She was crying again, and it was probably the millionth time. I had seen her steal away. I knew what was happening. The cycle was all too familiar.
When I found her, she was trying to control her sobs. And in that moment, my compassion was waning. It wasn’t that I didn’t love her. This girl had been a dear friend to me. But I was tired, weary even, of the lies she told herself. Frankly, I didn’t think I could listen to them anymore.
She overflowed with self-hatred; her vitriol was dark and abusive as she described how she viewed herself: ugly, unlovable, and worthless. I held her as she cried, and then told her the truth: She was none of those things. She was a valued child of God. She was lovely, inside and out.
But the words fell on deaf ears once again. And finally, I had enough. I looked into her tear-filled eyes and spoke the truth: “You can choose to believe those terrible things, but they’re lies. Nothing I say will ever convince you. You have to believe what God says about you.”
I felt justified in my words, harsh though they seemed. But in the truest sense of irony, those words could have been spoken to me that same night, or over the ensuing decade, and they would have fallen on similarly deaf ears.
My dear friend’s struggle with her sense of worth was more obvious, true. She poured out her insecurities in words and, at times, within relationships. My struggle with my self-worth was more insidious, masked but present in a daily, internal battle of my thoughts.
Feelings of worthlessness have filled my being for as long as I can remember. Even as a girl, I consistently berated and abused myself within my mind. And I was sly, so sly, in my abuse. I categorized it as a corrective force, my conscience, or simply a desire to be honest with myself about my struggles.
But those were all convenient lies I had spun to keep from addressing the truth: I did not like who I was. I had no sense of self-worth; and I thought God had made a mistake when he created me.
After all, what could I offer this world? I was obnoxious, too emotional, too blunt, unattractive, unappealing, and untalented. I was a screw-up, someone whom people merely tolerated. I had no worth. That was the truth.
At least, that was the lie I had made into the truth. I had chosen to believe the vitriol I spewed internally rather than the words of God I memorized from the Bible for years.
It took years, a decade nearly, for me to understand the scope of how I was destroying myself. All the self-loathing culminated in me sobbing at my kitchen table at 27 years old.
In that moment, I grasped that no one on earth would ever be able to convince me of my worth. People could love me incredibly well, treat me with respect, and speak affirmation consistently. But I would always be on the lookout for the smallest gap in their actions to affirm the lies I told myself.
I had, even as a grown woman, bought wholeheartedly into the insidious lie that I was worthless.
I felt like I was dying inside—dying to understand that I was worth something.
I was just like my friend. I had spent years believing the lie. And finally, I had had enough.
So that fateful night, I cried out to God in desperation to enable me to believe, for the first time, the truth about myself.
I would like to say that I was magically cured of all my insecurities and feelings of worthlessness, but that would be another lie. True, I now see a more full picture of myself: that I am passionate, that my actions are largely amusing, not obnoxious, and that my emotions help me love people easily and deeply.
Every day that I wake up, I still have to make the choice to believe the truth rather than how I feel or what I think about myself that morning. Every day, I have to choose to correct or stop the vitriol within my mind. Every day, I have to ask for God’s strength to make those choices.
For whatever I may feel or tell myself, I am an intentional creation of God. Who I am was created for this time, this place, and these people around me. True, I am not perfect. But that does not mean I fall into the category of worthless.
So I will no longer beat myself up with my self-talk. If I wouldn’t say the same thing to a loved one, then I shouldn’t be saying it to myself.
If I could go back to that moment at 16 when I spoke to my friend, I would probably say the same words – though likely with a softer tone. She desperately needed to hear the truth, even though she couldn’t yet accept it. I would also look in the mirror and repeat those words to myself.
“Are you going to believe the truth about yourself, Bethany?”
And I would – because I am not worthless. Just like you are not worthless. And sometimes, just sometimes, we have to choose to believe what seems the lie—that we ARE, in fact, worth something—before we can discover the falsehood was something we spun ourselves.