"We accept the love we think we deserve.” ― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
I absolutely love that quote because it so accurately depicts our nature as people. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower the characters are speaking in the context of romantic love, but if I remove the word love the concept still holds true. “We accept what we think deserve.” More specifically, we accept what is familiar, normal, or safe.
When you think about it, we not only accept the love we think we deserve, we accept the life style, friends, significant other, job, and respect (or lack of), but why? There could be many reasons, but I believe it boils down to one – Identity. For better or worse our identity is a product of our upbringing and influenced by the people and culture around us. What we consider normal, achievable, outrageous, unacceptable is, at least initially, dictated by our environment. If our parents encourage or discourage our dreams, how our friends critique or complement our uniqueness, if our home life was peaceful or fearful, these all shape our perspective.
More than that, there are examples all around us of what society deems as success, beauty, intelligence, romance, and achievement. We’ve been conditioned to seek guidance and even imitate imperfect people in hopes of becoming our idea of perfect, thinking that will bring us happiness. But that’s not how it works. We won’t be content achieving our dreams and goals if we’re doing it to find an identity, because the foundation of our new identity is unstable.
If you believe losing a certain amount of weight will make you beautiful, you’ll always think you're unattractive the moment you can’t fit into that ideal size. If you’re striving to move up in your career so you’ll make more money and finally be financially secure, you’ll be hopeless next time the economy crashes. If you’re dating to feel loved and valued, then you’ll always feel lonely and unworthy when you’re single. Building your confidence on something that could (at any moment) change is a recipe for self-hatred, abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, and/or discontentment (trust me I've been there).
I once heard a pastor say," The only one who can determine something's worth is its creator and/or buyer. When you make something you put your heart, time and energy into designing and building it. Once you’re finished, you alone know whether it can fulfill the purpose you created it for. When you buy something, you do so because it valuable to you and can fulfill a purpose. It’s the same with God and us. He is our creator and He bought us back from sin, and the only one who can give us our true identity.
The Bible says that you are God’s masterpiece. In Christ, you are unconditionally loved, freely forgiven, eternally valued. You are beautiful, talented, and filled with purpose. You are a conqueror and you are never alone.
Forget about all the negative things your family, friends, peers, Ex’s said about you. Don’t allow society to make you feel less than because you don’t fit the "ideal". Look to people for inspiration, but not instruction. You don't have to repeat the same patterns and make the same choices your family members have.
I understand that this sounds easier to do than it actually is. Change takes time, but it's not impossible. Give it up to God and be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to believe all the things the Bible says about you, and you'll realize you don't have to accept the norm, dysfunction, low self-esteem, abuse, disrespect, or hopelessness. God made you for so much more.