Five Ways I Learned to Walk in God's Confidence
It was the fall of 1987 and I was sure I would be the Homecoming Queen.
After all, I had done all the things that sounded impressive: I was captain of the cheerleading squad, student body co-president, yearbook editor, and nice to almost everyone. I thought I was a shoo-in for Homecoming Queen. Until I wasn’t.
As I watched the school principal place the sparkly tiara on my friend’s head, I can remember the dark feeling and praying my face didn’t show it. I see the pictures now and while smiling jubilantly on the outside, I’m quietly dying on the inside.
Since that day more than 34 years later, I’m embarrassed to say part of my heart is still running for homecoming queen. Or at least the endlessly striving for approval part.
In truth, almost everyone wants to be liked. But for me, the incessant desire for validation carried an unhealthy and soul-crushing shadow. It became the perfect trap by the enemy to keep me chasing good works, exhaustedly hustling for affirmation. I was only as good as my next achievement, my next shiny work, or impressive deed. My approval act fueled a constant hungry desire for more and could never be satisfied.
As I got older, I thought I had overcome this constant need for approval. I talked a good game and put up a good front.
Until I realized the running thoughts over approval-laced situations were always what kept me up at night. Even though I said I was wiser, my internal dialog and anxiety said otherwise. My need to be liked and validated clung to me as my darkest shadow, always undermining my confidence, my personal happiness, and self-worth. I knew I needed to stop. Yet I didn’t know how to become the homecoming queen dropout once and for all.
In search of peace, I did the only thing I knew how to do: pray.
I asked God to change my heart to make His approval the most important thing. I wanted to stop handing my personal happiness over to the whims of other’s opinions. I wanted to walk in the wide-open spaces of freedom for God’s approval in my life. I prayed with a raw sense of brokenness. No amount of self-esteem building, right thinking, and positive efforts would be what changed me. I needed God to unleash change at the soul level through the careful, refining hands of the Master.
God is still shaping me, but I have made loving progress.
What I realized is I didn’t need to make myself wrong for wanting others’ approval. But I needed to want God’s approval more. I sensed God inviting me to shift my gaze. I didn’t need to pull over in the rejection ditch of others’ opinions of me. God invited me to think better and higher thoughts. He wanted me to see things with Kingdom-style views. He longed for me to call out approval for the trap it was, then to choose a stronger place in Him.
In truth, the approval of others will always disappoint.
When I place my hope in what others think of me, I am forever dependent on them to keep validating who I am. In this way, I give up power over myself and become enslaved to working towards the next hit of approval. Below are five ideas that God is working on in my heart.
5 ways to end the habit of approval
1. Pray like you mean it.
The enemy wants you to believe your next level of contentment is only one more shiny good work away. Pray with fierceness and a passion to desire God’s approval over anything else. Pray like a warrior and invite others into your prayer battle. This is a battle with the enemy and best faced like a military unit ready to go to war.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10 ESV)
2. Get God’s approval into your DNA.
Making God’s Word part of your muscle memory is critical. Harness the power of the Word by committing to memory examples and passages of those who sought God’s approval. Allow the heroes of the Bible — Moses, David, Joseph, Esther, Mary, and Job to speak truth to you on how they dedicated their confidence in the Lord, going against the world’s vision of worthwhile. Embed that truth into the fabric of your soul.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)
3. Give yourself permission not to respond in the usual way.
Sometimes I had to speak the truth out loud to myself to call things what they were. When I acknowledged the situation as laced with worldly worship, I named it out loud and promptly gave myself permission to live and walk differently.
And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:32 ESV)
4. Power up with the Holy Spirit. The battle for approval was not meant to be fought on your own. Invite the Holy Spirit to go to work in your areas of weakness. Invite the Lord in to change your heart and mind, give it to Him. Rinse. Repeat.
The Lord himself will fight for you and you have only to be silent. (Exodus 14:14 ESV)
5. Invite others to speak the truth.
I shared my struggles with approval over time with my small group friends from church. Allowing wise Christians to speak truth into my heart was powerful equipping. They became a sounding board to help me find accountability and balance when I struggled with approval. My brothers and sisters in Christ continue to walk with me as I learn how to let go of approval and kick the Homecoming Queen habit once and for all.
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 ESV)
My hope is to deeply live the truth that God’s approval is all truly matters. When I’m walking with God, as the daughter of the King, I already have my crown. I don’t have to run for anything, earn praise or likes. I simply have to wear His righteousness with confidence. I then claim the freedom I already have in Him. In this place, I am able to walk in a manner worthy in which He has already called me. In faith, I declare His approval is enough for me.