Genesis 1:27 "God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Introduction: Guest Blogger Debi Smith
My wonderful wife Debi Smith has been featured in the past as a guest blogger on "Growing Christian Resources". Currently Debi is doing her Bachelors Degree in Christian Counseling at Liberty University. Recently I asked her if she would allow me to post her most recent paper that she did entitled: "Relational, Emotional, and Spiritual Effects of Insecurity in Women". I believe this topic is very important and that my wife's recent research and writing can provide an invaluable resource to the Body of Christ and readers of this blog. With that said we continue from where we left off yesterday. I now present to you our guest blogger Deborah Smith:
Relational, Emotional, and Spiritual Effects of Insecurity in Women (continued)
Where Do Insecurities Come From?
By no means does this paper look to supply an exhaustive list of all the causes and reasons behind female insecurities. However, the following possible causes surfaced more frequently in the research of this paper. Some of the prevalent causes of insecurity in women are family struggles and/or trauma experienced during their childhood, rejection in relationships, unhealthy self-image, and the basic sinful nature all humans are born with.
Past Traumas Everyone has a past. Some have more turbulent pasts than others, but to say that one’s past does not affect their present state of mind is not always accurate. Dr. Neil T. Anderson says, “Some Christians assert that the past doesn’t have any effect on them because they are new creations in Christ…Either they are extremely fortunate to have a conflict free past or they are living in denial. Those who have had major traumas and have learned to resolve them in Christ know how devastating past experiences can be” (Anderson, 2000, p.187). Various studies have shown that the first five years of development is instrumental in a person’s mental health and self-concept. Within the first 18 months of life the emotions of contentment, laughter, curiosity, anger, fears, self-awareness, pride, shame, embarrassment and security emerge (Berger, 2011). It is in the first two years of life that a child develops stranger wariness and separation anxiety. Also, within the first two years a child develops attachments to their caregivers and/or parents. Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson referred to this time frame in a child’s development as a crisis of life called the “Trust vs. Mistrust” stage. This is “when infants learn whether the world can be trusted to satisfy basic needs” (Berger, 2011, p.187). “If social interaction inspires trust and security, the child (and later the adult) confidently explores the social world” (Berger, 2011, p.187). Therefore, the role of caregivers and parents are crucial in developing the security in a child. How secure a child feels in his or her developing years will play a huge part in how secure the individual is as an adult.
To decide whether insecurity issues derived from one’s childhood, it is reasonable to evaluate the relationship or lack thereof between an individual and their caregivers and/or parents. Theorist John Bowlby developed the attachment theory (Holman, Galbraith, Timmons, Steed, Tobler, 2009). This theory defines attachment as “a feeling of confidence, safety, and security in the knowledge that an attachment figure will be available when desired or needed” (Holman, Galbraith, Timmons, Steed, Tobler, 2009, p. 413). The idea of the word “availability” means that the one an individual attaches to will be “both accessible and responsive” (Holman, Galbraith, Timmons, Steed, Tobler, 2009, p. 414). If a child grows up in a home where there is turmoil, conflict, the absence of a parent, or lack of ongoing communication, there is a high risk that insecurity will be evident in the life of that child as an adult (Holman, Galbraith, Timmons, Steed, Tobler, 2009). This often can be evidenced in homes marked by instability ranging from divorce, abuse, mental illnesses, financial burdens, physical illnesses, fear, and a myriad of other things that can be both “avoidable and unavoidable” (Moore, 2010, p. 64-65).
Even if a childhood was relatively free of stress, a traumatic occurrence experienced as an adult can mar that person with insecurity. Victimization, loss, or any other type of grief a woman may experience in her lifetime can leave her with “an ongoing sense of being unprotected” and “can obliterate personal boundaries until …emotions are black and blue” (Moore, 2010, p.66)
Rejection in Relationships “Friendships are essential to human development… and contribute to a sense of depth and wholeness for individuals as they move through the life cycle” (Furman, Collins, Garner, Montanaro, & Weber, 2009, p.17). Friendships also can play a huge part in the self-identity of an individual (Smart, Davies, Heaphy, & Mason, 2012). Women, especially, view their friendships as highly important. While men view their relationships with their friends by activities, women focus on shared feelings (Walker, 1994). One of the reasons why friendship might be linked with an individual’s happiness and self-esteem is because “unlike family members, friends are earned; they choose us” (Berger, 2011, p. 525).
For women, friendships are characterized by being more intimate. “They share secrets and engage in self-disclosing talk, including difficulties with their health, romances, and relatives. Women reveal their weaknesses and problems and receive an attentive and sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on, or a reassuring hug” (Berger, 2011, p. 527). When a relationship, whether it is platonic or romantic, is broken by rejection, it is no wonder why the end result can lead to insecurity. A breakdown in these vital relationships can lead to a woman feeling scarred (Smart, Davies, Heaphy, & Mason, 2012).
Unhealthy Self-Image Ironically, often one’s self-image is characterized by how other’s see or interpret an individual. As stated previously, a woman gathers much of her self-identity through her friendships and relationships. This process of a wavering self-image starts young. “Self-criticism and self-consciousness rise from ages 6 to 11, and by middle childhood this earlier overestimate of their ability or judgment decreases while self-esteem falls” (Berger, 2011, p.352). It’s at this age, girls are most vulnerable to the opinions of others and makes the self-esteem more fragile (Berger, 2011).
If peer related tensions were not enough to bring down a self-image, the media and culture can affect a woman’s self-concept in a very harmful way. Many studies have been conducted over the last several years to show the effect of unrealistic portrayals of women in the media. All humans have the tendency to compare themselves to others. This is called “social comparison” and it is “the tendency to assess one’s abilities, achievements, social status, and other attributes by measuring them against those of other people, especially one’s peers” (Berger, 2011, p. 351). Women will subject themselves to comparisons and “standards of appearance presented in the mass media” (Want, 2009, p.257). When comparing themselves to the women on the television “are likely to fall short of that standard” (Want, 2009, p.257). While the body weight of fashion models decreased over the last 40 years, the everyday average woman’s weight has increased (Quigg & Want, 2009). Also, studies show that only 5% of women are able to become as thin as the fashion models they see in advertising (Quigg & Want, 2009).
Recently, efforts have been made to change “unhealthy” images of women in the media, images showing girls as “hyper sexualized, physically perfect, and superficial” (Daly, 2010, p.13). One such effort was a 75 second long commercial put out by Dove soap showing the process the media takes a picture through before showing it in ads. The Girl Scout Research Institute discovered that 88% of girls interviewed claim media pressures them to be thin (Daly, 2010). This pressure to be thin and comparing themselves to the unrealistic images they see has been shown to lead college aged women to develop mental illnesses such as eating disorders and depression (Daly, 2010).
Human Sin Nature As Beth Moore points out accurately in her book “So Long Insecurity”, most sources of insecurity are circumstances beyond an individual’s control, but the issue of pride and the human sin nature is an area a person can guard against (Moore, 2010).
“We’re not the only women in our men’s lives….We’re not the most gifted people alive… We’re not the first choice every time…We’re not someone’s favorite…We can’t do everything ourselves…We’re not somebody else’s top priority…We don’t feel special… We don’t get the promotion… We don’t win the fight… We’re not paid what we’re worth… We’re not paid at all… and that really hurts our pride” (Moore, 2010, p.101).
Insecurity may look as though a person is contrite and humble, but if pride is the root of the insecurity it’s not a low self-esteem issue at all. It’s an esteem of oneself that is inflated. Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (NIV).