If there was any weakness that was almost synonymous with any young person, it would be insecurity. Following close would be identity crisis, which incidentally is birthed from insecurity. Growing up with a Sanguine personality, I am able to identify with youths (and adults alike) who struggle with this problem. I can offer little solution except my own – I found my security in God, who doesn’t just doesn’t change (get it?), but is also constant. This helps me to trust in Him, knowing that at the end of the day, He alone makes me whole and He alone is completely in control of what’s going on, even when things feel as though it will come crumbling down. I can’t speak for every insecure person, but these were some of the things I did when I was younger, as a defence mechanism against the ugliness and unpleasantness of insecurity. Maybe it’d strike a chord with you?
1. I ranked friends and always moved their positions based on how they treated me.
2. I rushed in and out of relationships for I was afraid of being single and lonely.
3. I took great pains to look good and spent lots of time enhancing my appearance.
4. I spent lots of money on material items to stay “ahead” of the crowd – to be first.
5. I did and said things to attract attention because I wanted to be in the limelight.
6. I picked on and poked fun at people who were weaker and slower than I was.
7. I manipulated people’s feelings to make myself feel good and better than others.
8. I hid behind an ego and always needed to prove to others how good I was.
9. I was extremely possessive of my friends and my status in their lives.
10. I was afraid to tell others my flaws so they won’t change their impression of me.
11. I gave in willing and compromised to make people happy so that I’d be accepted.
12. I hid behind humour and found great comfort in being the funny and witty guy.
13. I could never ever deal with awkward silences in conversations, so I talk non-stop.
14. I hated it when people scorned or slammed my ideas – I couldn’t handle rejection.
15. I was always on the defensive (and offensive) whenever people questioned me.
16. I was bossy and always needed to be in control of every situation, regardless.
17. I thrived on people’s approval (of me, or the things I did) and sought mainly that.
18. I hated losing and constantly needed to be in pole position in any competition.
19. I criticised others when they criticised me even when they were faultless.
20. I emotionally blackmailed those whom I loved so I could control them.
I know this is supposed to be a top ten list but listing all these things came so naturally I had to double the quota. I may be in my mid-twenties already and I may be a church leader, but I’m still a wretched human being with an abundance of weaknesses. I’d be the first to raise my hand and to admit that I’m still struggling (and may continue to struggle with it all my life!) with some of these symptoms. However, the older I get, the more battles I win against insecurity, the more I am convinced that the grace of God is the only solution for this perennial problem. Next week, I will post the top ten recommended scriptures one could commit to memory and use to counter insecurity. It is my prayer that we break this bondage in our lives in the victory that comes with Jesus Christ!
Singapore has world-class education system – that I do not deny. My scholastic abilities have been tuned by my learning environment (observe the careful choice of words) and I’d like to think a big part of my confidence and street-smartness (or some would say arrogance) comes from a decade spent in ACS. However, if I had a choice, I’d rather not raise my children in a local school and if I had the resources, I’d rather home-school my kids; I do not want to subject them to the unnecessary and poisonous culture of the education system here – where students somehow feel that they are never quite good enough.
Our academia has changed considerably – some would consider it progress, some see it as regress and for a few others, digress; I belong to the third group. I think that we’re missing the point of education, really. We should teach people how to think not what to think. Today’s students are subjected to a lot more pressure and stress – that doesn’t come from themselves but primarily from their parents and secondarily from their peers. The desire to improve themselves is shrouded by external motivations instead being influenced by internal drives.
I’ve always opined that pride is not about wanting to be the best – there’s nothing wrong with that – but pride is about wanting to be better than someone else. There’s an element of covetousness in pride, where the desire to better oneself sprouts from the obsession to outdo others. We’ve heard it time and again – a student could far outperform himself and score a 60% in a test (and achieve his all-time highest score) but this joy is somewhat short-lived; his initial delight soon plummets into despair when he begins to compare his results with a classmate that scored 70%. The process is transferred to the next dimension and (if you pardon the direct translation of the old Chinese adage) there always seems to be a higher mountain that is insurmountable. Where does it stop? Before you know it, these students return home to mourn about their oh-so-terrible score when they should instead rejoice over their progress made. There’s no end to this vicious cycle of self and societal inflicted torment. No wonder suicide cases related to academic pressures have risen sharply over the years.
Achievements and successes are all relative – hence it is imperative that we manage our expectations and chart our progress on a realistic rate. Today, you should ask yourself if you are competitive or comparitive. There’s nothing wrong with benchmarking yourself against the best to gauge and improve your own abilities and thresholds. But once you begin to compare and slide into the venomous glance-over-your-shoulder behaviour, you inevitably welcome self-destruction and a never-ending pursuit of nothingness. We are all different – get used to the idea. To those who have more, more is expected of them. Learn to be comfortable with yourself and realise that if you want to be someone else, who’s going to be you?
When I stroll down memory lane, I don’t seem to ever recall a time that I wanted to be better than someone else because I realised that I’m constantly waging war with my own insanely high standards (again, this is a relative statement). To an extent, I seem to allow no one to determine how good or how bad I can and will be. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I’m an ambitious person and I effort to bring out the best of my gifts and talents by being excellent in all that I undertake, but in the event that my desired outcomes do not materialise, I have learnt to trust God for the lessons learnt in temporal failure and postponed success. I realised that I’ve always secretly (but confidently) trusted God for the results, for God was the origin of my desires and ambitions. Either way it turns out, I already know that God, being efficacious, has a lesson in store for me to learn; I believe that He has pre-prepared different packages of lessons for every single different outcome.
I urge you to be wary of the poisonous standards of this world, where it tells you that being contented with your lot is apparently mediocrity. A subscription to these worldly values often results in worldly remorse and regret – that’s not biblical or victorious living at all! Know that with Jesus, we fight from victory and not for victory. Be comfortable with who God has created you to be for your strengths complements someone else’s weaknesses and vice-versa – that’s how the body of Christ works. Everyone plays a different role and is a different jigsaw in the puzzle of life – never let this world determine how you should live and what should make you happy. May your spirit be acutely tuned to the dangers that inescapable and obligatory academic excellence brings.
So what if you finally become the best and better than everyone else? What’s next? At the end of the day, it’s all meaningless. It doesn’t make you better than anyone else, really. The antidote then, to competition and comparison, is contentment.