Last week I spoke at a local church’s youth group’s retreat. It was my third year to have the pleasure and privilege to speak life, truth, and freedom into these young hearts and minds. Such a privilege.
The reason I believe so is because what I speak with them about are the things that I’m talking to my adult life coaching clients about, and they always – at some point say “Why didn’t I know this earlier. I wish I had this knowledge when I was a teenager in high school. My life probably would’ve been a whole lot different.” So, this is why I love speaking to high schoolers about these truths.
So, I thought I’d just go ahead and record my talk here on the podcast. Because if teenagers need it, so do the rest of us. I’ve cut out a few things that were pertinent just to the context of the retreat. But other than that, here is the truth that I delivered last week.
I want to start by sharing a story with you. There was a little girl named Hayley, she was 7 years old. She lived in her house with her mom and dad. One night as Hayley was upstairs asleep in her bed a big thunderstorm came and started pelting her window with rain. The lightening would flash into her room, then seconds later there were huge booms. The storm woke Hayley up. She was so scared, and she began to cry out for her mom and dad. Unfortunately, mom and dad were asleep in their room downstairs, and because the rain and thunder was loud outside their windows too, they didn’t hear little Hayley crying for help. So. Hayley cried and cried, and eventually cried herself to sleep. But not before her brain created a story about what that all meant. That’s what our brains do all the time because it’s just trying to make sense of our world. And it does so by making up stories.
So now, little Hayley has grown up. She’s 35 years old and she can’t figure out why she has such a struggle with authority figures. She questions her parent’s love, She questions the authority of her boss at work, and She even questions God’s love and authority. She can’t stay in relationship very long. And every time she drives in a thunderstorm, she has anxiety and sometimes a full-blown panic attack. Her life is a mess and she doesn’t even know why.
Fortunately, Hayley came to me for help. I’m a life coach for Christian women, and I help them in places where they feel stuck in life. So, Hayley (and that’s not her real name, by the way) Hayley and I finally uncovered this event that she experienced at age 7.
The story that her brain made up at that time was that…
- Mom and dad must not love me very much because they didn’t come to my rescue.
- I’m on my own from now on.
- I’m the only one I can trust to take care of me.
- I can’t count on anyone else.
- And thunderstorms are terrifying.
- The lightning and thunder is unpredictable and so much bigger than me, and it could probably kill me.”
This is why Hayley is now having problems with relationships and having trouble keeping a job because she just doesn’t feel like she can trust anyone but herself.
The people that I help as a Life Coach are grown women, who tell me all the time, “I wish I had this information when I was a teenager. High school would’ve been very different for me. The rest of my life would have been very different.”
And I want you to have an opportunity to create something different for yourself if you need to – today.
This episode is titled How Do You See Yourself? Right away, it implies that you get a choice in how you see yourself, right? It’s implied just by the nature of the question “How do you see yourself?” You have a choice to see yourself one way or another. Or another.
But this is where things can go a little wonky. Remember Hayley at 7 years old? It was her brain that made up a story, doing what brains are made to do to help her survive and navigate life. It tries to understand the world and makes up stories, or fills in the gap, when there’s not enough information to fully understand. Sadly for her, it made up an awful story. But the brain’s task was survival. So, the brain thought it was helpful to make up a story to help Hayley survive.
It’s sad because the end result was not helpful to Hayley at all. It wasn’t helpful for her to believe her parents didn’t love her. It wasn’t helpful for her to believe that she couldn’t depend upon or trust others to help her or be there for her in life.
Your brain and my brain have done these kinds of things along the way, too. But your brain doesn’t hate you. It’s not out to sabotage you or ruin your life. It’s just doing its job.
When we were really young, the part of our brains that we would use to bring logic and reasoning into a situation is not fully developed. So, all the stories our brains make up at that age are made from the one part of our brain that is fully developed, and that is our emotional brain. Now, let’s think here a minute. Do you think that creating an understanding or a belief about something solely out of emotions or your feelings is a good idea? No! Why is that? Emotions can’t be relied upon, right? Have you ever have had an emotional breakdown over something only to realize later that you blew it way out of proportion, and you weren’t seeing things as they truly were? A lot of times our emotions are knee jerk reactions.
So, what Hayley needed help with was to see that old experience in the thunderstorm with some new eyes; To see herself and her experience differently. Because the way her brain encouraged her to cope - to hide or run away, or get angry and push back – so that she wouldn’t feel all those negative emotions that came at the experience of the thunderstorm was not helping her live the life God says we can.
As Jesus was preparing to leave this earth, He said in John 10:10,
“I’ve come so that they may have life and have life abundantly.”
That’s the Zoë life.
The definition is “absolute fullness of life. Life real and genuine.” Living a life real and genuine sounds amazing, right? Not pretending, or hiding, or striving to be someone you’re not. It's a life God wants you to live, full of peace and satisfaction and confidence, knowing who you are and whose you are. That’s what Jesus wanted you to have. That’s not just life abundantly in heaven after you die. But life abundantly here as we live on earth.
You may not have an experience with a thunderstorm like Hayley, but I’d venture to guess you have something. Something that’s keeping you from the Zoë life.
- Someone made fun of you for something you did or how you looked,
- Your parents fought all the time,
- You were the last child and you struggled to keep up with your siblings, or
- You were the first and there were expectations put on you that were unrealistic,
- You were always the last picked on the kickball team,
- Your teacher embarrassed you in class.
- Maybe there’s someone in your life that has had some choice words for you that make you cringe every time you hear them.
- They tell you you’re dumb and won’t amount to much.
- They criticize your big dreams and goals reminding you to stay small and humble.
- Maybe there’s a spirit of religion that’s hanging around that puts expectations on you as a Christian. And you’re not measuring up. At least in your own eyes.
- But maybe you can’t really pinpoint a particular experience, but you know it’s there.
Whatever it was, your brain created a story around it to help you survive. And we might be able to identify some lies within that story, just like Hayley did. And if we can identify lies, we might be able to see things with new eyes.
One thing we know is that God created our brains to change. It may have been wired one way with wrong thinking or lies, but it can be re-wired to align with the truth. God’s truth.
In many places, the Bible talks about our mind, our thinking, and our words:
We are given a command to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,” in Colossians 3:2.
We are told that we are to search for, believe in, and think about the truth in Philippians 4:8.
We’re told that death and life are in the power of the tongue in Proverbs 18:21.
Ephesians 4:22-24 says, “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
And we are encouraged to have our minds renewed by truth in Romans 12:2.
There is a significant reason our Creator wanted us to hear these things. One, because we’re likely to need to have our minds renewed, and two, because we can have our minds renewed.
I want to tell you today that the way you see yourself is coming directly from what you think of yourself today. And I challenge you to consider if what you are thinking about yourself is actually a lie or a story that’s made up. And I want to let you know that you are responsible now for what you are thinking about your past experiences as they relate directly to you. You are old enough now to take that responsibility. Understand that you’re not responsible for the things you’ve experienced, but for the way you think about, respond or react to them now. Because what you are thinking about yourself makes you act or not act a certain way. Right?
Maybe your brain made up a story that you’re second best. Maybe it made up a story that you have to look a certain way to be loved. Maybe it made up a story that you need to try to control your environment and the people around you in order to be safe. And when we have experiences in our present day that rubs up against those old stories, we do things like cry, we hide, we lash out, we yell and defend ourselves, we people please, or become co-dependent, we show off to get attention - all because of what we’re thinking about ourselves. And we see ourselves through the lens of that thinking.
You may feel controlled by a secret. You may have had something happen to you that you have revealed to no-one, or perhaps to only a few people. Perhaps you feel shame about certain aspects of the family you grew up in. Or, maybe you have sinful habits you feel embarrassed about, such as gossip, lust, pornography, or a judgmental spirit. Maybe you are ashamed of some things you have done in the past. Or maybe you feel ashamed of something that has been done to you. If we don’t deal with issues in our past, they will continue to control us in some way in our present. But they don’t have to. We can deal with past sin, our family histories, as well as past violations to our bodies and minds.
It is important to identify whether our feelings in these situations are destructive shame or healthy conviction. Before, I said that emotions or feelings cannot be relied upon, right? But it is true that emotions or feelings canbe trusted. We can trust that they are giving us a warning or telling us to pay attention to something. And that can bring healthy conviction. Healthy conviction always separates our identity from the behavior. Shame links these two, so that wrong behavior taints our image of ourselves. Healthy conviction alerts us to the fact that we have done something that goes against our God-given values.
Are you familiar with the rules of soccer? Do you know what it means when a player gets a red flag - What they’ve done? They committed an egregious foul. Biblical conviction is the Holy Spirit throwing up a “red flag” on a behavior and tells us it is an act of rebellion against God. Now, in soccer, does he or she get thrown off the team if they get a red flag? No. They have to leave the game, but they don’t get thrown off the team. You don’t get thrown off God’s team either. But that “red flag conviction” invites us to confess our sin and experience the love and forgiveness that God has provided for us through Jesus Christ.
So, before we go any further you need to hear that 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” But if we do not ask God to forgive us, and/or if we do but we don’t receive the forgiveness, we will fall deep into shame for our behavior. Remember, conviction is one thing – it’s of God to set you right, - but shame is not of God. It’s of the enemy who wants to keep you hidden from God.
Shame makes you want to run away from God, not to Him. Shame makes you say horrible things to yourself and about yourself. That’s the enemy’s scheme. He came to kill, steal, and destroy you. So, we don’t want to allow him to tell us how to see ourselves. But the way to be able to see yourself rightly is through God’s lens. And so to do that, you’ll have to ask for and receive God’s forgiveness. He’s ready to give it whenever you’re ready to ask. It’s that simple and that quick.
Earlier I said, “You are responsible now for what you are thinking about your past experiences as they relate directly to you.” I want to tell you about something in sociology that’s called ‘having personal agency’. “Agency” is defined as the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices – it’s where you decide who you are and who you are not. It is our ability to take responsibility for what we think, feel, and do. It refers to the thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power, their independence. “Agency” is taking responsibility for your life.
So, here is what my grown-up women clients would want you to know that they didn’t know at your age: You are in charge. Because you have “Agency” – personal responsibility - you are in charge of your thoughts. And your thoughts will determine how you see yourself and how you experience the world – and if you will experience the Zoë life. The full weight of responsibility of taking ownership of what you’re thinking about youis yours. We, you and me, get to choose every single time what we want to think about something - whether that be a circumstance, a past event, a word spoken to us, or even a message running through our head. We get to create a ‘story’ about everything we experience in life. When we have an old story full of lies, we get to change that story so that it’s full of truth. And in that story, you get to decide who you are. Are you a victim of your past experiences and circumstances? Or is the story you’re going to tell about yourself rooted in the truth of God’s word that:
You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God Himself (Psalm 139:13)
You are made in His image, His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27)
You are made on purpose for a purpose (Psalm 139:13-16, Ephesians 2:10)
You are fully known by Him, even the number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10: 28-31)
You are no accident (Jeremiah 1:5 )
You are unique and special and have something to offer this world that’s needed (Psalm 139:13-14, Jeremiah 29:11)
You are loved beyond measure (Jeremiah 31:3)
You are the apple of your heavenly Father’s eye. The object of His obsession. (Psalm 17:8)
Because of these truths, we can conclude that our worth is not really of the “self” at all; rather, it is worth given to us by God. We are of great value to Him because of the price He paid to make us worthy—the death of His Son on the cross. Our self-worth is too often based on what other people tell us about ourselves or those stories our brains made up. But the one, true authority on our self-worth is Jesus Christ; and since He gave His own life up for us by dying on a cross, that should tell us just how valuable we really are.
This is what defines you. You are not defined by your past, what you’ve done or what’s been done to you. You are defined by God, the One who Created you, knows you best, and loves you the most. You’re not even defined by your future. In other words, God is not looking for some cleaned up future version of you, some better, more spiritual version of you, in order for Him to love you or find purpose in your life. No, the truth is you are loved and wanted just as you are now. This is your value and worth. This is the lens through which you are able to see yourself rightly. This belief system changes the way you think. And the way you think changes your life.
So, what’s the story you’re telling yourself? Is it full of lies? Choose to write another story - a better story. You get to. Your brain is created for it. It’s ready to be re-wired. Decide to choose to think differently about you and your experiences. No one else has that kind of power over your mind but you. And God has made you for it. He wants to partner with you in this change. That’s why He has said over and over in His word, “Do this. Be transformed. Renew your mind. Choose for yourself. Think rightly. Do it.” He wants this for you. Now you just have to do your part in partnering with Him in the change. You need to align your thinking with His. Pure and simple. You need to take responsibility for the way you think. Full stop.
Friend, choose for yourself a story full of truths, not lies. Choose a story that allows you to see things rightly…including how you see yourself. Even if you don’t fully, 100% believe that story yet, by creating the new narrative, your brain will start looking for evidence that this new story is true. It’s what the brain does. So, you just need to start by giving it some better prompts than you have been giving it. Take full responsibility and choose truth to transform your life by changing the way you see yourself today.
What a privilege it was to give this life changing message to those high schoolers. But, to my adult friends, you and I need this truth, too. If you’d like some help here, I’d love to be your Life Coach. I coach Christian women on all things that pertain to life. Just schedule a free 30-minute call and we can chat about it. The link is in the show notes.
There’s also a listener’s Guide that will help you work through how you see yourself. The link to that is in the show notes, as well.
Have a wonderful week, friends. See you next Wednesday for the next episode of Another Beautiful Life.
So many times, we allow others’ opinions to dictate how we see ourselves. We may even let Satan have a say in that. And sometimes it’s our own brain creating a story that is negative or even a flat out lie.
In this episode, I share a recent talk I gave to a youth group during their annual summer retreat. This information is not just for youths! I hear from my adult coaching clients all the time that they wish they’d had this information when they were a teenager. The information I share in this podcast is life changing! Join me!
Get the Listener’s Guide here: https://www.triciazody.com/guide.
Read the Podcast transcript here: https://www.triciazody.com/podcasttranscripts
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