Have you ever had a horrible argument with someone--the kind where you realize you see things from such different perspectives that you believe there is no way to resolve the issue? I recently had one of those arguments with my husband. It was a blessing in disguise, because later that day God provided me with an "epiphany." Of all places that epiphany came from my psychology textbook.
Although the argument with my husband had to do with our financial situation and our differing opinions about what the future might hold, God revealed to me that my faulty thinking had often permeated every aspect of my life; even my creativity.
The chapter I read dealt with gender differences. We all know that men and women see things differently. "That's an understatement!" some of you might be saying. But at the root of male/female stereotypes are seeds of truth, and it was a few of these seeds that were at the root of our argument and at the root of the reason why I couldn't see myself as God sees me. So here are a few of the traits that jumped off the page that day:
Traits more often shown by men: * Are more self-confident of future success * Attribute success to internal factors and failures to external factors * Are more self-validating * Have higher self-esteem
Traits more often shown by women: * Are less self-confident in future success * Attribute success to external factors and failures to internal factors * Are more dependent on others for validation * Have lower self-esteem
Who wouldn't rather be confident of future success? (Faith.) Who wouldn't want to believe that success comes from something inside us (the Holy Spirit), rather than from our external circumstances? Who wouldn't rather seek validation from God than from humanity? And who among us wouldn't want to recognize our true worth in the mirror of God's love and grace?
If, as a creative person, you suffer from the kind of doubts based on the list of common female traits, let me share a few illustrations from my life that prove the faulty thinking behind these traits.
* Are less self-confident of future success
Not to brag , but I've written a few novels and even had one published. Yes, it took years. Yes, I received numerous rejections. I'm not writing fiction right now, but the point is I persevered until I was successful. So if I was successful in the past, is there any reason to think I can't be successful in the future?
How about you? Is there some aspect of your life that you have set aside because you lack confidence in future success? Do you have any valid reason to think you can't be successful again?
* Attribute success to external factors and failures to internal factors
I used to have my self-worth tied up in my writing. If I received a request for a submission from an editor or agent I had met, I often attributed it to external factors. But when a rejection came in the mail? Well, of course it had to be because I was a horrible writer! While that might have been partially true in the beginning (it's rare that any writer's first work is published), it didn't remain true, and it certainly wasn't true that my writing ability was ever tied to my self-worth as a creation of God.
With each project we learn and grow. And that is a lesson I've been paying attention to these days with my other creative pursuits. Though I recognize that some of my art or jewelry pieces are "better" than others, I have learned to divorce my sense of personal worth from the work itself. Because I've been growing in this area, I believe the time will come when I can approach fiction writing from a healthier perspective.
How about you? Do you recognize this aspect of faulty thinking in yourself?
* Are more dependent on others for validation
"Does this dress make me look fat?" How's that for a stereotypical female question? Seriously, sometimes we want validation from those who may not have our best interests at heart, or who may not be qualified to give us the validation we seek. Years ago I entered a pretty important writer's contest. There were five judges, and the scoring was a scale of 0 to 10. I received a 0, three 8s, and one 10. As good as the 8s and the 10 should have made me feel, what score do you think I obsessed over?
Sometimes I'll ask my husband's opinion of a piece of art or jewelry. He can tell by the way I ask that I don't like it, but here's what he often tells me, "You don't like it, so why are you asking me?" And sometimes he'll surprise me by saying, "I like it! Why don't you?"
External validation can be important because it comes in many forms: paychecks, purchases of our creations, compliments, etc. The point is that external validation should never be our only motivation. If we are doing something only for external validation, then we have to ask ourselves if that's really what God wants us to devote so much of our lives to.
* Have lower self-esteem
More than being male/female traits, the traits I've listed reveal differences between a wrong and right relationship with God. The first three traits naturally lead to the fourth, whether negative or positive. If we see probable failure in our futures, if we believe we are victims of external circumstances, or if we seek validation from the world instead of God, then we are not putting our trust in God. On the other hand, if we exercise our faith by seeing our future as one of probable success, if we attribute that success to our God-given gifts and the Holy Spirit within, and if we seek God's validation first, then we can claim God's promise and be "more than conquerors!"