(Photo art courtesy of Zondervan)
The Core of Insecurity
Excerpted from “Killing Comparison” by Nona Jones (Copyright © Sept 27, 2022). Used with permission from Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
Savannah and her dad drove me home after the game. I waved back at them as I opened my front door and they pulled away into the night. I walked quickly to my bedroom, closed the door, sat on my bed, and stared into the mirror leaning against the wall across from me. That morning, just sixteen hours earlier, I had smiled into that mirror as I smoothed out the new jean skirt I had been so proud to wear. Even though my stomach had bulged beneath the material and fat rolls spilled over my belt, I left for school feeling good about myself. Now the same mirror that had reflected my joy reflected something entirely different. There was nothing in that mirror worth smiling about. Tears flowed as I saw what Nathan saw. He was right. I knew in my head that I was more than just a body, but my heart told me that nobody could possibly want the person carrying this body around.
At the core of insecurity is the need to be worthy. When we feel worthy, we feel wanted and valued, but when a void of worthiness leaves us feeling unwanted, we become insecure. We allow others to tell us what to think about ourselves, and we see ourselves as worthy only to the extent that others agree or disagree.
Now when I look back at the incident with Nathan at the football game, I can see that his reaction was simply a manifestation of his own desire to be worthy in the eyes of his friends. Before he said those hurtful words, he noticed his friends were laughing at him. Now that I understand how important friends’ approval is to a teenager, I can imagine that when Nathan’s friends laughed at him, his confidence was shaken. He lashed out at me because his hurt stirred the insecurity in his own heart.
The saying “hurt people hurt people” is true because hurt people have insecure, vulnerable hearts. When an insecure heart feels that its fragile identity is threatened, it attacks the source of the threat. The night of the football game, the negative attention Nathan received from his friends was a threat to his identity. He probably wondered what it meant about him if a fat girl rejected his touch. He was handsome and athletic, the type of guy who had no problem getting a girl’s attention. So if a girl who was overweight didn’t want him, what did that make him? His belief that he was a ladies’ man was challenged, so he attacked me and put me down to restore his momentarily shaken belief.
This insight has allowed me to look back on the football game incident and have compassion for Nathan, but it took me many years to get to that place. His words and the words of many others affected me deeply, which is how I’ve come to understand that what we believe in our minds doesn’t matter as much as what we believe in our hearts.
Maybe you’re like me and have heard sermon after sermon affirming your value in Christ, but the words sailed into your ear and floated aimlessly around the ocean of your mind, never making their way to your heart. When toxic beliefs are entrenched in our hearts, memorizing Scriptures about our awesomeness isn’t enough to change them. This is why I want you to pause and take a moment to consider what you believe about yourself.
When you make a mistake, what do you think? When you’re afraid, what do you tell yourself? When you feel abandoned, what do you believe? It is the talk track running through your mind and heart that exposes what you believe, so take a moment to reflect on what you believe before moving to the next chapter.
Just as the hand of a body can create safety and security or create harm and insecurity, so does the hand of a tongue.
What we believe in our hearts matters more than what we know in our minds.
That which is insecure is vulnerable.
Thoughts don’t lead to actions unless you believe them to be true.
At the core of insecurity is the need to be worthy.
Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1–3)
Father, help me to identify the toxic thoughts I have allowed into my heart. Help me to discern the toxic lies that were spoken over me so many times that I started to believe they were true. Help me to see myself through your eyes and to know I lack nothing.
As time and space allowed me to prayerfully reflect on what Nathan said, I grew to have compassion for him because I realized his reaction was rooted more in embarrassment than malice. As you consider the people who have spoken toxic, hurtful words over you, remember that “hurt people hurt people,” and allow yourself to extend compassion to them if for no other reason than not wanting to become like them.