Have you seen the 30 second TV commercial with actress Betty White and Snickers candy bars? It was introduced during the 2010 Super Bowl. It's an interesting portrayal of personal identity. Watch it:
The Snickers Identity Paradigm
The ad's a great example of how so often we see others by what they're doing on the outside. Their identity is their performance. If you're not playing football very well we see you as a Betty White (although I would have had second thoughts about playing ball against a younger Betty White--she's got the spirit!). "Come on, man, don't be such a wuss! Get it together and start playing like a man!" If you're really good (which is to say, proficient, skillful, aggressive), then we see you as your "real" self. Our culture bases everything about identity on externals. Get that real job! Drive that real car! Make a real salary! Date that real woman or man! Buy a real house! Wear that power suit! Carry that real purse or wear those real shoes! Show your stuff (whatever "stuff" is) and stop wimping around!
And if you're just not "manifesting" it rightly, then eat a Snickers bar and turn yourself back into a real man or woman! Notice the interesting solution to being your "true self": a candy bar (or whatever external things the advertisers are offering).
You and I are tempted every day to buy into this perspective on identity and reality. If we can just manifest the right outside and external world, we can be satisfied that all is right with the world, we are who we're suppose to be. So our identity is held captive to what we can or cannot manifest on the outside.
But here are a couple of big dangers with this paradigm. One, if you base your identity on what you can manifest in your life (the externals like people, things, circumstances), then you never have a solid foundation for your self esteem. Your identity is dependent upon what happens on the outside. And so your self esteem fluctuates based upon circumstances created by either you or others. Your self esteem and personal identity are victimized by the fluctuations of whatever's happening to you or by you. Definitely not a very secure way to live.
And two, it becomes easy to put yourself down or to put others down who aren't manifesting everything you think you or they should. You can guilt people by saying, "If you just would get your thoughts right, you should be able to do it. So if you're not doing it, there's something wrong with you!"
It's so subtle how our attitudes impact our sense of self and our expectations of others.
An Alternative Paradigm: Secure Identity and Inner Peace
There's an alternative way to live that produces far more confidence, assurance, and solid peace. Notice this statement from scripture:
"Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace." (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Now considering the context of this statement, the significance of it increases dramatically. The author is writing to people who have developed the insidious belief that your external world validates who you are. The worldview was that if you were experiencing a life of success, ease, and prosperity that was a sign that you were being blessed by the divine universe. And being blessed by God was always manifested by a life of prosperity. They claimed that the condition of your external world indicated your personal identity and your status with the gods.
But author Paul is trying to counter that popular paradigm by describing his own life. When he talks about looking like things are falling apart, he's painting a pretty graphic picture of his life experience:
"You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!" (2 Corinthians 4:8-12)
Notice his juxtaposition of external circumstances and internal attitude and identity. Even though his external life would appear to be a complete failure, falling apart at the seams, his sense of identity and security with himself and with God are completely secure. There's an internal sense of peace and certainty that pervades his mind and heart. He is describing himself as possessing true life in its deepest and most meaningful sense, a life that God is continually creating and recreating in him. And the more centered he finds himself in this internal life, the more grounded he finds himself in how he faces his external world.
And he ends that paragraph with a sentence describing another truism (did you notice it?): our internal attitude does impact our external environment with others. As Paul centered himself on inner peace that he allows God to create within him in the midst of external chaos, he blesses others with that environment of peace, too, giving them opportunity to experience inner peace for themselves. It may not still the storms swirling all around, but it does provide inner calm and centeredness which is contagious.
Our True Miracle
That's the true miracle we all are needing. Being able to live life with the continual unfolding of divine grace within us, where God is making a new life every day--not based upon what people think about us or even what we're tempted to think about ourselves based upon what we have or don't have, do or don't do, but based upon what God gives us inside--an nonfluctuating identity as a child of God embued with eternal value because of that stamp of love on our souls. The ability to live in love rather than fear is the greatest miracle of all. That should be our highest manifestation in life. And it certainly has the power to impact others with a spirit of peace and love, too.
By today's standards based upon the Law of Attraction, Paul would be considered a real failure. And yet Paul is completely confident in who he is, what God is doing in his life, and his courageous living of his purpose.
Marianne Williamson, author and spiritual teacher, puts it this way: "We're not asking for something outside us to change, but for something inside us to change. We're looking for a softer orientation to life...Everything we do is infused with the energy with which we do it. If we're frantic, life will be frantic. If we're peaceful, life will be peaceful. And so our goal in any situation becomes inner peace. Our internal state determines our experience of our lives; our experiences do not determine our internal state." (Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love, p. 66)
So build your identity, your sense of self and esteem and worth, on a foundation that remains secure, that outside circumstances and people cannot destroy. So whether you have much in life that you truly want or have very little, you still are rich--you are grounded on the eternal truth of your being as a child of the God of the universe and nothing can take that away.
What are the internal changes and transformations you're experiencing in your life these days? Are you clear of your identity and what it's based upon? Do you possess a centered and grounded sense of who you are and where your value comes from? Do you have that "softer orientation to life" that comes from living with love instead of fear? Do you have a peace and security regardless of what's happening in your external world?
Next time I find myself face down on the muddy football field, and others think I'm playing ball like Betty White, I think I need to stick something more substantial into my soul than a Snickers bar.