I must have spoken about this before, as it has been a constant theme in my young life, but it is very true that my greatest fear in life is failure. I’m creeped out by spiders and I would prefer not to be at gunpoint, but failure itself is an umbrella under which everything else that is worth avoiding hides. As long as I can avoid failure, I can avoid all other unpleasantness, such as losing friends or disappointing my mother or getting into life-or-death situations. The only problem with this being my biggest fear is my huge aptitude for failure.
One would think that, having “failed” in some way almost everyday of my life, I would be used to it and focus on things that are worth striving for. Avoidance of my biggest fear has changed me: I’ve been striving for perfection, a term that when used with “human” loses all possibility of merit. Despite that fact, for a long time I rejected the term “perfectionist,” as it held a connotation that I tried very hard to separate myself from. That being that I cared. It isn’t good to care about what people think of you, or to care when your best isn’t enough, because that is insinuating that you are not okay with yourself. That was and continues to be one of the biggest moral themes in child-marketed programs: be yourself! Let your hair down! Be loud, be proud! And all those other things that I could not see myself doing for fear of falling on my face in the attempt. The people who could successfully be themselves were “cool,” “confident,” “collected,” and I prided myself in making friends with people who had the aptitude of achieving their highest potential through the gift of only caring about what was important. Of course, I shied away from those who pursued, in their desire to “not care,” the things which I’ve been taught from an early age to avoid. But I marveled at the way those I called friends and came to love dearly, merited who they were with a certain finality that led them towards such amazing achievements. They were much like my sisters in that way, who have achieved and keep achieving great things in ways that looked like magic to me. The only problem with surrounding myself with such people constantly was that I tried to be like them. In order to try to be like them, you have to consider that there’s ways in which you are lacking. And I found, much to my dismay, that I was lacking in very many different areas.
That deficiency of self-confidence only becomes worse if you consider my faith. As a Christian, the standard is Jesus: a revolutionary, kind, wise, teacher and friend and counselor who was, by definition, perfect. In many Christian songs we sing to God to “make me more like Your Son,” and we believe that, inevitably, we will be able to reach perfection due to the sacrifice made for us, though probably not in this life. So not only was I not a good enough “person,” I was also not a good enough “Christian,” a comparison which, if you think about it enough, seems to lend to a lot more problems than simply my growing self-loathing. That being in my distinction between being a Christian and a person. But I digress.
There are many times, some of which I recorded even here, that I came to God in the depths of my self-hatred. Many poems both recorded and (thankfully) not hold ideas and beliefs I held against myself which condemned me to the lowest of the low, a horrible waste of oxygen and energy that should have simply given up the moment she tried to take her first breath. It didn’t matter what my friends said, neither did it matter what my family said. For some reason, I believed that they had no merit in deciding whether or not I was a person worth existing. I was simply beside myself that God, the ultimate power of the universe, decided I was worth loving, which is why I forgot that fact many times, only to retreat into a depressed state of shoulda’ coulda’s and overthinking.
It’s amazing in retrospect that this went on for the better part of my nineteen, soon to be twenty, years of life. I have no reason to cower, in a social sense, which is made evident by the number of people who think me worth associating with. Evidently I have a talent for arts and a physical prowess that makes me able to do basically anything I set out to do. According to others I have an ability to make people laugh, to make them smile, to love them, and to enjoy life with them without making them feel that it is all for my own sake. My current place of education seems to argue on its own that I’m somewhat intelligent (I study at MIT, by the way. I’m working on being okay with admitting that.) But it was never enough. Due to the earth-shattering experiences where something bad happened, I was quick to heap the weight of blame on my shoulders and sit back knowing that I had failed. The term “earth-shattering” is completely relative, and probably would generally not be attributed to some situations if regarded by a non-biased third party. Regardless, I had enough evidence in my head and enough conviction in my heart to know that my responsibility was due to a certain level of failure, whether in unchangeable characteristics or personal actions. The reason why I knew this was because I had many people around me who did not make the same earth-shattering mistakes, and so were better than me. These mistakes went as shallow as being embarrassed by a performance of a certain skill, or as deep as being guilty for my success that seemed based off of my father’s death. Lies or not, they were true enough to harden my heart against myself, and limp on as a worm only saved by the presence of God’s love.
The past few weeks have been a huge lesson in correcting and eradicating all evidence of such self-deprivation before ending my second decade of life. Because while it was good to be overwhelmed with the love God has for me, it was wrong to attribute it to some great pity God had for a wretch like me. That not only put me in a tight spot, as though God’s pity would somehow, someday, run out of steam, but it also placed a distance between me and God that resulted in often hiding my face from Him. Though God could pity me, I could never pity myself, and subjecting myself to an entity who seemed to love me despite all the ways I had failed that past hour, let alone that past week, made me often feel much too dirty to wash.
Now I see how that way of seeing God was a huge barrier that divided me from my potential and my walk with God. After a recent encounter where I had to confront the lies I had built up to protect myself in the past, I walked away from that conversation with the amusing thought, “Who am I?” For so long I held onto this old idea of myself with all the stubbornness and dedication of a martyr, only to learn that it was fake, and I finally had no choice but to let it slip from between my fingers. At the end of it, my hands were empty, ready for God to step in and show me who I really am.
The reason why it kept me from my potential is probably analogous to considering why one cannot build anything without tools. The inhibitions I had robbed me of the tools I’ve been given, and made me underestimate the effectiveness of my skill to build anything at all. It was a “hobby” to consider that I actually may be a person worth some merit, while the chunk of my time was to deal with how I needed to do better, be better. Being confident in the gifts God has given me gives me the ability to step out in ways I’ve never thought possible, to hone those skills for His glory, and to pursue the goals I had thought out of my reach.
This is a good time for all of these revelations, as I had been hit recently with too many big dreams. Impossible and cripplingly frightening, these dreams made me look at myself and decide that they were worth someone who had more. Yet, slowly but surely, God has been walking me through situations where I had previously thought it impossible to walk through. Surely, I would die a martyr if I walk through there, as my aptitude for failure predicts. But I did not. With Him I succeeded. I’m still alive, and the world did not blow up in my face as a result for “not being enough.”
Confidence, joyful fearlessness, and humble thankfulness, to the One who has helped me see that in Him, all things are possible. For I am a Daughter of the Most High God. And I can say that without fear of failure, that in saying these things I put a target on my back for people to condemn me if I somehow fall short of my goals. The target has always been there, and it has been stabbed into several times over, but now I have let Jesus take the knife out of my own hand. Once I stop condemning myself, I allow God’s grace to overwhelm me purely and truly, and I can stand boldly. Not as a martyr, but as a warrior.