Anastasia Shterenberg

Nottingham, UK

Finally Feeling Good Enough (in a world where nothing ever is)

Everybody has their own story of coming to God and not all of us have those heavens and angels coming down to us. For me it is the story of searching for approval. Usually people get their approval from their friends, family or work.  And I’ve chosen work because I felt like I didn’t measure up to the standards my parents had and I felt like I didn’t fit in at school. It wasn’t that my parents are these terrible unloving people - on the contrary, they are the middle class parents that wanted the best for their child (but are a little bit too pushy about it). Likewise with friends, I had different interests and background which led me to looking for my approval in work. I thought I was being independent of people by focusing on work. But work has to be measured with something e.g. schoolwork with a grade, and a grade is someone’s opinion about your work which you can compare to others, being in constant competition with others.

This seemed to work out well enough for me until I came to A-Levels and university and then I stopped doing as well as I used to, so plans for world domination, Oxford and solving world hunger came crashing down. Even though I thought I had altruistic motivations it was ultimately about people remembering my name, doing something extra-ordinary better than anyone else and feeling special. 

So what do people do when they discover that they are no longer successful in what they normally do? They find other outlets of validation. Coming to uni has provided me with the opportunity to meet lots of people with all sorts of backgrounds and interests which made me feel like I had fit in somehow.  But I found myself trying to perform like I’m on a show, always be entertaining since being funny/sardonic and sarcastic is something I’m good at. Even though I did share myself with people and seem very open about my failures I had always done it in a sort of self-deprecating amusing way to get people to listen. I had never revealed myself as a crying mess on the floor because I thought that would scare people away from me. But not sharing that part of my pain meant that I had to bury it somewhere which felt really isolating.  Feelings when they are not shared tend to bottle up and grow in us and wear us down. I reached a point where I had stopped liking myself and my identity.

Usually the solution to that is loads of motivational speeches, self-help advice e.g. here is how to get organized or stop being so attached to things, take each day as it comes etc. Things you can do for you to fix you. However when you really stop liking yourself it gets really hard to start making an effort to make life better for yourself.  I started imaging hypothetical scenarios where I didn’t have some of the obstacles that I was facing and I would be achieving some of the goals that I wanted for myself. But then my brain would concoct other possible difficulties that would get in the way and how I could possibly fail to overcome those in an endless loop. I realized that nothing I would ever achieve would be enough for me to ever feel satisfied with myself or for the world around us which keeps saying you aren’t pretty enough/sophisticated enough/rich enough/successful enough.

I felt exhausted and that’s when God came into my life and let me know that I’m loved, wanted and forgiven for my imperfections.  Even when I didn’t feel any of those things about myself.  Even if you are totally intolerable person who no one is capable to sustain prolonged contact with, God still can, because unlike us His power is immeasurable and His capacity to love us and be with us despite anything that happens is infinite.  He can give us the validation that no one else can.

This freed me not to just be “myself” but to be a new me which is working every day to honour God and being free not to run after approval, not to run after achievement but enjoy every day as it is. And that finally feels like enough.

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