“Every woman I’ve ever met feels it – something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is. I am not enough, and, I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough, not gracious enough, not disciplined enough. But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong, too opinionated, too messy.” *
I first read this passage a couple of years ago, but it has come back to mind many, many times since then. At times it is a soothing balm, at others a hopeless fate. There is something both liberating and terrifying in hearing that all women feel this way.
It is freeing to know that I am not alone, that if women were prone to talking about these things, other women would understand. We don’t talk about it, of course, we’re all certain that it’s just our own self feeling this way, embarrassed to admit to what we see as a circular failure.
On the other hand, it is terrifying to realize that it’s not just me. A problem particular to an individual, or even to a certain kind of person, would suggest that there is a solution, a remedy. If all women have succumbed to this struggle, it stands to reason that the solution is difficult or, worse, there isn’t one at all.
I’ve been going back and forth like this lately. Wavering in my decision as to whether I am just not good enough, or if I am too much entirely to expect anyone too be able to put up with me.
While I could share many examples, this endless back-and-forth is especially evident to me in my relationship with my boyfriend. I tell myself that I am not good enough for him, that he deserves much more than I can offer. I tell myself that I am much too difficult of a personality, with far too much baggage for him to ever be able to stick it out for long. I have no idea whether or not he has any idea this war wages within, I imagine he just chalks it up to general moodiness.
“The result is Shame, the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.”*
I convince myself that, while I am in love with him, he can’t really love me in return because who could? I tell myself it’s only a matter of time before he leaves me. When I’m not falling for that line, I’m listening to myself say that even if he does stay with me, he won’t ever really be happy.
That’s when I remember the passages in this book and am soothed. If what’s going on inside of me is universal thinking, it can’t be truth.
I don’t have any of the answers to how to break this cycle of thinking. I am confident that there is a way out, hidden in Christ, but I don’t claim to be anywhere close to finding it.
I will say, though, that when I battle myself to the ground with my own thinking, I remember the next passage and press onward despite myself.
“We can’t wait until we feel safe to love and to invite. In fact, if you feel a little scared, then you’re probably on the right path. Of course it’s scary. It’s vulnerable. It’s naked. God calls us to stop hiding, to stop dominating, to trust him, and to offer our true selves.” … “He will give no guarantee that others will enjoy us and respond well. In fact, we can be sure that there will be times when they do not. In those moments or seasons when that happens to us, God’s invitation is to bring out sorrow to him. Not to shut down with, I’ll never try that again. But to keep our hearts open and alive.”*
* Quotes are taken from the (amazing) book Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge