What Has Helped You Feel Less Self-Conscious?

I never intended to be a minister.

Never.

I grew up in a church. Over the years, there were probably a half-dozen ministers who preached at this church. As a child, I really didn’t know much about them. I only saw them from a distance. Yet, most of them seemed “different.” Not different in a Christian sort of way. Just different in terms of manner. I remember dark suits, pulpit voices, and distance. I don’t say this to be critical. I am just expressing what I sensed as a child.

So, I never intended to be a minister.

Yet, I am a minister. I have been in this role for 30 years. I mean the kind who preaches each Sunday and does various kinds of ministry “full-time.” (Whatever that means!)

How did I end up in this role? How did I come to believe that God wanted me to do this for a portion of my life? That is a long story. Yet, I can honestly tell you that during my younger years, I never gave a thought to wanting to be a minister.

Years later, as I found myself moving toward this role, I had to grapple with my self-consciousness. I worriedself1.jpg (a lot) about what people thought about me. Would they think I was odd, weird, or different? The answer is “yes.” Yet, I learned that the issue to grapple with was not their perception but my own self-consciousness.   

I’ve known some ministers who seem to to deal with this by attempting to project a certain “coolness.” It sort of feels like this person is saying, “Hey, I’m not odd, weird, or different. I’m cool. I’m like you.” Well, ok. I just don’t think I want to approach this problem this way. Maybe I don’t trust my motives. It seems to me that in trying to convey “coolness” that my own self-consciousness is still in control.

I have learned to deal with this by first recognizing when I am feeling self-conscious and then focusing my energy and intent toward being authentic and being “me.”

The other day I was at a luncheon. Most of the other people present were either attorneys or business people. I was there as a guest of the luncheon speaker. At each table, we were asked to stand and introduce ourselves to those in the room. In this self-introduction, we were to give our name and our work. At one time, being the only minister present, I would have felt self-conscious in such a setting. That day, however, I was more focused on the conversation taking place between myself and a very interesting man who I had just met. I was more interested in him than focused on myself. It was an enjoyable lunch.

Question:

Do you ever find yourself so concerned about what others think of you that you don’t enjoy the moment? What has helped you become less self-conscious?



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

12 thoughts on “What Has Helped You Feel Less Self-Conscious?

  1. First of all Jim, I have always thought of you as particularly genuine and sincere, and for that reason, likable, and someone I am happy to be the husband of my dear sweet cousin Charlotte.

    To answer your question, I am someone who seems to be especially concerned with what other people think of me. I’m not sure why, exactly. I hate being in crowds, I never attend company sponsored parties or gatherings if I can avoid them, and I have become adept at “flying under the radar” as they say. It is to my detriment at work, it is sometimes a lonely feeling, it is always uncomfortable and I avoid all situations in which I am around people I don’t know well. I am self conscious for many reasons, but particularly because I never know what to say to people.

    To answer your second question, there is nothing I know that has helped me become less self-conscious. If anything does work for me, it is forcing myself to enter those situations. Usually it is a situation in which I know it is the right thing to do, such as teaching a bible class, going to a function which, for some reason, is important for me to be there, or doing it because it would be more uncomfortable later not to have attended.

    Thanks for the work you do, and congratulations of becoming a future grandpa.

    • Rocky,thank you for such a very fine comment. I appreciate the kind and affirming words that you said at the beginning of your comment. I think that many, many of us can relate to your description of your own self-consciousness. Who knows how these feelings begin or what experiences contribute to self-consciousness. I admire you for forcing yourself, on occasion, to enter in to certain situations that are uncomfortable. Far too many people have opted out instead, only to miss some critical moments in the life of their marriage or children. Thanks again, Rocky. I appreciate you very much.

  2. Sometimes I go back and listen to a recording of myself preaching, and one of the biggest things that makes me cringe is when I hear my voice slipping into a sort of preacher voice. It’s weird stuff, almost like that kind of voice has gravity, sucking me into a different identity.

    I feel the least self-conscious, and I don’t think this is unusual, as I develop relationships.

    • Steven, your last sentence is interesting (and quite good) and I want to make note of something here. You say that you feel the least self-conscious as you develop relationships. I suspect that one reason this is true is because you apparently really focus on others as you develop these relationships. Many people make relationships but continue to be very self-conscious, in part, because it is difficult for them to not be preoccupied with how they are seen or perceived.

  3. Life is such a journey. To recognize the work of God in our lives as ministers, how He has worked in and through us and in and through others, and how He continues to call us to this humbling, amazing role in life is such an awesome thing! Thank you for sharing Jim.

    Glory to God!

    Jason

    • Jason, thank you very much for this comment. You are right. God has called us to a humbling, amazing role and place of service.

  4. Jim,

    Thanks for sharing this. I have struggled with all these issues myself and I’ve been places where I suffered a great deal partly because I didn’t meety someone’s expectation of either “coolness” or “preacher-stereotype.” I’ve noticed that in some places, the dark suit has been traded for a pullover shirt and blue jeans, while the pulpit has been traded for a tall chair and a Starbucks type of table. When coolness becomes the norm it becomes the new stereotype. I’ve decided to just be me.

    A couple of things have helped me to be more comfortable in my skin. First, Dale Carnegie Training. Second, going through an ordeal of rejection regardless of who I tried to please or whatever image I tried to project. So I’ve decided to just be me and not worry about it. I’m thankful to now be at a church that doesn’t care if I’m cool, or traditional, or neither.

  5. Wade, a great comment. You are right. There is nothing that you can offer anyone that is any better than the authentic, genuine you. That is far healthier and much more authentic than trying to project an image. I appreciate you.

  6. I am so far from being in this place at this time but learning to let go of reputation and the “false self” thru greater attentiveness to living the “no longer I but Christ” life is my desire. Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, being present, on stage or in obscurity thru the “Christ in me” the “true self”. And learning to see others thru this same lens (Christ in them).

  7. Hey Jim,
    I doubt there are many of us “preacher” types who fail to identify with your thoughts here. Your comment about visiting with the person next to you at your table, is helpful. I have noticed that if I allow myself to relate to people person to person rather than profession to profession, I am able to be most at ease. Most of us in ministry have sought to cultivate the art of being a good listener. Usually if I remember to do more listening than talking, it turns out well. Thanks again for GodHungry. I always get something good here.

    • Hello Gary!
      I like the way you speak about this — relating to people person to person rather than profession to profession. By the way, some of us who are ministers might really give some thought to what you just said. Instead of going into a room and gravitating toward another minister, I might just seek to connect with another “person to person” regardless of the kind of work this person does. Thanks so much Gary. (Thanks also for the kind words regarding the blog)