A Kind of Earplug You Can’t Buy
Last year, a few weeks into my first semester of college, I found myself at a local drugstore hunting for earplugs. Never having needed them before, I was uncertain of how to select the best ones. As I compared the prices and different noise reduction ratings, the brand “Sleep Pretty in PinkTM” jumped out at me with its bright pink packaging. Upon further investigation, I noted that they claimed to be the “#1 bestselling women’s earplugs.” Tentatively, I pulled a box from the shelf and skeptically examined the small, very pink pieces of foam inside. How effective could they really be?
This skepticism stemmed from the fact that I am, and always have been, a light sleeper. I was always under the impression that earplugs could work for mildly sensitive sleepers, but were useless for hypersensitive sleepers like me. But upon arriving in the “city that never sleeps,” amidst the round-the-clock roar of truck engines, honks of car horns and thuds of heavy basses, I had to cast aside my doubts and give “Sleep Pretty in PinkTM” a try. I was desperate for any way to silence the “lullaby” of the city noise and nocturnal dorm life.
That night, as sirens blared outside my window, I ripped open the packaging and stuffed the little pink plugs into my ears. While I could still hear the sirens, the harshness of the sound was significantly dampened. Even at this slight improvement, I was overjoyed. The prospect of sleep no longer seemed as far away. But to my dismay, sleep continued to elude me. As the noise faded, I began to realize that it was not merely the audible sounds that were keeping me awake. Inside my head, my thoughts and worries were as loud as honking horns. I was consumed with anxieties about my GPA, my intended major and possible internships among other things. Would my resume stand out among the masses? Will the major I choose help me get a job? Am I working hard enough? Am I even smart enough?
As a first-year, thrown into the sea of talented, accomplished and successful peers, I could not help but feel woefully inadequate at times. I would often compare myself with the capable people around me and feel as if I did not quite belong. At the start of the school year, the speakers at the Convocation Ceremony warned us of this small-fish-in-the-big-sea complex. The Admissions Office even offered these comforting words to us: “We did not make a mistake on you.” At the time, I wondered why they made such a big fuss. But I soon discovered that this sense of self-doubt was a very real feeling. Lying awake that night, it occurred to me that the earplugs could only alleviate one of the problems preventing me from having a good night’s sleep. And honestly, it was the more trivial of the two. The real noise that was bothering me was my internal insecurities.
Having been raised in a Christian household, I was taught to live with the humility and meekness that Jesus displayed throughout the Gospels. As I further contemplated my insecurities, I thought that perhaps they were beneficial in regards to keeping me humble. In Philippians 2:3, the apostle Paul instructs us to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant that yourselves.” Did that mean the Bible condoned my feelings of inadequacy in comparison to others? Was my self-doubt actually a good thing in terms of living with humility as a Christian?
The short answer to the questions above is no. I realized that insecurity is far from any sort of humility that the Bible advocates. The key to Philippians 2:3 lies in the first half of the verse: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit.” Humbleness does not mean having low self-esteem, but rather living selflessly. Oftentimes, we view pride as this great sin and tend to see insecurity as the other extreme. Yet in many ways, insecurity is merely another, insidious form of pride. My insecurity revealed how I was still only considering myself, albeit in a negative light. Worst of all, in viewing myself as nothing, I was diminishing the worth of God’s creation and sacrifice. In Matthew 6:26, Jesus declares, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life … Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” He tells us that we should not worry about anything in our lives because God cares for us more than any other part of creation. Jesus’s argument hinges upon the fact that we are so incredibly valuable that even the little things in our lives matter to Him. And the affection is not just lip service. His sacrifice on the cross reveals the great magnitude of His love for us. He values us more than His own life. Thus, Jesus is the constant validation of our self-worth, and His love is what gives our lives unchanging value. Better yet, this value is intrinsic. We can do nothing to gain it, add to it or take away from it.
I had thought I placed my confidence in God, but as every little wave of insecurity about my education, future job, potential wealth and friends began to erode my self-worth, I realized I had been deceiving myself. I was using my achievements to give myself value, and therefore my sense of value wavered with every success and failure. And in my experience, the highs of my successes were insufficient to keep me afloat during the lows of failure. Insecurity was always waiting to snatch up my happiness. After nights of sleepless misery (even with the help of the earplugs), I realized that I needed to change something about my mindset. I needed to stop listening to my insecurities and focus on God’s voice telling me that He loves me. It sounds like such a simple thing to do, but it has been one of the greatest challenges for me. I am not writing this as someone who is free from insecurity, but rather as a person who can see her insecurities for what they really are: destructive lies. The truth is that my life has unchanging value through Christ, and His love upholds me during the good and bad times.
It simply boggles my mind that the omnipotent Creator would care for us, listen to us and love us, despite our flaws and imperfections. But He does. In Psalm 8:4-5, the psalmist, overwhelmed by God’s great devotion to him, inquires, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.” Just as He cherished the psalmist, He cherishes us today. God’s unfailing, unceasing love for us is the only thing that can truly silence the internal cacophony of our self-doubt and insecurity. It’s a kind of earplug that you can’t buy.