I’m in counseling. There. I said it. It’s not really a secret but it still feels a little weird to just put it out there like that on the World Wide Web. I’ve had to grow quite a bit to get to a place where I was okay with the idea of therapy. But after a lot of prayer and encouragement and assurance that counseling is not just for people with severe mental disorders, but for all of us to help process and deal with life, I finally called a trusted friend and asked for a recommendation. (Mini moral #1– Go to counseling. Even if you have the tiniest of inklings that you should. If you were sick, you’d go to the doctor. And we all need mental health help. Just do it. And if you wouldn’t go to the doctor if you were sick, you probably need therapy.)
That was in July of last year, and my first scheduled appointment was August 6, the day after I turned 37. It also happened to be 3 days after we got my dad’s stage four cancer diagnosis, but I didn’t know that would be the case when I made the appointment. Talk about God’s timing.
The truth is that my first counselor didn’t really work out. It was a chemistry thing I guess. But my people pleaser tendencies that I was trying to work through in therapy were also what kept me from breaking up with her. Is that the definition of ironic? I think so. But all that is a story for another time.
When my grandfather got sick in October and I had to care for him full time, I took a break from counseling. I recently started back up with someone new, whom I’ll call Sweetie. It’s a better fit with Sweetie. I feel safe and secure. She comes across as knowledgable and wise and caring without being pompous or condescending. (Mini moral #2– It’s okay to shop counselors. This is a serious connection with another human and they’re going to help you with intimate life details. The chemistry needs to be right.)
That was a pretty long prologue, but I think you need to know what it took to get me to where I was last Wednesday, sitting in Sweetie’s office, feeling like I was making so. much. progress. And then, just like that, she said a few things that had me sobbing. It’s like when you go to the doc and he pushes around on you and asks you to tell him if something hurts. Only Sweetie was pushing around on my heart, and I didn’t see the hurt coming.
The thing that took me out– she asked me if I believed I was worthy. Worthy of attention. Worthy of belonging. Worthy of connection. Worthy of love. I said of course I did. Because I did. Or at least my brain had convinced me I did.
And then she oh so gently and out of love tore me open with her words– “Your actions would indicate that you don’t really believe that.” I looked at her incredulously, almost angry. I hadn’t felt that way toward Sweetie before, but now she was questioning something that I believed to be part of my solid core. Of course I believed that I was worthy. I love Jesus, and he loves me, and he died for me, and he says I’m worthy, so I’m worthy dagnabbit.
“What… actions?” I asked with as much graciousness as I could muster. (This may also be a good time to mention that I suffer from Betrayal Face. It’s a condition where my facial expressions betray each and every thought and feeling I have on the inside. There’s currently no known treatment or cure.)
“Well, just based on what you’ve shared, you sometimes struggle to take care of yourself. You seek other’s approval over your own. You feel anxious about disappointing people and agree to things you don’t really want to do. You second guess your choices. And you say you’re not sure who you are unless it’s relative to your people around you. If you say you believe you’re worthy, I believe you. It’s just that those actions line up with someone who struggles with her worthiness.”
“Well, when you put it that way…” is what I would have said if I wasn’t bawling my eyes out. She’d found a place where it hurt. (Mini moral #3– Pay attention to the hurts, physical and emotional. They’re pointing you to something that’s wrong.)
I’ve spent the last week wondering if it’s true. That I don’t believe I’m worthy. That my insecurities are a symptom of the greater problem of unworthiness. If my actions are an overflow of my heart and are to be trusted more than the things I try and tell myself, it would appear that Sweetie is right– my spirit struggles to believe I’m worthy.
At this point in the post is where I wish I could tie this up neatly with a bow for you. Wish I could tell you that I’ve done a lot of soul searching and God-talking-to and Spirit-whisper-listening and I have had the spiritual epiphany of a lifetime. That if you’re someone who struggles with people pleasing and insecurity and feelings of unworthiness like I do, then you should just do A, B, and C, and you’ll be all better. But, I can’t tell you that. I’m still wrestling with the dissonance between my head and my heart myself… I’m still in the thick of it. Although, I’m not sure I’ll ever have a secret formula to share with you. I’m not sure God works that way. He wants your heart- all of it- and he wants to work with you on what matters. I’ll keep doing the hard work with God and with Sweetie, and I’ll keep you posted if any earth-shattering epiphanies surface, or even if they don’t.
Shortly after my appointment, I was sharing with my mom, whom I’m very close to, what an eye opener it was for me to realize that I operate from this place of worthlessness, and she kind of looked at me with a shocked look on her face. “You mean, you didn’t know that about yourself?”
I looked at her. “You did??”
“Well, yeah. I just thought you knew too.”
What about you? Does your head tell you one thing, but your heart and actions tell a different story? Do you struggle with feelings of insecurity and worthiness like I do? Or maybe for you, it’s different… maybe you struggle with fear, control, approval, comparison. Or maybe you don’t even know you struggle with it yet because our brains are just so stinkin’ good at convincing us that everything is okay.
Even though I can’t wrap this up in a pretty little bow, I can give you Mini Moral #4, one of the few things that I know to be true– Feelings lie. Jesus doesn’t. I may not feel worthy, but that doesn’t mean it’s true. What is true is what God says about me.
And he says I am loved. valuable. chosen. free. beautiful. his kid. accepted. redeemed. worthy. And he says you are too.