“As I see it, we shall never succeed in knowing ourselves unless we seek to know God.” -Saint Teresa of Avila
An unstable self-image is one of the 9 major symptoms of living with Borderline Personality Disorder. Despite my years of therapy, I still lacked a solid sense of identity. It was not until I turned to God and His Word for guidance that I found my answers. For me, and many others with Borderline, the quest for identity is consumed with confusion, pain, and sporadic deviations. Growing up, I constantly sought external validation from anyone who would give it to me. I would change myself to whatever the social situation required of me. I would throw myself passionately into new future career goals only to abandon them months later. I questioned everything about myself, morals, sexuality, values, goals, purpose, and religion. Every time I came to a new conclusion about who I was, I was convinced that that’s the way I’ve always been. Soon later, I change my mind again. Living with an unstable sense of self is exhausting.
I would have a new guy every month who occupied the entirety of my feelings and attention. My happiness depended on him. I would change everything about me to align with my new identity and the new man. I would alter my hair, body type, what I ate, the music I listened to, the way I talked, and my values. I didn’t know how to exist without being attached to another person. I felt like I was going to float away.
In a desperate attempt to ameliorate the pain of my toxic relationships, I jumped into even more unhealthy relationships. This caused self-loathing and confusion which made it almost impossible for me to develop an accurate self of myself. I hurt many people along the way as I struggled to fill the gaping hole in my life that only God could fill. I tormented myself for years over my behaviors.
I became convinced God had rejected me. I knew all the verses about God’s unconditional love and how he will never leave me or forsake me. I thought those verses about Christians being “redeemed” and “in God’s image” didn’t apply to people like me. I believed I was a horrible, selfish, disgusting person. My emotions clouded my judgement to the point where nothing anyone said could penetrate my beliefs. I thought, “I feel it, therefore, it is true.” The feelings of worthlessness were so strong that I began to speak them, believe them, and treated myself as such.
I am an evil, stupid, dirty person.
I hurt everyone I get close to.
God is mad at me for all my sins and is punishing me; He likes to watch me suffer for my selfishness.
I reached a powerful realization, my own emotions often led me down the wrong path and I needed to find an outside source to of truth. I need something that won’t change. God’s love, compassion, hope and security is constant because God is constant and doesn’t change. I started to correct these negative thoughts when I looked closer at God’s Word.
I decided to combat these strongholds in my life with the Truth. I started to ask myself, “When a thought surfaces, is it supported or rejected by the Bible?” It will benefit us to hold every single one of our thoughts up to the scrutiny of the Bible. “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) Thoughts can quickly become strongholds in our lives and dictate the way we view ourselves and God. “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Proverbs 4:23) We must constantly guard what thoughts we allow in our minds. The only way to ensure we know our identity is to not follow any other messages except those from Jesus.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) Paul writes in Romans that we should let God transform us. However, how can we allow God to transform us into new people unless we are regularly in the Word, learning it, absorbing it and putting it into practice? One of our most valuable tools as followers of Jesus is the Bible, regardless of what we’re facing. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)
Life is an eternal journey to find God and our identity. These two quests are not mutually exclusive. Our view of ourselves reflects how we view God. And how we view God affects how we view ourselves.
My Dad wisely told me, “The cross is the ultimate revelation of Christ. God loves you so much that he died for you. You are loved and accepted just as you are unconditionally. This can enable you to come to God for forgiveness when you sin. On the other hand, you are so sinful and flawed that it took the death of God to redeem you. This keeps you humble and dependent on God because only he can truly transform you.”
“Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. It will come when you are looking for Him. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” -C.S. Lewis
Books I used for reference to write this blog: ID: The True You by Mark Batterson and the Bible.