Your Inner Loser

If you follow this blog at all, you know that we spend a lot of time here looking into those aspects of ourselves and life generally that don’t exactly make for, say, flirty cocktail party talk.

“You seem like a really fun person to know,” a new acquaintance might say to one of us.

“Yeah, I fake that,” might come the rejoinder, “because inside I’m one long muffled scream of anger and insecurities. Have you tried the little toothpicked weenies?”

See? No good. We don’t do small talk, man. Producing The Happy Shiny Show is not our forte.

But what we are good at is starting with who and what we actually are, and then seeing where an honest and careful exploration of that phenomenon takes us. We actually do believe that the biggest thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Which brings me to what I want to talk about today, which is fear.

Literally everything about ourselves about which we feel bad — everything that we feel is wrong or faulty about who or how we are — draws the power of its grip upon us from our singular, deep fear that whatever we’ve done confirms that the worst of what we ever learned about ourselves is true.

If it doesn’t sound too smuggy-bossy, could I ask you to read that again?

That, right there, is the thought that I want to explore. That’s the spot of gold on the ground that I believe leads to the fortune we’re all looking for.

So before we start digging at that spot — before we start mining those riches — I wanted to be sure to take a moment to thoroughly reflect upon and affirm our starting point: That what really gets us about our own manifested faults and weaknesses is our fear that they prove we really are the hopeless, self-defeating screw-ups that we have compelling, deep-rooted reasons to believe we are.

 

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.kdmccrite.com kdmccrite

    John,

    Bless your heart.

    –kd

  • http://strawberryroan.blogspot.com Shanyn

    John, when I have a cocktail party you are invited! I would love to have a party with real conversations and not just fluff and stuff…great post…!

  • Kara

    The most frustrating about the “worst case scenario” that we fear is that it’s frequently not the result of some unavoidable quality of humanity, but of what we’ve been told by people we trust.

    “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

    “All our righteousness is as filthy rags.” Isaiah 64:6

    I learned these in first grade. At six. Along with the doctrine of the “total depravity of man.” (Bonus points for gender-exclusive language.) And I’ve had mind-numbing issues with self-doubt and self-loathing for as long as I can remember.

    It also shows evidence of the black-and-white thinking that pervades so much of legalism and fundamentalism. If we even perceive a mistake, we can think it’s a sign of our total, inherent failure as a human being. An exhausting way to live, and not the abundant life that Jesus came to bring. As my pastor is fond of saying, “Jesus means freedom.” And as the Bible says, perfect love casts out fear, because we no longer stand condemned.

    • Charlotte

      Growing up with fundamentalist parents, I can sure relate to what you are saying. Just when I think I have eradicated all those false thoughts about who I am and what I can do, they return full force.

  • Rob B

    John, you’re so spot on… Fear will kill you… I know. It nearly did me….

    • Lili

      Yes, and the insidious part is long before it kills you it will first paralyze you, and rob you of the amazing potential and possibilities that should be yours for the embracing!

  • DMK

    I’m gonna think about this for a WHILE… I hate the superficial convo… When I was young-ish. This is the first place that I found value in female conversation.. Up until now, I found men very interesting to talk to, and I’m not talking flirtations.

    A quick story. While DH and I were courting, he wrote me a letter that included a statement, “because you’re worth it.” That really impressed me. It wasn’t until later that I realized that it was a slogan from the company he worked for, “L’Oreal”…. UGH… Trumped by a cosmetic company of all things! LOL… I’m sure he still meant it… LOL.

    • DMK

      Sorry… that “when I was young-ish” blurb is unrelated to my comment. A stragler from a deleted thought.

  • kimberly

    ugh. well. ok, you’re right. but, ugh. ;-)

  • cat rennolds

    not exactly….I KNEW I was worthless. I was AFRAID I must be evil.

  • Don Whitt

    …and that jaundiced lens, crafted by so many misguided hands, and through which we gaze upon our tattered and self-tortured souls, is the gift that keeps on giving.

    • Charlotte

      Who said that about the jaudiced lens, or is it yours? I like it a lot.

      • Don Whitt

        Thank you, Charlotte.

  • Barb

    It’s quite comforting to know, that after half-a-century, there are others like me who still need to work on themselves. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one…

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Only two kinds of people claim they’re done evolving: liars and the tragically deluded.

      • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

        Amen to that! And now to get away from them…

  • Marcelo

    Nerd Alert.

    “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”

  • Robert

    Hi John…

    Ditto on the Cocktail Party Invite… If I ever throw one… you are invited.

    Odd thing. The gentler I am with myself and the less accusitory, the easier it has been for me to see my flaws… as simply flaws… as areas I need to develop better skills in… as defenses against hurt, loneliness and pain (which often lead to hurt, loneliness and pain)…

    I no longer see them as… BAD or EVIL or signs that I am broken, disfunctional, a looser and worthless.

    And the easier it has been to let some of the go… to make different choices… to pause and think befor reacting… and choosing to respond like an adult rather than react like a 5 yr old.

    Am I perfect… NOPE…. I am a work in progress… and after 50 yrs on the planet… I am progressing.

    Told a freind of mine recently… “It is ok to now fall flat on my face… cause at least I know I am falling Forward”.

    Your blog is interesting as always.

    Robert

    (PS. I have been alot of Yoga and Al-Anon for the last two years… which has been key in my new found “rose colored glasses”.)

  • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

    One of my personal theories on courage is that it does not exist without fear – because it is defined by facing fear. This would mean that the bravest people probably have the most fears… If this is true, I must be one of the bravest people in the universe.

    I don’t do cocktail parties… I mean, I wind up being more interested in the food, than anything, and more interested in talking to the pets than to the people, and I’d rather stay home to paint, or write, or play a videogame or fart around on the Internet or something else not involving awkward human contact.

    • Diana A.

      I’m the same way, although I’m getting better. Then again, my circle of friends has improved over the years.

    • DMK

      WOW… something else to think about. I can relate to everything you’ve said…. Hopefully I’ll have a chance tonight to really quiet down my thoughts and write them here.

  • Don Rappe

    I believe there is rational fear and irrational fear, but I may be wrong. It may be that my irrational fear has a reason that is sunk beneath my conscious level.

  • DMK

    Okay so I’m probably going to write from all over the board, trying to catch my thoughts as they come flying out of my head. I’ve scrolled back up to the OP to keep checking to see if I’m on track and answering the question. Still not sure if I am, but this is what I’ve got:

    My worst fear is so deep and dark that it is unnamable. I can never get a good look at it, but I know it’s there and it has been steering my life off it’s course at every turn. In real life I am a failure. I have value, I do know that, but I am a failure. If something happened to my husband tomorrow, I could not support my myself, let alone a child, too. I am like a million dollar mansion with no practical value on the market.

    All my life I’ve not been able to realize any aspirations or goals whether for a career or for my life. I don’t know why this is true. Oh yeah, Fear. I’ve excelled at many things yet not quite enough to become the master. I love learning yet I’ve never been to college. I love writing yet constantly suffer from writer’s block. Whatever I did learn, it was only through my love of reading. I try to socialize with people who have higher education and the gap between us is painfully obvious; yet my mind craves meaningful conversation and exchange of ideas. NOT intricate talk about what kind of curtains, what color curtains would go best in my kitchen and why…. Gives me the shakes. This conversation did happen, btw, when my sister got married. I was obligated to sit in on it between her and my mother because I was her maid of honor.

    I’ve been overweight my whole life and have never managed to hold down a significant weight loss. I sabotage myself…. always. What’s it going to take for me to make any headway in ANY area of my life? There are very real, important reasons for me to lose weight, strive for success in the workforce… Geez I can’t even reenter the workforce and really, the possibility of getting there at all doesn’t look good.

    So yeah. The above, and I could probably dig deeper if needed, is my proof of what I already know. I AM a hopeless, self-defeating scew-up. I guess my biggest fear would be the fear of that which can not be named suddenly making an appearance and getting in my face so that I could not help but name it.

    OK I said it; but on a day to day basis, I can see the screw up that I am and yet marvel at the many blessings I do have. Only by the grace of God do I enjoy the life I have today. A loving and respectful husband, a beautiful six yr. old boy who teaches me every day what it’s like to live and be happy. What I really lean on is the idea that God has a plan for me. I can be of use to Him even with, and specifically because of my flaws. That is my saving grace.


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