feel inadequate at one point or another. The question, perhaps, is not so much why are we so hard on ourselves, but how can we work to change?
First and foremost is prayer. When I was younger and had not yet found my faith, the statement "love yourself" didn't make much sense to me. Why should I love myself when I continually failed? I wasn't pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough... so what made me worthy of love? It was only through getting to know Christ in prayer that I began to discover that his love for me is unconditional, that nothing I can do will ever make me worthy of love, that I just am loved. He loves me for me.
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
The second step is just to cultivate an alternative voice of positivity and encouragement. Begin to congratulate yourself on your small successes. Instead of telling yourself, you can do better, say good job! You worked really hard on this, and next time you will do even better. If this were someone else talking to you, would you want to be criticized by them or encouraged? Or consider this: if someone were to treat you as you treat yourself, how would you feel about this person? If you'd dislike them, then it's time to reconsider how you treat yourself.
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the
Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive and inheritance
from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24
Sometimes, especially as women, we are so anxious to please because we so want to feel that we are appreciated and loved. While recognition from family, friends, and others is always welcome, remember that it is your duty to serve God first.
Lastly, don't give up. Battling the voice is hard work when you've cultivated it for so long, but be gentle with yourself. Sometimes simply recognizing that it is there is enough - as long as you realize that what it tells you is false.