As a female who loves to watch and play sports, I often felt like I had to prove myself growing up. On many occasions, I showed up to play soccer, football, or ultimate frisbee with a group of guys who had never seen me play, and I warmed up as if I was qualifying for the Olympics. I thought surely one mistake would cost me a spot on the team or significant playing time. Unconsciously, I adopted an attitude of inferiority. I automatically assumed my male teammates were judging my every move, keeping score in their heads, and deciding whether or not I was worthy to be on their team.
What Causes Feelings of Inferiority?
Now, it’s tempting to stop here and speculate on how gender roles and societal expectations led me to adopt this manner of thinking. But I believe there’s so much more at play. When inferiority creeps into our minds and makes itself at home, we develop a pattern of thinking that could best be described as “suspicious.” We stew over conversations, overanalyzing every word. While people are still talking, we secretly wonder if they’re doubting our abilities, questioning our authority, or fishing for character flaws. Are any of those assumptions true?
The reality is, at times people will dislike, mislabel, and reject us. But on the flip side, sometimes people have pure intentions, and we completely misread the situation. In both scenarios, there is only one thing we can control: our response. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
We can cower in a posture of inferiority or stand firm in a position of humble confidence. The latter comes through an important truth found in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We’ll never be satisfied by seeking affirmation in the ever-changing, fleeting opinions of others. Instead, why not create a new pattern of thought – one centered on God’s Word and what He says about us?
How to Overcome Inferiority
Consider Romans 3:10, “None is righteous, no, not one.” At first, this seems like it feeds the monster of inferiority. How can we be encouraged by knowing that we will never measure up to the righteousness of God? But that’s just it! None is righteous, meaning the gospel levels the playing field.
In fact, Romans 3 further explains that the law was only meant to expose our sinfulness and reveal our need for a Savior. If we’re all sinners saved by grace, there’s no reason to feel inferior, nor to look down on others. Instead, we should recognize our brokenness, have patience with ourselves and fellow believers, and help others take their next steps toward Christ.
In light of the gospel, Colossians 3:1-3 urges us to exercise discipline in our thought-life: “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
“Set your minds on things that are above.”
It’s time to fix our focus. Let’s stop looking at others and start looking at Jesus. Not only is He the Founder and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), but He knew us before He formed us in the womb (Jeremiah 1:5). It’s safe to say that His thoughts about us far outweigh another person’s assumptions or labels. We were created to love Him, love others, and share His hope with the world.
Jesus did not call us to a life of inferiority; His death and resurrection gave us a life of freedom and victory. Our lives are hidden with Christ and we are clothed in His righteousness, not in the opinions of others. We can stand firm with a posture of humble confidence because it is Jesus who defines us. His love empowers us to share the message of hope with those who are longing to find new life beyond the walls of inferiority. May we be the ones who help them take a step toward true freedom in Christ.
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