Featuring her story on today’s episode of the Approval Addict’s Journal is a dear friend of mine, Nora Chukwunweike. Her testimony, a Shadow of Myself, reminds me of how merciful God can be especially when it comes to going the extra mile just to pull you back to Him. The words you speak matter and those little experiences you think are insignificant, play a significant role in who you have become today. I believe her testimony will be a source of encouragement to someone reading this right now.
A SHADOW OF MYSELF
Do you ever feel like you exchanged your self-confidence for the approval of others? I mean, the words of the people in your life mean so much to you that even with clear directions on what to do, you still need a nod from them as your go-ahead signal. Then just a little consolation friend, I feel you! You are not alone because I have been there too! I have so depended on people’s approval that I was left looking like a shadow of myself.
Most times, we crave to be appreciated by the people in our lives and those around us that we begin to lose ourselves in their words. Our desire for their affirmation causes us to follow their lead even when it is clearly leading us away from God. You bend your life so much to suit their taste, falling flat for their words sugar coated with flattery that you start losing your identity just to be a perfect blend of the image they had of me in their hearts. Deep down, you know this isn’t who you really are but you feel like a shadow of yourself.
The Approval Addiction left me looking like a shadow of myself.
There were times in my life that it seemed as though without people, I am dead. I was actually a shadow of myself. Their praises were like the air I breathe and their flattery was like fire in my bones, charging me up to do even more.
For me, I think it all started in when I was in Primary 6. I had to switch schools. Getting there, I looked at myself and was like, “What do I have to offer here? See all these smart kids! How do I compete?” Yes, it was competition for me because I felt like I needed to prove something. This feeling stemmed from the first encounter I had with the prefect of my class. He hit me hard on my back simply because I was sitting on the table and he felt he had a right to do so. I knew I didn’t deserve to be hit in such a manner so I asked in anger who he was to hit me in that manner. Turned out he was the prefect! He said, “Who are you? I am the prefect here and am in charge of this class. When I say sit down on the chair, you sit.” Such height of rudeness! This led to a silent tug of war. Unconsciously, I set out to prove that I was just as intelligent as him. In the real sense, I knew I had nothing to prove but bitterness wouldn’t let me. Little by little, the seed of validation from others, was sown.
Then secondary school came along. I thought I’d have it better but the seed of self-doubt I had sown previously was just starting to bear fruit. I always felt that I had nothing to offer. After all, I wasn’t as smart as others. But the funny thing about low self-esteem is that nobody but you knows what is going on behind the scenes – in your mind. Everyone thought I had this confident poise – an excellent carriage but only I knew how it really was. I wasn’t really proficient in Mathematics due to a lack of good foundational teaching so I felt I wasn’t “up-to-standard.” I kept telling myself, “These people are smart so just try and compete and see if you can match up.”
The Truth Is That No One Really Cared…
They didn’t even know how much I was beating myself up for not being good enough and how I always felt like I was in some sort of competition with them. That battle was going on in my head only and it left me really broken. A part of my self-esteem was chipped off every time I felt threatened by their success.
In many ways, I see how much I let the idea of other people being better than me make me look down on myself. One time in school, we had a maths teaser that was supposed to be solved in 5 minutes. Funny enough, I got the answer but the moment I turned to look at someone else’s, I canceled my work. Why? Because I wasn’t confident in what I had written and I felt she was better than me. The same person I just copied her work, asked me to show her mine so she could see. She said something to me that really stunned me; “Nora, be confident in yourself! You got it at first but you canceled it to copy my own…” I wasn’t really touched by her words rather I was surprised that I got the answer. I mean, who am I to get a solution to a problem correctly, right?
To be honest, I don’t think I had good thoughts about myself
I felt like I needed some sort of validation from those around me. For instance, I contested for a position in the school. I didn’t think I fit the profile so I start seeking out other people’s opinions. Actually, their opinions were more like fuel for me because I couldn’t do much if they didn’t validate me or so I thought… So, I went on to beg for votes – literally. Since I wasn’t confident enough to campaign properly, I told my friends to tell their friends and others to vote for me. After all, they said I could do it – I never thought I had it in me. Sometimes, I’d try to convince myself that I could win but my mind would tell me how better off the other person is than me. Such thoughts! Eventually, the day came and your guess is just as good as mine – I lost to someone else!
The whole thing just made me give up on myself completely – self-confidence wise. So whenever things were coming to me, I’d settle for the lesser one because I felt that’s all I deserved. People had all these ideas of me being so confident but I laughed because I knew it was quite the opposite. “Maybe they didn’t know what it meant to be confident”, I’d say to myself.
Along the line, my craving for a sense of belonging led me into a relationship that wasn’t meant to be.
Yeah, that was something I secretly craved for. I so badly wanted to feel like a part of something or someone. So, I stayed in the relationship no matter how frustrating it was. I was bent on proving a silly point and also because I felt I couldn’t have anything better than I already had. Oh! What a terrible decision it was. Daily in that relationship, I kept bearing the weight of being the man and the woman all at once – a role God never intended for me. I knew nothing about what a relationship was supposed to look like but I knew that it wasn’t anything like mine. It was as though I was desperately chasing after him because I felt if I lose him, I lose again. So, I kept in touch, doing most of what was required from a loyal girlfriend. It mattered to me that he didn’t call unless when he needed a favor but I stayed regardless. I was constantly lied to and treated like someone who didn’t have feelings. But I felt every bit of pain that the relationship brought upon me.
I kept being the loyal chick, helping him out in ways I could. Funny enough, I knew the Holy Spirit really didn’t approve of the relationship but I ignored Him. Yeah, I was that church girl who knew God knew his love and His Holy Spirit. I was born again, baptized in water and spirit [I could pray in tongues].Actually, I always knew He was there yet, I sought love and validation from everyone but Him. I neglected Him, seeking love from a source that was dry of a drop of love and care and I was drowned in the sea of brokenness. I tried so hard to keep up the relationship, but guess what? God will always do what he has to do to safeguard his children but mostly if they were willing. At a point, I got so exhausted that I stopped fighting hard and let God take control of the situation. I just needed to feel and embrace true love and He came in right on time.
Even though that was not my last relationship because I was just too stubborn and disobedient, but He was there, seeing me through it all and pulling me from pits I fell into till I found myself in Him. I may have come out all broken but Jesus restored me wholly.
How do you know you are an Approval Addict?
Well, you would just have to look at the signs and be willing to accept the truth when you recognize it. Approval addiction can lead to low self-esteem. Slowly, you begin to think lowly of yourself, constantly seeing others as better than you meanwhile you carry so much on the inside of you. Funny enough, people will misinterpret your attitude and start to think you are humble. Sweetheart, there is a difference between being humble and having a low self-esteem!
Being humble or rather humility means you know who you are; you are conscious of the fact that you are not just anybody but somebody – God’s Masterpiece. However, you choose not to be overtaken by pride but in all, you remain lowly at heart and in spirit. You are still willing to learn, be corrected, show love and kindness to others. But this does not in any way make you weak. You are still firm in your decisions and way of life. It’s very different for low self-esteem. Low self-esteem has to do your inability to recognize “you in you.” Even if you are told, you still do not see it. The worst feeling I have felt and I think anyone would feel is others seeing who you are and the anointing you carry and you being unable to see it. You can’t even catch a glimpse of it so it’s as good as they have seen nothing because you still see nothing good about yourself.
Low self-esteem can result in stubbornness and constantly be trying to prove a point. It can sometimes result in foolish pride because you are unwilling to learn, to be corrected and you refuse to show or accept love. Or fear – you feel like you are not good enough. You possess this mentality of “I can’t do this. It’s difficult for me. Don’t pick me, please. I know nothing oh. This other person is there and they can do it better…” You constantly downgrade yourself and the abilities God gave you… Bitterness, malice, envy, anger, jealousy, and strife are also some other results of low self-esteem. You just naturally find yourself feeling this way even when you don’t want to. It is usually because you don’t want to be overridden and those feelings are just frustrations looking for a way to express themselves.
From Me to You
The way you choose to address/perceive yourself is surely the way others will address you. Until you discover you, you cannot uncover the virtues you carry and the world can not know or experience you. They will always try to figure you out and they will give you their own definition and guess what?! You will accept it wholeheartedly because you’re still clueless about your true identity and what precious gifts and talents are deposited in you.
Friend, I was a loner. it seemed like I had friends but I had none. I remember when I used to say, my best friend is my pen and my book because no one understands me – not even me. You can imagine! So, if I don’t understand myself, who will? I suffered from depressions, mood swings often and in my room, I would switch off the light and cry… I would think of nonsense and irrelevant things and sleep off and wake up the next morning, only to continue the same chain. Life was just like a routine to me because I couldn’t explore me. Why? I was locked up in the box of misplaced Identity. I couldn’t find the right words for the question – “Who are you? What do you have to offer to the world?” Nothing was the only answer that stuck with me…
You Are Unique – His Masterpiece
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things…” Ephesians 2:10
You are unique – God’s very own masterpiece. There’s so much in you that the world has not seen yet. And if you keep letting others define you, there won’t be much left of the real you anymore. Another thing I realized was that I turned those low self-esteem questions into a research. I read books on self-discovery – good Christian books. I listened to messages too especially those by Myles Munroe. They went a long way in renewing my mind – changing the way I perceived myself and other things too.
However, no book can take the place of the Bible and the Holy Spirit as my teacher. I’ve been discovering myself in Him and I still am. Believe me, it’s been a sweet experience. Every day, I’m amazed at how much I’ve had deposited in me all along. One of the things I started doing that’s been so helpful is the quotes I write for myself, one of them being, “Nora is great. I must die empty and will never go to the grave with all my talents. I must make an impact.” Just one morning, I woke up with the nickname, following my new resolution to impact. Most people call me that now – Nora4Impact. Because of how much great work the Holy Spirit has been doing within me, I just go about with the mentality that I must bless lives and leave them with something even before I leave them or they leave me.
Word To Parents
My parents never knew I had such issue because I always put up a show in front of them of how confident I am. However, their constant words of encouragement helped me grow a lot. Their praises, prayers, and love played a big role in my life. My dad will always pray for me on my birthday and say, “You are a child of destiny, the world has not seen anything yet. Kings will come to the brightness of your rising. Nations will celebrate you.” When I realized how powerful these prayers were, it fired up confidence in me.
Please, parents and guardians, learn to encourage and pray for your children. Speak words that are life and light to them. The truth is that just one word can make or mar the destiny of your child, so speak the right words. Don’t curse them in anger no matter how ‘little’ the insult or curse is. Show them respect and value their decisions. That’s one thing my parents did too that made me realize I was important. My suggestions were always needed no matter how little it was. For instance, my mum would say, “Romie, what should we eat today? Do you like this clothing? Should I buy this or that?” This made me feel important and gradually, I built self-confidence. As caretakers, let us learn to raise our children in a godly and confident manner, instilling in them the “I know who I am and I can do it” mentality.
You are an emblem of ideas, great inventions, and possibilities. Please, don’t trade it off on the platter of approval addiction – doing others’ bidding at the expense of your own life. The fact that something is trending – others are doing it or perhaps, they cajole you into doing that same thing, doesn’t mean you are obligated to do it. You have a mind of your own and you have a voice as well. God put you as the chief controller of the affairs of your life. People’s opinion or affirmation will lead you nowhere. In fact, it will drain you and leave you depressed just like it left me looking like a shadow of myself.
That approval addiction will persist until you learn to define you and have a knowledge of who you are. This helped me a lot. But you can only know that by the help of the Holy Spirit. So, get to know the Holy Spirit! He is everything you will ever desire and need. You can break free [say that to yourself]. Yes, you can!!! You are priceless and you have the capacity to manage your life. You can be your own influencer! Let Jesus take the wheel so He can show you what direction to go. Please, stop seeking the approval of the men in your life. Their words are not facts neither are they the absolute truth. If you choose to live your life this way, you will end up where you never saw yourself going. Don’t build your life solely on what others do and say. Take charge of your life and remember, you owe God an account of it, not just Him but yourself too. Live so that at the end of your life, you will say to yourself and God especially, “Indeed, I have lived”
You are very important personality. I celebrate you!!!
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Nora Chukwunweike, A Christian poet, writer, worshipper and the Ministry Director at Repairers of the Breach, is passionate about encouraging teens and single women for Christ. Her major goal in life is to spread the love of Christ Jesus. In her own words, she’s just a lady trying to love the Holy Spirit. You can connect with her via her Facebook page @Repairersofthebreach or her personal account, Nora Chukwunweike.