Within the last year or so, I've realized that my "happiness" level (used in quotation marks because that's a very elusive term) seem to depend a lot on how I think other people are perceiving me. If I'm convinced the people around me like me, and that they think I'm kind, maybe funny, and hopefully smart, I'm all kicks and giggles.
If I'm convinced that they despise me, think I'm annoying, incompetent, or a fraud (which happens in my brain quite often), I'm heavy. Because I start to believe in that myself.
Somewhere along the road, I allowed my self-conception to be directly linked to the world around me. I use the word "allowed" because it's a goal of mine to actively fight this, although, sociologically speaking, this is the Looking Glass Self of all humanity (Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929). This theory proposes that human beings' self-concept is the reflection of what we think other people think about us, that we internalize the perceptions we're convinced other people have of us, and that becomes the way we see ourselves and thus we act accordingly.
The way we see ourselves bleeds into everything we do, think, want, etc. Self-conception is powerful.
Now, obviously, it's really difficult to fight something that is human nature, and this part of socialization isn't necessarily a bad thing. We are social creatures— without society, and the people that mold us, we wouldn't function as the human beings we are at all. I'm not sure why we care about what other people think and do so much (some do so more than others), but I think it's pretty human.
Existing as a human being in a broken world can be pretty hard, and maybe that's where this Looking Glass Self thing gets dangerous— we start reflecting a world that is constantly telling us we aren't good enough.
Now, how do I work on something that's just human? How do I un-convince myself of the self-conception I have that often reflects a very negative perception of myself?
The first answer that comes to mind is prayer. That's still a little hard for me right now, because (this post is going to be a too-much-information kind of post) I'm still pretty disconnected from my faith in God right now. I'm not sure what's happened, but things have been jumbled up, and even though the faith that He's still loving me fiercely hasn't left me, my belief in general, my passion, my convincing, feels really, really weak. I know faith isn't feeling. But the feeling is still really overpowering.
And Jesus said to him, "'If you can! All things are possible for one who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:23-24)
I believe, help my unbelief. Big realness. Big prayer.
Something concerning prayer that I've thought a little bit about before is the way it might have the power to change our brains. When I pray deeply, with raw belief, I think God is in the midst of all my inner-workings, moving me in ways I will never understand. But God also, being Creator and all, made us physiological beings for a reason.
We've got brains. We've got cells. We've got systems. All of which work perfectly together, when healthy. I don't know, I've never quite clicked completely with my comprehension of science. But I think those statements are pretty well true, no?
Okay! So! If God gave me a brain and all these cool systems that work together, does that mean prayer has to be outside of the physiological? Am I ever really separate from my body as a human being on this earth? Heavens, no! God gave me my body and He loves it! It's fantastic, and so, so smart.
So, then, prayer— which could be seen as a pouring out, a relational act of communication done in great belief— in connection to our brains, is a further convincing. The things we do, think, and say with conviction convince our brains to believe even more in them. We're programmed that way, I don't think it's an accident. The things we pray into, the things we invest our thoughts and beliefs into, are further entrenched into our perspective.
What is the point of all of my blabbing? I'm not really sure! I'm just a human being trying to live strongly with faith in an existence that can be treacherous.
But— I think the point really is that we can fight with our belief. Because it is powerful. Because it changes us. Because it changes the world.
lf we want the Looking Glass Self to build us up, we go to our belief. We believe in our enoughness, in the truth of how beloved we are, in our untouchable value. These are truths we should be convincing ourselves of.
If you've gotten this far in my rambling, congratulations, and thank you.
During my time here in Ecuador, there's been a lot of discomfort and anxiety in both expressing myself and being convinced I'm incompetent. Living with some fun social anxiety and then adding a solid dose of language barrier makes for a toxic concoction of fear. It's awful, so terribly wanting to express yourself, not knowing how, and then sitting back in fear because you've convinced yourself people will judge you for your attempt at imperfect expression.
I've also done a really bang-up job of further convincing myself that I'm an inadequate student and human in general. Always convinced everyone around me is smarter, better equipped for the things they're pursuing, with better ideas and routes of action for the future. The deeper I'm convinced such things are true, the deeper I fall into a state of living that lacks confidence, even passion. It's scary, actually, how my own perceptions of myself, others, and the world can change my own expressions and possibilities. Our own belief in our potential has a lot to do with our potential. More importantly, our own belief in our worth can bolster or destroy.
So, prayer. Intentionally working to try to transform beliefs. Believing in the truth of being beloved. Fighting the moments I let the darkness, fear, lies, inadequacy try to put me in a place I don't belong.
Listening to the voice that says enough. Be who you were created to be. Ser lo quien eres.
Are we letting ourselves believe and live the way we were created to?