Most of us at one time or another have fallen victim to someone who constantly tears us down. It may be subtle or it may be overt, but with people like that, it’s constant. The biggest problem with it is it’s a vicious circle. Even if you start out feeling OK about yourself, it’s hard not to believe you’re stupid, worthless, ugly, or whatever else they harp on when that’s all you hear. When we find the courage (or reach our breaking point) to extract ourselves (some people never find that courage), we start off with a lower opinion of ourselves than when we started. That leads us to the next person who wants to prey on our emotions.
I grew up in a loving family with parents that cared about me. But somehow, I still ended up being very insecure about myself. When I was younger I thought I was fat (and really wasn’t), thought I had a big nose, and my teeth were screwed up. I wouldn’t smile. As I got a little older my hair fell out and that just added one more thing to the list. I never felt smart. I grew up in an overachieving family that put an emphasis on education and reading. I hated reading so 99% of the time at the dinner table, I had no idea what was being discussed.
Those beliefs about myself didn’t really change as I left high school. I still felt like the chubby, ugly, nerdy kid when I got to college. Then I met my first girlfriend. She was an angry, abusive alcoholic, but I stayed with her. I was SURE that she was crazy to like me, because I never really thought a woman would like me. No matter what I did for her, it was never enough. She was constantly angry (and drunk). Life circumstances outside of my control ended that relationship. God working in mysterious ways, I’m convinced.
The next person I really fell for was a user. A manipulator. A selfish, narcissistic woman with absolutely no ethics or morals. I didn’t see it at all at the time, because once again, I was SHOCKED that a woman liked me. Now I know she didn’t like me, she just liked that I would do what she said. She would always look for an upgrade, even if I was with her. She would make plans with me as a backup and then if someone else called she’d ditch me, usually 5 minutes before we had planned to go out. I was her puppy, because I didn’t value myself.
That trend continued and I kept finding people who would manipulate me. I’m was always terrible at recognizing manipulation and even to this day, I don’t see it even when it’s right under my nose. I’m fortunate enough to have people around me now that are willing to point it out and say “Incredipete, you realize they’re manipulating you, right?” Once it’s pointed out, I can see it, and it makes me angry. I’m a nice, generous person, and the fact that people can take advantage without one iota of guilt ticks me off to no end.
But ironically, I can see it clearly when other people are being manipulated or mistreated. That makes me even more angry than when it’s done to me. Lately I’ve started taking up for people when I see it happening. It’s probably none of my business most of the time, but I know how much I appreciate it when someone points it out to me. People who take without any thought for the other person, people who degrade someone so that they can control them, people who convince people that they’re worthless… I find it repulsive.
The Bible says “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” in Genesis 1:27. If that’s the case, then we all have innate value, and no one is ugly or worthless. 1 Samuel 16:7 says “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I’ve met a lot of beautiful people who were ugly on the inside. I’ve met a lot of not so pretty people who were beautiful.
A pastor was the one that finally got me over the hump a few years ago. He went through the scriptures and helped me to get past the self-contempt that comes from the devil, not from God. It was still a process, and I still felt like I had to take steps to be the best I could be (going back to school, taking a little pride in how I dress and groom, etc.), but in the end I felt like I deserve to be happy.
After all the years of letting others control, manipulate, and tear me down, God has finally put a woman into my life that is beautiful, inside and out. Her care and compassion for others amazes me. The way she parents her daughter with so much love and patience inspires me. Her independence blows my mind. And the amount of hard work she does each and every day makes me feel like a total couch potato. I can’t wait to marry this girl.
Proverbs 31:10-12 “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” V26-31 “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.’ Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done.”