I have had many moments of selfishness throughout my life, but I would never want others to attribute self-centeredness as a defining personality trait of mine, so the day my mom suggested that I was spending a great deal of time being self-centered, I was completely offended. But the more I processed it, and the more I’ve matured, what I gained from this new view of selfishness shifted my approach to everyday life when reacting to small or large obstacles.
I remember many occasions when I was in high school when I pulled every article of clothing from my closet off its hanger, mounded it all in a giant pile, and threw my crying self on top of said pile, because I just had nothing to wear, or so it felt. I just couldn’t go to school, church, the grocery store—anywhere–if I did not wear the perfect clothing combination. It felt like a real issue. And sometimes it still does.
While I have no earthly clue exactly what that perfect combination is in these moments, nor did I when they occurred more frequently as a teenager, the fear of the lacking perfection was literally debilitating (hence my limp body sprawled across the mound of clothing).
Although it may sound cliché for women owning plenty of clothes with nothing to wear, this was one of my biggest struggles throughout my teen years and even in recent times–simply getting dressed. Usually it is during a rather hormonal week when I walk into my closet, all clothing clean and accounted for, yet the task of choosing what to wear feels overwhelming. Ridiculous sounding, I know, but the process seems like a monumental feat. And in those moments, I remind myself of the wisdom my mother shared with me during one of these “episodes” as a teenager.
She began by lovingly questioning whether I thought of myself as a selfish person, or even if I thought I was selfish very often at all. She agreed with me that being selfish was far from my usual behavior. I have always loved focusing my attention on serving others or finding the most personalized gift I could give someone. It was easy for me to define selfishness in elementary terms of not sharing candy, dominating a conversation, or hogging the stage. None of that was like me, so I could not understand where she was going with this topic and why she might be implying that I was being selfish.
She asked me if I thought people would remember in a week what I might end up wearing that day… Probably not. Who was I focused on while being overwhelmed with what to wear? Myself, because I was trying to get dressed. I couldn’t go naked. It made sense to be focused on myself in that moment. Duh. (insert inappropriate teenage attitude here). Were the shirt and jeans I wore going to determine my success in life or the way I treated the people I was around? Well, no…
I began to see where she was going with this. She explained my perspective had centered the entire day and it’s events around the clothing I put on my body, as opposed to focusing my attention on how I would treat the people I would see, the words I would say, the love I would extend wherever I was going. But my issue of feeling like I had nothing to wear didn’t feel like selfishness then and sometimes doesn’t feel that way now. It felt like the most important decision I would ever be faced with, and my fate was decidedly doomed from the lack of perfect outfit options.
By definition, though, I was “concerned excessively or exclusively with [my]self : seeking or concentrating on [my] own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others” (Merriam-Webster). My happiness for the rest of my day and life depended upon this one clothing ensemble. (Sounds like I was exclusively focused on myself.) But in all actuality, regardless of how melodramatic it sounds, the impending doom felt very real.
I asked my mom what the solution was, probably secretly hoping for an impromptu shopping trip. But her advice has stuck with me for at least ten years, and it has been invaluable in countless moments beyond the crippling choice of what to wear on a hormone-driven day.
“You ask God to shift your perspective and get your mind back on what’s important.”
I did not really understand how doing that would aid in my choosing of which shirt, skirt, jeans, or jacket to wear. But surprisingly at the acknowledgement of my self-centeredness and request for help, I witnessed effective results. I can’t say whether I left feeling like I was wearing the perfect attire for the day or other days like that one, but I can say the overwhelming feeling of a doom and gloom destiny diminished. It just didn’t matter after seeking God to help change my perspective.
I doubt I am the only female to have such a ridiculous occurrence in my teen years and sometimes into adulthood, but the same process can be applied far beyond just getting dressed. Whatever situation seems challenging, all-consuming, and overwhelming to you, step back and analyze the situation as if you were not the one experiencing it. Who are you focusing the majority of your attention on? Is it your own personal gain, profit, or pleasure you’re seeking as results? Does your very happiness depend solely on the outcome of this one job, this one relationship, this one thing? It is probably okay to be prayerful and concerned about the issue, but at the point it becomes overwhelming and all you can focus on, centering your life around the effect of this thing is a dangerous, unproductive spiral.
Wonderfully, The Maker of all things new is waiting to hear your voice and for you to trust Him to respond (Revelation 21:5). Ask God to give you a new perspective on the situation. Ask Him to help you see it from a different vantage point; to help you get your mind back on His great plans for you. Who can you help? What can you do to serve or give to someone else? You might find you’ve gone a week or more without even thinking about whatever previously consumed you, and that week may be one of the best, most fulfilling weeks you have had in a long time. God works behind the scenes on every important issue in our lives. He really does have our whole closet, relationship, and world in His hands, and that is a far safer place than taking it into ours. He has every day of our lives planned already.
Rest in the new perspective he can give you to see the beauty surrounding you, even in the midst of struggle. He has intentionally placed such beauty and joy around you in order to grab your attention, reframe your perspective and carry you through. He can make your perspective new, while ordering every one of your dreams and days.
by Jacqueline Fox