I used to be the picture of insecurity. I was consumed with my appearance and others’ opinions. When giving a speech in English class my heart would pound and my voice would waver so much I could barely talk. If someone sitting behind me laughed, I knew it had to be about me. I even went through a few months when I would involuntarily blush a nasty beet-red color in the middle of class for no apparent reason, then rush to the bathroom to let it subside. My mind was a place of self-doubt and over-analyzing everything.
Now, I’m happy to say I’ve mastered my insecurities and I love myself in all situations!
Just kidding. Obviously.
But by God’s grace, I have gained some confidence. It hurts to look back on where I was. I want to tell my 16-year-old self that it gets better.
I don’t know where you’re at on the ‘confidence meter.’ You may have struggles and reasons for worry that far surpass my experiences. I asked my Facebook and Instagram friends what they struggle with when it comes to confidence, and all your answers were so honest. It’s humbled me to see just a sample of the things you work through. So, no, I’m not the expert. But I do think we can all use a little encouragement in this area. Here are six ideas for building confidence that have proven helpful in my life:
1. Challenge your thoughts. Confidence is largely a game of the mind, because each small thought comprises our self-image. We cannot permit every whim and concern to make a home in our heads! If we do, we’ll be tossed about in a load of uncertainty. Instead, we have the power to challenge unhealthy thoughts with logic and truth.
2. Speak kindly about others. How we talk about other people influences how we think about ourselves. I’ve experienced this. When I make fun of people and nitpick their weaknesses or quirks, I become more critical about myself, too. Gossip and mean words create a culture of harshness. Luckily, the opposite is also true! When I compliment others and say good things behind their backs, I’m more likely to see the good in myself as well.
3. Do something scary. When I think about the hard things I’ve done, I can see how they’ve grown my confidence: moving to college, helping a research team, doing YouthWorks, etc. Each step, big or small, has shown me that I’m capable of more than I thought I was. It’s helped me look to the future with more bravery and a belief that God is always with me. Every time you dismiss fear and do something hard, your confidence grows.
4. Accept the core of your personality. This applies to introverts, extroverts, and everyone in between. I’ve found that you cannot change this. I fought against my introversion for many years, seeing my quietness and gentleness as something to overcome. I thought I needed to change before I could feel free and happy. The problem wasn’t my personality, though. It was my unhealthy mind. I’ve since learned to embrace my core, while not letting it cage me in. (Here is a related blog post!) Learn to accept and build on your personality, and you won’t be endlessly fighting against it!
5. Believe what God says about you. You will never healthfully overcome insecurity without believing what the Creator says about you. God’s opinion matters most, because he intimately knows every part of you: the beautiful, the sinful, and the painful. He paid the greatest sacrifice to know and be with you. The Bible is full of examples of God’s love for us, and how carefully and beautifully he made us. Our confidence comes not from outward appearances, but from the amazing spiritual realities we see in the Bible. Another key thing is that we do not journey through life alone. When there is a hard decision, painful season, or confusing time, God is always there to help and guide us.
6. Give yourself time and grace. This whole thing is a long road. There will be days where you feel like you’ve ‘made it,’ only to be followed by days when you want to curl into a ball. I know it because it’s been true in my life! But take a deep breath. It’s okay that you have struggles, and it is so, so important that you give yourself time and grace to grow.
So, friend, I hope these tips have helped you in some way. I am overjoyed and humbled that you take the time to read these posts!
A year ago, I was preparing to do the most daring, crazy thing I’ve ever done. I was moving to Vermont to lead mission trips with YouthWorks all summer. It was a wild decision for this introvert for many reasons. I didn’t know anyone I’d be working with. I also knew leading large groups of middle and high schoolers (without previous experience in this age group!) would be a challenging job. And I wouldn't see my family, friends, or Brian for months.
I was jumping into this wild adventure with no assurance that I would enjoy it or even succeed at it. However, I knew I had gotten the job for a reason. I was trying to trust that God had a plan for it.
Somehow, when the time came to leave, I packed a giant suitcase and went to the airport with my family and Brian. Saying goodbye was not easy. I forced myself to emotionally detach from the situation as we took pictures together, said last goodbyes, and hugged. I held back the floodgate of tears dying to burst forth, because I needed to retain my vision as I entered the security line.
I had two flights that day and ended up in Pittsburgh for a week of training. It truly felt unreal, and I couldn’t have done it without the support from my family. It was one of the hardest days of my life.
But I am sooooooo glad I got on that plane and went.
The summer was incredibly challenging, yes. It pushed me and grew me and frustrated me every single day. But looking back, I can’t imagine not having gone. Yesterday, I looked through all the pictures, cards, notes, and keepsakes from the summer, and I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for all that I learned through it.
I want this little story to push you to do the hard things you feel led to. Maybe you’re considering applying for a challenging job, starting a big project, or even starting a deeper conversation with a coworker. I encourage you to prayerfully go for it! Here are 5 reasons to do hard things:
1. It forces you to trust God.
Jumping into something that is obviously beyond your own ability forces you to lean on God's strength. I saw my weakness and tendency to worry in full color last summer, but also experienced God’s kindness and power in me. I prayed so many times, “I cannot do this, God. Help me.” And he did! He delights in leading us and loving us in our weakness. This beautiful verse really spoke to my need for His guidance as I prepared to leave:
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. -Isaiah 42:16
2. It reveals where you’ve been limiting yourself.
I’ve limited myself with the label of ‘introvert’ countless times. I’ve told myself that I hate talking in front of people, that doing new things scares me, and that I’m awkward and bad at meeting new people. But last summer, I did a whole lot of that stuff. Every day. And slowly, I began to realize that I could be good at it! You are capable of far more than you think, I promise.
3. It teaches you new skills and lessons.
My summer gave me some weird new skills, like dividing 70 people into service teams based on the size of their vans, or making 13 pounds of taco meat. It also taught me deeper lessons, like the beauty of unity between diverse people, the satisfaction of helping people, and the joy found in talking to nursing home residents. These are things I could have missed if I stayed home! There’s no predicting what lessons and skills a new experience could bring you.
4. It *could be* a lot of fun!
Will your step of courage end up being awesome? Maybe. Despite the hard stuff in my summer, I absolutely loved my team, the work we did, and all the silly and adventurous things in between. However, I realize that all ‘new things’ you do might not be enjoyable. You might decide ‘never again!’ You just never know what the experience could be like!
5. You get to remember God’s faithfulness. No matter how things end up, after doing something hard, you get to remember how God showed up and came through for you. Instead of remembering how amazing your performance was or how self-assured it’s made you, you get to attribute it all to the Lord. My YouthWorks summer has become one more item in my list of how God has shown his faithfulness to me.
So, whether you’re contemplating a life-changing decision or a small step, don’t let hard things scare you away. There is a ton of value in doing what you think you cannot.
Want to read more about my summer with YouthWorks? Here are links to those posts!
A Life Update: My Summer Plans!
My First 3 Weeks with YouthWorks (+ Pictures!)
Church Groups Finally Came to Rutland! (+ Pictures)
25 Random Things I Learned in Rutland
My Christmas break has been pretty easygoing. I’ve been home for three days: spending time with family, baking like crazy, wrapping presents, going to my siblings’ basketball games, and reading. Almost 100% stress-free!
The thing is, the simplicity of home and the easy rhythms of a break quiet everything in me, even the spiritual. My need for God feels less obvious when I’m not busy. It’s easy to feel indifferent.
That’s why I’m so glad that I read Colossians 1 yesterday. It startled me back to reality. Here’s an amazing section of it. Read it slowly, considering the meaning of each phrase:
This reality is crazy! Before Jesus, we were God’s enemies: alienated from him because of our sin-sickness. That’s terrifying. But He answered this spiritual problem with a physical rescue: God in the flesh! This is the perplexing, joyful reality we celebrate this time of the year. Anyone who puts their trust in Jesus’ work will be saved and changed. God now sees us as totally, entirely clean.
Free from accusation.
That’s a hard thing to wrap my mind around, because I often feel guilty: after consciously sinning, being selfish, comparing myself to ‘better’ Christians, or saying something harsh. . . The list could go on and on. Sin distances us from God.
But Christ came to bring peace.
And now, everything is radically changed. The children of God are fully redeemed! There is no such thing as ‘halfway-forgiven’ or ‘kind of okay with God.’ Jesus’ work in saving us is complete the second we trust him.
I’m trying to keep my eyes open to this amazing truth and battle indifference. Jesus came to earth as an externally ordinary baby but later brought breathtaking transformation. Every bit of glory, beauty, and wonder in this season should remind us: We are completely changed.
How much can you learn from a kid’s song? Take for example, Zacchaeus: the wee little man who climbed a tree to see Jesus. Let's walk through the story together, then talk about a few life-applications.
Zacchaeus seeks Jesus
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. Luke 19:1-4
Putting the kid’s song aside, Zacchaeus has a lot to teach us. Even though he lived a life of cheating and stolen wealth as a tax collector, he sought Jesus well. Probably, he climbed the tree out of curiosity. But maybe there was a yearning in his soul too, a sense that this Teacher was better than any of his own wealth and power.
Jesus pursues Zacchaeus
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. Luke 19:5-6
Jesus saw this sinner, awkwardly perched in a tree, and knew at once everything about him. Yes, he saw his background, his reputation, and all the wrong he had done. But what mattered more was that even through all the yuck, he saw a lost man seeking him.
So he called to Zacchaeus, inviting him down. If I was Zacchaeus, I’d have been shocked. It would be like pushing your way to the front of a concert to get a glimpse of a celebrity, only to have him call you by name in front of everyone and invite himself to your house. It would be exciting, but also outrageous.
A joyful change
I love Zacchaeus’s reaction, though. He responded to the invitation with gladness, jumping down from the tree and welcoming Jesus.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:6-10
This encounter with Jesus caused Zacchaeus to turn his lifestyle around promptly. Jesus recognized this as a true change of heart and declared that salvation had come to him. It’s Jesus’ mission, after all, to save those who are lost: not those who are self-righteous.
Remember to rejoice
In the busyness and sometimes drudgery of a week, I forget to be glad. Zacchaeus’s attitude opened my eyes to that. I want to seek Jesus excitedly. I want to find evidences of God’s heart and will for me. I want to promptly follow his lead and his character. There is much joy in life, especially a life lived in surrender to him. We can more easily find beauty when we’re not living to please and promote ourselves. So, I want to be glad!
Real life change
I also want to follow Zacchaeus’s example of sacrifice. Before he met Jesus, his lifestyle of padded pockets, a fancy house, and buying anything he wanted to was probably quite fun. But the minute he encountered Jesus, the color faded from these illusions. He saw that knowing Jesus was more valuable than any sin or comfort he had on earth.
His response directly contrasts with the ‘rich young ruler’s’ in the preceding chapter of Luke, who saw Jesus and yet with a sad heart chose his possessions over him. (Here’s a link to that story). In the end, Zacchaeus found joy and freedom from his sin and possessions, while the rich young ruler remained chained to his earthly loves.
How about you?
So I want to ask, what could Jesus be inviting you to give up? Is there anything in your life that is holding you back from knowing or experiencing him fully? It could be sin, a skewed mindset, something you fixate on too much, an unhealthy relationship, or any number of things.
Personally, one thing Jesus has been asking me to give up is control. I like to have my days and my future and even my meals planned out. I want to know what’s coming up next. But my love of control can become quite ugly when it causes me to prioritize myself over others, obsess over the future, or ignore God’s plan. And like I said, control is just one thing he’s been showing me lately. It’s not a one-time thing. We’ve gotta get good at recognizing chains and gladly casting them off, because they are persistent and many.
Please understand, though, that Jesus is not shaking his finger at you with furrowed brows. Rather, he is reaching out to you, calling you by name: inviting you into the intense joy that is found in throwing aside chains (both the pretty ones and the ugly ones) and running to your Father.
Self-reflection exhausts me. I’m always noticing things I need to change to become more Christ-like. Being a perfectionist doesn’t help the problem, either.
Can you identify with that? We’re always working to be better at our jobs, more loving to our friends, more productive, more God-honoring. And even after a day of striving, we sit down in the quiet of the evening and realize that we’ve fallen short so many times. This striving has brought me to tears recently.
We are so critical of ourselves.
So, I want to bring some much-needed life and grace to this scene. God has spoken to my heart in this area recently. He definitely knew I needed it. Here’s a verse he showed me:
The prospect of the righteous is joy. Proverbs 10:28a
We, the righteous
God calls us righteous. That’s the opposite of the view I’ve seen so often expressed in Christian books, talks, and even casual conversations. We call ourselves totally depraved, and fixate endlessly on the graveness of our sin, but seldom venture beyond that point. Do we remember that we have a Savior who has transformed literally everything?!
He not only gave us future entry into heaven but copied his righteousness onto our souls: right here on the earth, right now. We have his perfection pressed onto our images. What a gift!
Remember to look ahead
This verse also reminds me to look ahead. While self-criticism is an unhappy re-living of the past, our hope as Christians is found in our future. Our prospect is a joyful entry into heaven, the completion of every good work our Lord has begun in us, and the very presence of God!
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6
These are two realities. Rock-solid. True no matter how we feel. So even when we mess up, our loving Father doesn’t look down on us with anger or impatience. He instead sees us as his children: bought with a price, and generously given grace. He knows the work still to be done on us, yet he also sees what we will be when we are with him in heaven.
C.S. Lewis has an interesting perspective on this:
Children and fools, we are told, should never look at half-done work; and we are not yet, I trust, even half-done. You and I wouldn’t, at all stages, think it wise to tell a pupil exactly what we thought of his quality. It is much more important that he should know what to do next. -C.S. Lewis
Just focus on the next step. What wisdom! God will ask us to change certain things, and we will always be working to become more like him. Yet in the meantime, while we’re trying to follow his lead and live with his heart, he has endless grace for our mistakes, struggles, and imperfections. Don’t become disheartened, friend. The prospect of the righteous is joy.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Follow me on social media for post updates!