when approval addiction is a real life problem

Growing up, I was not the most popular girl in kindergarten. I did get married in the sandbox to my crush though- that was a high point. Anyway, we can blame it on the fact that I was an extreme introvert…or I can be honest and say that it was most likely because I had no idea how to be a friend. I say that because when it came to friendship, I cared more about pleasing others and making sure that ‘everyone’ liked me than being myself and learning to be real with people.

I am about to share a story with you that I know with lead to either pure judgement or you will want to call me up and invite me over to your house. It could honestly go either way. Throughout elementary school I was able to live next door to one of my best friends. It was pretty awesome! We literally spent every day together- either at her house, my house, or the small treehouse in between. I loved hanging out at her house, mainly because it meant getting away from my twin brothers. And on almost ever occasion, when we hung out at her house…I cleaned her room. Weird, I know! But that’s how I showed people that I cared- I did things for them, such as cleaning their rooms! I would organize her room, fold her laundry, make her bed. I was desperately wanting friendship and to please others that I literally would clean their rooms for them. I did the same thing for my sister. I think I more so did it for my sister  because I was afraid she would beat me up if I didn’t, but either way…I did it. Being liked by people meant so much to me that I would literally do things for them just to make sure that they would like me without caring at all about my own feelings. (pathetic, I know).

I mastered the art of people pleasing. In High School I diagnosed myself with “approval addiction”. Of course, I didn’t share this diagnosis with anyone, but it was very apparent that I cared WAY. TOO. MUCH. about what others thought of me. After years of thinking this was what it looked like to be a good friend- it molded me into someone who cared more about being liked than being real and honest about my feelings. I had literally become a human doormat. Not all people pleasers are doormats, but I sure was one.

Now, I am not saying this so that you feel sorry for me or so you ask me to come over (secretly hoping that I clean your entire house). I am sharing this because I think that too often we strive for the attention and approval of others that we lose ourselves. We feel that the real us is not enough or won’t be liked- so we change. We adapt. We become human chameleons.

One day I realized I had had enough. I was exhausted and lonely. I didn’t have any real, deep friendships. I had a lot of platonic friendships- which were okay, but I wanted those real, messy friendships. But in order to get that- something needed to change. The truth is, I had stopped being direct and sharing my honest emotions with people because I was afraid of hurting their feelings. I took everything so freakin personal- and most of the time, if not all the time, I had assumed things completely wrong. And I was assuming that I knew the motives of people and what they thought about me. Assuming is never truly a good thing. Anyway, all of those things left me feeling alone and tired.

I was standing in my own way of having the friendships that I truly craved.

So I took to praying about it DAILY. And two years later, I have some of the most REAL, MESSY, VULNERABLE, HONEST friendships! And I love them. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. They aren’t always easy, but they are real.

Here is what I had to learn: its okay if someone doesn’t like me. This is definitely a hard lesson for anyone who struggles with approval addiction. And I was NO different. It scared me to the core at first to realize this- it felt unnatural.

Why couldn’t everyone like me?

I’m pretty likable, right?

But as much has it was a hard concept for me to grasp,  it was a much needed lesson and one that would ultimately change the way I viewed friendships and the way I was intentional in my friendships.

I had to learn to say ‘no’ to people…and not feel guilty about it. Saying ‘no’ felt like I could hurt someone’s feelings- so I was always that ‘yes’ girl. I also had to learn limits and boundaries, for myself and for my friendships. (that took a while, but I am getting a hold of it). And I had to learn to be more direct and honest with those God brought into my life, even if they didn’t necessarily like what I was saying or understand my feelings on the matter. I spent way too many years dancing around subjects for fear of hurting someone’s feelings or being misunderstood. But over the past couple years I have learned that being more direct and honest with my emotions is one of the most liberating things.

I had lost myself in approval addiction for so many years (about 30ish years if I am being honest)! But learning to be real, vulnerable, and direct about things was seriously life changing. If you look at all like how I use to look: easily irritated, working way too hard, going too fast and shouldering all the weight without stopping to ask for help. I encourage you to take time for yourself, to be more direct and be truthful about how you feel in your friendships, and to say no to things that you can’t do. Don’t be that ‘yes’ girl.

remove the mask.

Today at church I was reminded of a time in my life when I felt so much shame over decisions in my past. And I realized that we can give shame way too much control in our lives. If we allow it, shame has the power to make us feel unworthy and steal our joy.

I remember when I chose to open up about my past to one of my closest friends, someone I completely trusted- let’s just say, I quickly regretted it!!! I immediately felt their judgement, rejection, and disappointment in me. And it hurt. It was the worst feeling. It felt like a sandbag weighing on my heart. I felt so embarrassed, ashamed, and the need to hide my past. And so I did, for many years. I allowed my shame and my fear to control so many areas of my life, including my relationships with others. I was so worried that if anyone knew my past that that’s how they would define me. That they wouldn’t be able to distinguish my past from the person I have become.

My pastor today stated that “many of us wear a mask because we are afraid to be judged and condemned”. And immediately my heart broke for those who felt that way, because I was one of those people for SO long. Trapped in an endless cycle of isolation, shame, and sin. And having no idea how to stop that cycle.

We hide in our shame and fear because we don’t want to feel the weight of others judgement and rejection. I prayed for years to be surrounded by people who I could do life with. And He brought me to my current community group. They are amazing Christians who are living out their faith and who extend God’s grace and love. And THAT is the gospel. That is how we are called to love one another. Not with our expectations placed upon their shoulders, but with His grace and His love.

When we truly turn over our past and the shame we feel from our past to Jesus, we receive His compassion and a NEW life. Because the truth is that we are fully knownandfully loved!! It can be a HARD concept to grasp, I know.

I encourage you to take off that mask!

Don’t be ashamed to tell your story—the whole story, not just the edited version. Don’t be afraid like I was- it literally consumed years of my life. Be honest about what you’ve been through. We need to hear one anothers stories to remind each other what our God is capable of carrying us through. We need to remind each other of God’s faithfulness, of His unconditional love, and of what it looks like to do life with other believers.

We need to share the brokenness so we can share the redemption.He can make us new, and better, and whole again, and that’s a story worth being proud of.

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Abiding Hope.

 “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

In church recently we discussed how there is no other source of abiding hope outside of God. As I sat in church intently listening, I felt a small pull at my heart and I knew exactly what it was. The Lord was asking me, ‘Where do you place your hope? Where do you surrender your anxiety and your future plans?’

The Lord was prompting me to examine my heart . I was not too excited to oblige, I knew it was going to be quite the process.  As I continued to listen to the sermon, the Lord reminded me of how sovereign and gracious He is- because all too well and all too often, I forget. I started to think of all those other gods that so easily take God’s place in my heart and in my life.

For those of you who don’t know me, I can tend to be a very anxious person. Peace was not something I experienced often for most of my life.  For years, I had no idea how to even have God’s peace.

What did it look life?

What did it feel like?

Would my life look much different?

I definitely thought I was trusting Him, but the fruit of my life, my thoughts, motives, words, and actions showed an entirely different story. I finally began to understand that loving and trusting God is about completely yielding control of every area of my life, no matter what! (sounds scary, I know).

 Our God is sovereign, gracious, good, and just! And as we see God’s goodness and as we continue to grow in our trust of Him, eventually we realize that trusting God wholeheartedly is the best place in the world to be.  “Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of our Jesus our Lord”. (2 Peter 1:2)

At times I can quickly start to feel overwhelmed. When I feel that way, most often it’s because I’m not putting my faith and my hope where it belongs. I can find myself idolizing the opinion of others and putting my will above His. When I first realized this, it felt like I was about to jump off of a big spiritual cliff. But the more I studied who God was, understood His character, and got to know Him more intimately- I realized that God was so much bigger than I could ever comprehend.  And the more I realized that, the more I saw the importance of being able to face my fears. I may not know what my future looks like, but I trust His heart for me.

And that is enough.

As you draw close to Him and allow Him to transform your heart and mind to be like His, you will begin to understand that if you have Him, you have EVERYTHING that really matters. But, if you don’t have Him, you have nothing!

It’s an amazing feeling to know that we can trust God and rest in His peace even when we don’t know what our future looks like. (especially to an anxious person like myself).

God will allow trials to come into our lives and the enemy will try to derail us into fear and paralyze us in our spiritual walk. But we can face our deepest fears and we can lay down our greatest dreams. 

God gives us times of uncertainty because those times build our faith as we learn to turn to Him. If we will receive His love, His healing, His truth, and His goodness, He can set me free from all doubt, fear, worry, and anxiety. I love that!

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The One He Wants.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

At some point, I think most of us have felt scarred by disappointment, we wonder if anyone would ever choose us. With gaps that make us feel like candidates for rejection, we hope no one will notice our empty places. Sometimes, it seems the only way we’ll get chosen is if all the good ones are picked first. 1 Peter 2:9 reminds that through Christ we are chosen.

God sent His Son to light our darkness and fill the gaps in our hearts. He wants us to hear Him declaring with all His heart, “You are the one I want!”

I love knowing that through everything, God chose me! We have all been through situations that have scarred our hearts and made us feel inferior or inadequate. It has been nine years since I called off my engagement and it took me a long time to realize that my worth was still the same. For a long time I thought that my value decreased because of my circumstances, but they haven’t.

My circumstances actually made me stronger, just like each experience you go through can make you stronger. We often allow our situations to make us feel worthless, and to take away part of who we are. The situations become who we think we are, and we fear moving forward. Women tend to fear loneliness, and because of that, they feel inferior to others. I was at this point once before, but what is truly amazing is that when we are willing to surrender everything before God, He gives us that peace that transcends those unnecessary emotions.

For years after calling off my engagement I was scared that the only option left for me was to wait until all the “good ones” were picked and then decide from there. But that thought could not be farther from the truth. When we can fully grasp that God is in control and loves us unconditionally, we are able to see our TRUE value.We are not created to wait and see what is left over. He created us with the most perfect plan in mind. We are not the extras in the movie of our lives, we are the lead! Yes, we sometimes allow ourselves to fall into the background because we feel we are too damaged. When we have that mindset, we are only selling ourselves short and decreasing our value in ourselves. God sees us as being a treasure; He would never want us to see ourselves as being worthless.

When Peter talks about God choosing us, he is reminding us that through it all, bad and good, God chose us! No situation is too much for Him to handle. And when we allow God to wrap His arms around us, that feeling of loneliness disappears.

We all struggle with fears, whether we are willing to recognize them or not. I have learned over the years that I cannot let those fears control my life. I had allowed fear to control me for so many years, so I can tell you that nothing good comes from being fearful. When we are willing to recognize what scares us and completely surrender that to the One who loves us, He is willing to comfort our hearts and remind us of our true value.

Our value cannot lie in our circumstances or who we ‘think’ we are- it needs to rest in God and who He created us to be. God loves us, values us, protects us, cherishes us, and guides us- we just need to be willing to listen to Him instead of our circumstances. When times get hard, and you are scared of what lies ahead, remember that you are the one that God wants. He will never make you feel inadequate.

People will judge your behaviors without even looking at what trials you have been through that make you who you are. In today’s world, people are too quick to judge and so often we allow those judgments to define who we are. But our identity is in Christ alone! This world has nothing to offer except jealousy, greed, pride, and loneliness. God is willing to show us unconditional love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. So compare the two…there is NO comparison. God is the only option if you want to be truly happy and content in who you are! The world may not choose us, but God does.

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remembering who you are.

“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” (Psalm 139:14)

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“you’re prettier in pictures than you are in person”

Those nine words would define me for the an entire decade.

On a blind date in college, those words attached to me like a sticky name tag. One that I chose to wear for years. “Hello, my name is Cait, I am not pretty enough.”

For years, whenever I thought about my body or my looks, I flashed back to those ugly words. I sadly believed those words to my inner core- that I was not pretty in person- and that ultimately I was not yet pretty enough.

So lets fast forward ten years…the women’s ministry at my church started reading a book called ‘Fervent’ by Priscilla Shirer. One of the chapters is titled “Your Identity: Remembering Who You Are”. I knew it was going to be a tough chapter, but lets just say- I didn’t make it through any page of that chapter without sobbing (I resorted back to my ugly cry). Anyway, as I was soaking in the chapter- the words spoken to me all those years ago came rushing to the forefront of my mind. And there I was- listening to those words on repeat in my mind and feeling completely defeated and insecure.

I immediately put the book down, not wanting to read one more word, and without even thinking about it I began dwelling on those nine words- were those words true? still? was that why at thirty-one I was still single? was I still not pretty enough?

With a reluctant heart I picked the book back up and continued reading- even though I knew it would just be easier to keep the book closed, turn on some Netflix, and not deal with this emotional, spiritual battle.

I had allowed those words from a stranger, who I would never speak to again, to have tremendous power over my life. And coming face-to-face with the enemy on the battlefield did not seem like something I was ready to fight on a Monday night. But it was then that Ephesians 6:11 came to mind, “put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil”. And so I decided to suit up.

I had allowed the enemy to devalue my strength for YEARS, to magnify my insecurities until they completely dominated how I saw myself, disabling and disarming me from being who God created me to be, and living in the truth that in Christ I am enough.

And the enemy wanted me to live in a state of defeat. My defenses down. My resolve weak. Surrendering to an army of insecurities instead of courageously thriving in the sophisticated security of my identity in Christ. But no longer. Not me. Not ever.

Friends, you are so valuable and so loved. Those things that you count as weaknesses and flaws, those things that the enemy is hell-bent on accentuating are not more powerful than the strength you have in Christ. Don’t allow painful words from your past, insecurities, lies from the enemy, or past hurts to have any power in your life. It will only leave you feeling handicapped (trust me, I know this WAYY to well). You are loved by God, endowed with His Spirit, you are His, and in Him you are ENOUGH.

Ezekiel 16:10-13 “I clothed you with an embroidered dress and put sandals of fine leather on you. I dressed you in fine linen and covered you with costly garments. I adorned you with jewelry: I put bracelets on your arms and a necklace around your neck, and I put a ring on your nose, earrings on your ears and a beautiful crown on your head...You became very beautiful and rose to be a queen.”

LOVE THAT!!! We are exceedingly beautiful and we advanced to royalty!!

 

Finding the Friendships You Deserve.

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:17b-18)
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Last month, I was feeling so insecure and discouraged about friendships. I ended up calling one of my best friends in tears, feeling so vulnerable and in need of advice.

I had been feeling like as soon as I would get close to a friend, we would grow apart. Or that they would find other, cooler, more fun friends and suddenly vibes were weird.  I honestly couldn’t figure out if something was wrong with me or if I did something to screw up friendships. I’d look online and see pictures of cliques and feel even more isolated. I would hang out with friends and watch groups of girls taking selfies, but usually would be the one taking the photo. It would hurt, it would make me feel insecure, and discouraged.

There have been times in my life that I would try to bend and contort myself in whatever way I could just to fit into a group. But no matter how many times I tried to bend and contort, it never really seemed to work.

Friends, if you are struggling to feel like you belong or if you’re having trouble with friendships, I just want to encourage you.  God did not design you the way He did just for you to bend and contort His design to fit into some group or clique it wasn’t designed to be a part of. And you’re not weird or strange and there’s nothing wrong with you if you grow apart from women you have cared about for awhile.

Because you know what? All things are redeemable. And at the end of the day, God delivers who you need, right when you need them, to stand by your side. Some of the girls I honestly thought would be life-long friends (maybe even in my wedding one day) have been some of the friendships that drifted apart. Some of the girls I thought I would grow apart from years ago are the same girls that have invited me to be a part of their special wedding day. And often, those  friendships that continue to build and last throughout the years are not friendships you can fake. They’re disorganized and crazy and a little bit messy — but they’re real. They take time to build.

I think, sometimes, we avoid friendships that require much of us because we are afraid of the risk. When we’ve been hurt or walked all over, we begin to close up and control our environments. I mean, who wants to be hurt again? Trust me, there’s wisdom in guarding our hearts, but that doesn’t mean we have to live in isolation. Though isolating can be tempting to do when friendships haven’t gone our way in the past, there’s a problem with that logic. The truth is, the greatest satisfaction comes from the greatest sacrifice.

Although I haven’t solved the friendship puzzle, I do know that REAL friendships can empower us and bring out the best of who we are.  Real friends won’t judge you for your messy hair days, they encourage you, challenge you, make you better, push you closer to Jesus, support your dreams, they love you through the hard times, and they pray for you. Life is so much better, and easier, and certainly more fun when we walk through it together. I am so grateful for authentic friendships. For raw, real, tough but gentle love.

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Life Lesson Learned While Playing With Play-Doh.

Yes, I learned a life lesson while playing with play-doh. Here is what I learned:

First, play-doh is extremely entertaining to children. It can keep them occupied for hours.

Secondly, it can seriously get stuck all up in your nails for days.

And thirdly, I need to be more like play-doh.

I get the honor of babysitting my best friends son while she is busy making brides look stunning on their wedding days. Recently while I was babysitting, her son asked if we could play with play-doh together. I was super excited, like kid in a candy store excited. I always loved playing with play-doh as a kid, so of course I wanted to play.  It was while I was attempting to make different creations out of play-doh for him, I was overcome by emotion. Side note: I definitely failed at making them look anything like what he wanted. However, I realized that just as he was asking me to mold things for a purpose, God desperately wants to mold His children and shape them for His purpose.

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I was reminded of Isaiah 64:8.  “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand”. 

I   L O V E   T H A T !

Play-doh is very similar to clay.  Both can be molded, shaped, and both can dry out.

I once took a pottery class where I learned all the ins and outs of making pottery. I’m not going to lie, I’m extremely uncoordinated, so my experience was an epic fail at the beginning. I definitely knew why becoming a potter and making pottery was not my calling; nor was making cars and tractors out of play-doh for a two year old.

The instructor of this class had to teach me how to handle the clay. He told me there were two important things to remember, that I needed to keep the clay wet during the process and that I needed to keep the clay centered on  the wheel. If the clay is not centered on the wheel, it will eventually tear apart before I would even have time to finish the process. And it’s only when the clay has enough water and is centered on the wheel that the molding process can begin.

If we want God to mold and shape our lives, then we need to be in His Word daily so that we can become shapeable and not dry out. And we need to be properly centered in Jesus Christ before God will be able to start molding and shaping us.

When we try to live our lives in our own strength, away from Christs leading, and not centered on Him- our lives will eventually fall apart. Just as the clay would if not centered on that wheel.

We all have experienced lives ups and downs at one point or another. We are going to feel pressure, especially when being shaped. Think about the clay, it definitely feels the weight of the potters hands when they are adding pressure to make the desired shape. Think about the play-doh, you have to apply pressure in order to create the shape you desire. Now think about your life, it is through life’s trials that God is able to stretch you and shape you.

God is able to mold us, transform us, and sanctify us when we are open to His will for our lives.And He will mold us and make us the vessel of honor that He desires for us to be. “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work2 Timothy 2:20-21.

Just as the clay (or in my case play-doh) needs to fully trust the creator, we need to fully trust in our Maker.

PS…I love how God can speak to our spirits in the most simplest of moments. It was in playing with the play-doh that He reminded me of His greatness, His power, and His love for me. Look for God throughout the day- He is there!

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