David L. Goetsch
Conquering Insecurity and Self-Doubt: Stop Fishing in the Wrong Pond (Philippians 4:6)
Updated: Apr 4, 2020
We live in a world of comparisons. Beginning in elementary school, our grades are compared with those of other students. If we play sports, our performance is compared with that of other athletes. At work, our productivity is compared with that of other employees. On a personal level, we compare ourselves to other people in terms of height, weight, hair, attractiveness, clothing, cars, homes, lawns, gardens, talents, skills, education, experience, professions, and a variety of other factors. Human comparisons that pit you against other people are an unfortunate part of life, but an inescapable part of life nonetheless.
Human comparisons are often driven by ego, covetousness, misguided ambition, competition, or a variety of other factors. Comparing yourself with other people can be a humbling experience because no matter what the basis of comparison happens to be, there is always going to be someone who is prettier, handsomer, faster, stronger, smarter, taller, better educated, or more experienced than you. Consequently, comparing yourself to others is a sure way to generate insecurity and self-doubt. The result is a self-destructive outlook that says, “I’m not good enough.”
Insecurity is a feeling of inadequacy or inferiority. Often the feeling is based on unflattering comparisons to others. Unfavorable self-comparisons can be disheartening enough, but unfavorable comparisons made by others about you are even worse. Even as a child, I cringed when our mother, in moments of frustration, would yell at my older brother, “Why can’t you be more like your brother? He behaves himself and makes good grades. All you ever do is get into trouble.” I remember thinking, “She doesn’t realize how badly her words hurt him.” These kinds of unflattering comparisons tend to breed insecurity and insecurity can, in turn, breed self-doubt.
Here are a few examples counseling clients have shared with me of comparisons that left them feeling insecure and filled with self-doubt:
A professional woman told me she felt “frumpy” when compared to other women at work. She was convinced they were better at their jobs than she was because they “looked better.”
An accountant struggled with feelings of inferiority and self-doubt because he attended a small Christian university while his colleagues attended large state universities or prestigious private institutions.
A Christian woman said she avoided the beach and swimming pools because she was convinced people would compare her to other women and the comparisons would be unflattering.
A high school student refused to invite friends to visit or spend the night because he feared they would compare his home unfavorably to theirs. His home made him feel “inferior” when compared with the larger and more expensive homes of his friends.
An athlete from a small Christian school turned down a once-in-a-lifetime invitation to play in a county-wide all-star game because he was afraid the athletes from the larger public schools would be bigger, stronger, and faster than him.
People who make these kinds of comparisons are looking for approval in the wrong places. They crave the approval of people when the only approval they really need is that of God, and God likes them as just as He created them. God is more interested in seeing us honor Him in how we live our lives than how smart, big, strong, pretty, handsome, well-dressed, fast, or talented we are. Consequently, it is important for you to look to Christ for security, not to the opinions or impressions of other people.
SCRIPTURE IN ACTION: AN EXAMPLE
Lucia’s struggles with insecurity and self-doubt started in elementary school. Her classmates came from families higher up the economic ladder than hers. Consequently, they had nice clothes while Lucia had to alternate wearing the same couple of hand-me-down dresses to school every week, a fact that left her feeling embarrassed and inferior. Worse yet, her fellow students started school way ahead of Lucia academically. Lucia could not read at all when she started first grade, but most of her classmates already knew the alphabet and could even arrange letters into a few short words. They could also recognize certain words in books. When Lucia couldn’t do these things, the other students teased her unmercifully.
The insecurity and self-doubt that plagued Lucia in elementary school stayed with her a long time. Even as a successful adult, Lucia struggled with feelings of inferiority. No matter how well she dressed or how much recognition she received as an award-winning architect, at her core Lucia remained that forlorn little girl in elementary school wearing hand-me-down dresses and stumbling over the alphabet.
When Lucia was offered a partnership in the architectural firm where she worked—something her colleagues dreamed of—she hesitated and asked for time to think about it. Surprised by her reticence but aware of her undeniable contributions to the firm, the managing partner told Lucia to take the time she needed. What Lucia feared was the prospect of spending more time dealing with other architects, engineers, and high-powered clients. When alone in her office working on plans, Lucia was confident of her ability. But when interacting with people, she invariably reverted to being that rag-tag little girl her classmates teased unmercifully. Lucia had a ton of talent, but not an ounce of confidence.
Afraid of missing out on this chance of a lifetime because of insecurity and self-doubt, Lucia decide to have a talk with her pastor. Pastor Santiago knew Lucia well. They had grown up together and were lifelong friends. In fact, he was one of the few people in her first-grade class who didn’t tease her about how she dressed or being unable to read. Pastor Santiago told Lucia, “We have needed to have this talk for a long time, and I apologize for not initiating the talk myself. I was praying that with all the success you have had in your career you might have overcome your feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.
“Lucia, you are one of my oldest and dearest friends. Let me tell you some things I should have told you a long time ago, and please forgive me for taking so long.” The pastor told Lucia she could solve her problem with insecurity and self-doubt right then and there. All she had to do was stop looking for security and confidence in the wrong places. If she would obey the admonition in Philippians 4:6 to go to God in “prayer and supplication” Lucia would never have to be “anxious about anything” again. If she would internalize the message in Philippians 4:7 and look to the Lord for her security, Lucia could exchange her self-doubt right then for “the peace of God.”
“Lucia, 1 Peter 3:3 tells you to stop worrying about how you look on the outside. Then 1 Peter 3:4, tells you to concern yourself with the things of the inside such as your heart and spirit. Gain confidence from knowing God sees you from the inside out and is more interested in your heart and spirit than your clothing, hair, or jewelry. When your heart and spirit are in the right place with God, you will have all the confidence you need to interact with even the biggest of big-wigs.”
Lifelong feelings of inferiority don’t go away overnight, but Pastor Santiago gave Lucia what she needed to start the journey. She accepted the partnership in her architectural firm and soon proved her worth to the company by landing several substantial contracts. Once Lucia stopped worrying about how others viewed her, she was surprised to learn that they actually viewed her in the most positive of lights. As she continued to pray and supplicate herself before the Lord, Lucia’s confidence grew. Eventually, Lucia was able to overcome her feelings of inferiority and work confidently with people of all stripes because she looked to the Lord for her confidence, not to irrelevant comparisons with other people.
LESSONS FROM SCRIPTURE FOR YOUR DAILY WALK
To enhance your daily walk with the Lord, learn from Lucia’s experiences and the lessons from Scripture Pastor Santiago taught her. The first lesson Lucia had to learn is to stop fishing in the wrong pond. She was seeking confidence from the wrong source. Rather than allowing the impressions of other people to define how she felt about herself, Lucia had to learn to go to the Lord through prayer and supplication and ask him to provide the confidence she lacked (Philippians 4:6). Only when she did this would Lucia enjoy the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). The peace of God would, in turn, give her the confidence she needed to face the world on an equal footing.
Lucia had begun to feel inferior all the way back in elementary school when her clothing and academic development did not measure up to those of her classmates. She had to learn to stop concerning herself with the outer self (1 Peter 3:3) and start concerning herself with the inner self; her heart and spirit (1 Peter 3:4). While people might form their impressions, at least at first, on the basis of clothing, hair, and jewelry, God is more concerned with “the hidden person of the heart” and “with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” In the long run, so are people. Lucia had to learn that when she is in the right place with God concerning these things, she has no reason to feel inferior because “in God’s sight,” her heart and spirit are “precious” while her hair, jewelry, and clothing are not.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com