Note to self: Stop beating yourself up

Lots of thoughts ahead. If you’re into the Enneagram (and especially if you’re a Four) or if you battle self-worth, this post is for you. Be encouraged, friend. You aren’t alone.

Hello, my name is Abby and I’m a Jesus-lover — and a sinner.

Being an Enneagram Four, I never lose an opportunity to do one of three things: beat myself up over the smallest mistakes; transform an ugly experience into a beautiful one; give myself (scars and all) wholly to others for their examination, no matter the consequences. In most situations, I simply don’t know how to go halfway in any of those areas.

Endearing… and pretty darn stupid, right?

Here’s the other thing about being a Four: We learn an awful lot from our mistakes because we walk through and not around them. Pain is never something to avoid. It’s very easy for Fours to take this too far. We’ll willingly inflict pain on ourselves emotionally, mentally and physically, anything to help explain the loss we’re feeling. That’s why no one else needs to punish us; we’re already kicking ourselves. Hard.

There’s a lot of good, too. Fours have a unique ability to meet people in their pain and offer empathy. We understand loneliness and disappointment. To me, at least, those dark times make light all the more welcome. Even when a relationship or situation would be beyond repair for others, Fours will transform it into something truly beautiful. Where there is deep sadness there is also overwhelming joy — the two go hand-in-hand. For a healthy Four, that joy is paramount. It is characterized by expansive, unconditional grace, creativity and understanding. It voids the impact of smaller injuries and leaves plenty of room for forgiveness and selflessness.

The constant battle for truth

Everyone battles something. Pride, arrogance, self-sufficiency, addictions of all kinds. Along with countless others, I’m in a constant battle for self-worth. I have a very low opinion of myself; I was born believing that there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. That belief is never more than one thought away and it tends to creep in when I least expect it, even when things are going well. Especially when it comes to dating relationships (but really relationships of all kinds) I expect the other person to finally “see me for how I truly am” and reject me.

Here’s the problem: I don’t know what I expect them to see and subsequently reject. I didn’t smoke marijuana in high school. I don’t sleep around or drink anything more exciting than sparkling grape juice. I don’t have tattoos or piercings to mark less-mature versions of myself. No bizarre habits or deep emotional scars from my childhood. I didn’t even start listening to pop music until college… and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an R-rated movie besides The Passion of the Christ.

So what do I expect people to reject? I don’t know, my internal voice whispers, but there’s definitely something wrong with you so buckle up. If you sign up to love someone, anyone, expect to have a broken heart. Expect them to give up on you.

As a result, I write that narrative into almost all intentional relationships, the ones that go deeper than surface-level pleasantries. When the person gets preoccupied with other people and responsibilities, when they take six hours to respond to a text, when they brush past me at the office or a restaurant, I instinctively make assumptions. I knew it, that little voice says, I knew it all along. This was inevitable.

I’m not a clingy person, but in those uncertain moments, I’ll trade good sense for panic. I’ll send frantic texts as I try to sort out what exactly I did wrong and how I can fix things. And I’ll let in you in on a secret: it rarely works out.

That uninformed narrative does two things. It perpetuates a lie I believe about myself; it also gives the other person zero grace to be human, too.

These are the lies I’ve told myself and patterns I’ve lived for so long… maybe you’re there, too. We can’t just snap our fingers and break the cycle. What it comes down to is this: We need to be tired of lying. I even know that they’re lies, and I’m fully aware of the truth. So what needs to change for us to experience the freedom we’re intended for?

Creating space for transformation

Probably the best part about being a Four is our ability to transform terrible experiences into breathtaking ones. No darkness is too dark, no frustration too absolute. There is always and forever a glimmer, and more often a buttery golden ray, of unadulterated hope.

When it comes to self-worth, the worst thing is to allow our worth to depend on anyone other than God. People are great; I love my people. But like me, they are changeable and moody and have bad days. Unlike me, God never changes. He proclaims that everything He makes is good… including yours truly. Aside from allowing others to define our worth, the second worst thing we can do is listen to our own thoughts. Replace lies with the truth; put Scripture and the thoughts of older, wiser humans in your mind, instead:

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? – Matthew 6:25-27

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. – 2 Peter 1:3-8

And truth like this:

I am doing my best and it is enough. – @allyfallon

Most of us don’t even really change over the years. But some of us, a few of us, we show up and breathe and we get the littlest bit better at grace. Enduring the unendurable. Making space for blessings as they come. And eventually we are soft but also strong. When someone comes at us, we don’t cut them. When we fall, we do not shatter into a million pieces. – @allyfallon

Your body was carefully created. Stop criticizing it. Start caring for it. – @shepodcast

Belonging and choosing; nearness with each other is valuable because it’s not immediate, but created by honesty and time. – @emilynystrom

You don’t come to understand pain or difficulties by painting over them and pretending they aren’t there. You come to understand them by admitting they are real and writing them on the page or into the script. @andrealucado

And so we choose to dwell on all this good, solid gold stuff as much as we can. @imkristen_

The last action step we can take is, perhaps, the hardest one. The present (how things are right now, good or bad) must be enough. No fantasizing about what might be, no trying to explain the past or find answers in the future. Just live now and be still. Let silence and distance work to your advantage.

And then let the experience, the relationship be transformed. There’s no quick-fix here, though. It’s a day-by-day process that takes intentional (and hard) work.

As a Four, I can’t ignore my problems. I have to tackle them head-on, every single one. What I can learn to do, though, is confront myself with grace. And declare that I will build my life upon His love; it is a firm foundation. That I will put my trust in Him alone, and not be shaken. Declare those truths every 60 seconds, if I must, until they become my first thought in the morning and last thought at night.

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