In a recent scholarship interview, I told my interviewer of my goal to combat the lies women believe, and in response he asked what lies the women around me have adopted. For just a second, it made me pause. The answer settled into my mind as I spoke: “Women believe they aren’t enough.”
As I talk with my female friends, I realize that most of us girls wrestle with self-doubt. Are we good enough to be noticed? Good enough to be loved? Are we doing what we should be doing? Doing what God wants us to do? We know we fail on an hourly basis. How can God still love us in the midst of our failures? Does he? Are we pretty enough? Are we smart enough? Are we enough?
In general Americans discourage this kind of questioning, and rightly so. It drains us, drags us down, puts the focus on ourselves and not on God. In its smallest forms, self-doubt is unhelpful; in its greatest, it is a destructive monster. When we drown in this sea of questions, we break God’s command not to “be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4.6). Of course, we all have different ways to deal with it–some successful, some not so much. I’ve tried quite a few methods myself.
I first try to give myself self-confidence. I deceive myself. I try to tell myself, “I am beautiful. I am smart. I am worthy. I am worth it. People love me because I deserve it. God loves me because I know him.” But I am not worthy, I don’t deserve love, and in this self-centered state, I am in no place to judge of myself rationally. Worse, this self-confidence always morphs into pride, and pride drags me low again. It tells me not only to meditate on myself but to treasure myself, the good and the bad, and to love me more than I love anyone else. And in this suffocation, if I don’t trip and fall first, I once again become aware that I am not enough.
I am reminded of Saul, David’s predecessor, first king of Israel, brimming with self-confidence, driven mad by his jealousy. I remember Solomon, David’s son, who got caught up in his own wisdom and fell. I remember the many selfish, confident Israelite kings who fell and dragged the nation with them. Maybe their self-confidence cured their doubt, but it didn’t cure their sin, and it definitely didn’t cure their problems.
Take two. I look somewhere else, outside of myself. I look to people. Here, I think, I will finally find security. It works, sometimes. If I make self-deprecating comments, I’ll get the attention I’m looking for. People remind me of my strengths, which I already know but want to hear repeated. But then I keep looking to people, and I get my heart wrenched in two. I know in my heart that in some areas, the girls around me excel far more than I do. Self-doubt returns.
I now have two options: leave society and become a hermit, hidden away from the world that tells me I’m not good enough, or find confidence in Christ. Since Jesus commanded us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28.19), I have to cross out the first option. I look to Christ.
Alright, Jesus, I think. Am I enough?
We hide this question, stuff it deep down, try to shut it out, because we know the painful answer. We are not enough. No one has ever been enough. Eve was not enough to resist Satan’s lies. David was not enough to battle his lust. So I cry aloud to God to fix my heart, to crush my sin and make me whole. With Paul I mourn: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. … Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7.18, 24). Not one of us has ever been good enough to win the love of God by any means other than his abounding grace.
And God’s grace does abound. He loved us when we were his enemies: evil, petty, disgusting creatures. Unlovable. That can be a hard pill to swallow. Who wants to be told that they are loved for no rational reason? I’d probably want to punch any person who said to me, “I love you, but not because of who you are or anything about you. It’s just who I am.” Whether or not the person speaking harbors pride of their own, my own pride is my main motivator to attack the people who offend me. I don’t like being told that I am not enough. No one does.
We want to be loved for our cleverness, beauty, generosity, fairness, usefulness. The first hint that anyone is offering us the highest love of all [i.e. loving the unlovable] is a terrible shock.
~C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves
It is only in God’s abundant grace that I finally find the cure for self-doubt. Paul knew he was not enough, but he could say God’s grace was sufficient, shining brighter in his weaknesses. His confidence in Christ filled his life so completely that he could look back at his whole life, his sins, his murders, and say, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day” (Acts 23.1).
Father, I am not enough. Forgive me. You made me to be more than I am now. Forgive me. My sins are as spit to your face and thrashing against your embrace. Forgive me. I am not enough. Thank you that you are.