Well, I finally did it. I disabled my Facebook…not sure how long it will be for, but for now it’s out of here. Non-existent. Into the dark abyss.
This is not the first time I’ve taken such a drastic measure, but it is the first time with this particular motivation. What prompted me to make such a rash decision when I have friends abroad I’d love to keep in touch with? Plain and simple: it was causing me to stumble.
Oftentimes when people disable their Facebook it is because they feel they are spending too much time online. That Facebook is preoccupying their every moment, that they are glued to the screen, held captive to their phones, or (if they are brave enough to admit it) addicted. Of course, Facebook has many positive sides to it and I’m not saying that Facebook in itself is evil. There are many great ways to use Facebook. It’s the ultimate event planner, a fast and efficient way of connecting with people around the world for free, and a great way to share your thoughts more openly. But it can become an easy crutch. It can become a way of caring more about your online community than what is happening in the real world, sharing too much information with people you barely even know, and promoting self-centeredness as you brag about all your recent news. It can also become a breeding place for insecurity, low self-esteem, and comparing yourself to others. At least it did for me. That’s why I disabled it.
These past few days without Facebook have been somewhat liberating. I’ve discovered that I don’t have such an urge to write a status update every other minute and that probably no one cares what I had for breakfast, but it has also forced me to come face-to-face with other inner demons. It has forced me to recognize one thing: getting rid of Facebook is like getting rid of the symptoms. If you don’t address the root cause and go to the doctor’s, the symptoms just keep coming back. You cannot find any long-lasting relief because the illness is still there.
And what is this illness I’m talking about? It all comes down to two words: prideful insecurity.
When I first disabled my Facebook I thought it would make me feel better about my life. I thought that not having constant reminders of my singlehood and lack of children in my face was going to boost my self-image. I thought not seeing pictures of events I didn’t get invited to was going to convince myself that I am a good person who everyone likes. I was wrong.
Being off Facebook didn’t get rid of my nagging worries or gnawing anxiety. It didn’t enhance it, but it definitely didn’t get rid of it. In fact, being off Facebook didn’t even give me more hours to spend in the day. My wasted hours just got reassigned to other tasks. I began using Twitter a whole lot more than before (to be honest, I was never much of Twitter fan and only have an account because of my blog). I began playing pointless online games and I even contemplated getting a tattoo on my shoulder saying “not all who wander are lost” for no other reason than that I was bored.
In fact, less than 24 hours after I logged off Facebook, I went and created online dating profile accounts. I was bored. I needed some action. I craved the online attention. Thankfully, two of my friends convinced me to disable my accounts, but I was surprised at how soon I put myself into the vulnerable position of wanting to be needed. (As an aside: don’t get me wrong, I am not at all implying that online relationships or dating sites are bad. They aren’t. They can be extremely helpful, but it really all depends on the reason you are going online and what you are trying to accomplish through the experience).
Yesterday afternoon, I was Skyping with one of my really good friends from Edinburgh and she really brought home the core issue I am facing. I was fairly self-aware of it before, even asking her to pray over the issue, but it’s always a different thing when you say it yourself and when you hear someone else articulating what you are thinking. Somehow it just makes it seem more real. Sometimes it even makes you notice how immature and superficial what you are getting at really is.
You see, from the outside, I come across as fairly confident. I have multiple degrees and excelled in school. I have been able to get jobs I enjoy. I have travelled the world. I have many friends – probably the best friends I could ever ask for who have stood by me in everything. Yet I am always discontent. I’m always living my life in the what-ifs. I’m always toting someone else’s life as “picture perfect” and seeing my own life as a sketch by a 4 year old artist drawing with finger paints and crayons. I don’t see my life for the brilliant mural, the masterpiece, God has created it to be. I see it as an artist’s rough sketches, a preschooler’s first ripped out and tattered colouring page. But I’m here to tell you that if you ever feel in the same position, there’s hope. Because sometimes the most beautiful paintings, the ones that have sold for millions of dollars, are exactly that. Abstract. Confused. Muddled. Seared with emotion. Beauty really is always in the eye of the beholder.
It can be really easy to beat yourself up when you’re struggling with low self-esteem, chronic comparison syndrome, depression or anxiety, but I’m here to tell you that’s not going to help. Beating yourself up and berating yourself about how you think you SHOULD be feeling, doesn’t make you feel any better. It makes you feel worse. It makes you continue down that endless rabbit hole. That’s why when I spoke to my friend I was so surprised and relieved that she didn’t lecture me. She didn’t point out all my good attributes and end with the question: “so what’s your problem?” But she did listen, she pointed out how to see God in the mess, and she showed me a different path. A path I’d like to share with you now:
You can’t love others, if you have not fully learned how to love yourself. You can’t give your all in a friendship or romantic partnership until you’ve learned how to rest and rely on the One who truly IS all. You cannot find your true value and your true worth, until you’ve discovered the One who gives you that unending worth. When we constantly put ourselves in the centre, we get tired out. It becomes a game of one up-manship. It becomes about trying to outdo others, about having something they don’t have, about putting on a false persona. It becomes about popularity, not deep friendship. It becomes about superficial relationships, not genuine acceptance. And the sad reality is that oftentimes we are willing to settle for just that when there is really so much more that is ahead of us. So much more that God has planned – way more than we could ever think of, ask for, or imagine.
So what do you do? You turn to the Rock. You turn to the anchor and you affirm that your security is solely tied into Christ’s love for you. You recognize how intensely personal, how deeply intimate the Scriptures are. Yes, God’s love is for everyone. It’s a global affair. But it’s also directly pointed at YOU. The Bible is one of those rare books that is deeply personal while also being concerned about everyone else. It’s not like one of those self-help books you pick up from a library shelf. A book that perhaps speaks into YOUR life. That teaches you how to feel better about yourself. That might even say that everyone who is giving you flax is a loser, so don’t mind them. But the Bible is so different. It’s about God’s love for the WORLD – about His ultimate sacrifice for humanity, but it’s also about how each one of us is a recipient of that love and each person receives and expresses that peace and that harmony in different ways.
Instead of worrying about how the world thinks about you: will people like me if I speak up? Will people think differently about me if they knew this thing about me? How can I get invited to a party? How can I get myself a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife? Ask yourself: how does God think about me? And know that God’s love knows absolutely no bounds. God loves you just as much when you’re a married woman with a mini-van taking your three kids to three different activities, as He does when you’re a single woman. God loves you when you’re mentally and emotionally strong just as much as He loves you when you’re on the verge of a tearful breakdown. God loves you just as much when you are a spiritual pillar – serving in the church as when you are quietly doubting His existence in your heart even while your lips are uttering praise to Him. God loves confusion. He loves mess. He loves that drawing of your life that resembles the picture of a four year old a whole lot more than an unblemished carbon copy of someone else – someone who you were never truly meant to be.
God has such high esteem for you that Zephaniah tells us:
The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.
He is that still small voice that speaks the deepest truths into your life. He is that artistic designer who is just waiting for you to allow Him to transform that canvas of your heart, to add some colour to the deepest and darkest crevices of your soul. He is that director waiting to allow you – the musician, to take up the cue and join His orchestra. He is the coach that sees your potential and coaxes you from the sidelines into the playing field.
Life isn’t just made up of Facebook likes. It isn’t just made up of friends you’ve never met and probably never will. Your identity and security lie completely in Christ because He sees you for what you are. A gem, a treasure, the apple of His eye. Don’t let anyone else’s expectations tarnish who you really want to be and where you really want to go with your life. Be yourself – be an eagle, take flight and fly to your heart’s content!
Oh, and P.S. I probably will be re-activating my Facebook account in the next few weeks, but not until I learn the most important lesson first. That my identity cannot come from outside sources, but that it comes from the Well-Spring of life. And not until I cut the wicked and evil tree of self-pity and low self-esteem down right at the roots rather than just pruning the branches and dying leaves that lay haphazardly scattered at the top.
Here’s a little something I came across today that you might enjoy. Hope it speaks some truth in to your unique situation:
Intro to Dramatic Reading (By: Linda Goens)
Reader: We all have a little voice inside that tells us when to worry, when to fear, when to be ashamed. A friendly critic may help keep us out of trouble. A fearful critic stifles us. It’s this little critic that keeps us from trying again when we don’t succeed the first time. It’s this voice that tells us not to take risks. It’s this voice that keeps us from the very God who will free us from its scorn. Proverbs 22:10 tells us what to do about this kind of critic. “Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife; quarrels and insults are ended.” Drive out the Mocker, welcome to Comforter, and live a new life.
Critic: Where are you going? I’m your Critic. You can’t go without me.
Me: I’m taking my failures to the Lord. I’m going to kneel and lay them at His feet. Because I’m so sorry.
Critic: You can’t do that! You should be ashamed to meet His gaze. Look away!
Me: I will not look at the Lord. I will bow my head in disgrace. Perhaps I will receive pity.
Critic: What you will get is rebuke.
Me: It is what I deserve, I know.
Critic: You have wasted far too much time trying to achieve what was clearly not within your grasp.
Me: I didn’t know it wasn’t within my grasp.
Critic: You should have known.
Me: Maybe I will be forgiven.
Critic: Do you forgive yourself?
Critic: I rest my case.
Me: I have to do something. I’m going.
Me: I lay my failures at your feet, O Lord. I do not dare look at You, but I ask, forgive me.
Critic: I’m telling you – what you deserve is a stern lecture, not forgiveness. But wait, what is He doing? I don’t understand this. He’s gathering up your failures, all of them. The battered, misshapen, flawed efforts, and…
Me: He is laying them on His altar, so gently. He’s treating them like precious gifts.
Me: O Lord, please! Hide them away! At Your altar should lie the gifts of triumph, the precious and beautiful and the pure. Not failures like these.
The Lord: My child, these are not failures.
Critic: Yes they are. Look at them.
The Lord: I’m not talking to you.
Critic: Oh… sorry.
The Lord: Didn’t you do your best to reach your goal?
The Lord: Then how can these be failures?
Critic: For one thing, the goals weren’t accomplished. The people didn’t get it. They didn’t do what they were supposed to do.
Me: I failed.
The Lord: Maybe they failed.
Me: But the result of this project was supposed to be…
The Lord: You are not responsible for the results.
The Lord: You are only responsible for the process.
Me: What have I accomplished then?
Critic: Yeah, what, I’d like to know!
The Lord: You’ve sown a seed. Whether anything grows is not up to you.
Critic: Good grief! There isn’t much challenge in that, running around sowing seeds.
Me: I like it.
Critic: You still have to figure out which ones to sow and where to sow them and all that. You can’t handle it alone, I bet.
Me: I’m not alone.
Critic: Well, yes, I’ll help.
Me: I didn’t mean you.
Me: You hold me back. God leads me forward.
Critic: But I’m the most important part of you.
Me: Not any more.
(The forgiven and God depart together, leaving the Critic to look bewildered; he then runs after them or slinks off in the other direction)