Win Today with Christopher Cook

Get Unstuck. Reclaim Your Purpose. Win Today.

Set the Plastic People Free (Reclaiming the Real You)

Beneath the surface of social acceptance, job satisfaction, financial peace, societal contribution, productivity, and great relationships is an underlying desire for validation and a search for personal significance. According to the 2013 Harris Poll Happiness Index, only 33% of Americans are happy. In addition, poorly managed stress, unemployment, underemployment, and financial debt have led to an overall decrease in optimism among Americans. And while there is not an inherent problem with social media, popular culture, and reality television, they can reflect an unnatural and insatiable standard by which we measure ourselves, thus leading to even greater dissatisfaction. My friend, without keeping guard over your heart, mind, priorities, and time, those vehicles act as an opiate to escape the harsh unpleasantries of life. As a result, “plastic” people—people cloaked in inferiority, shame, and rejection at the core, yet airbrushed with a smile—occupy this world; people who appear to have everything together, but are really searching to fill a basic need for worth and value.

At the end of the day, when the television and smartphone is turned off and the designer clothes are hung, when the car is parked and when the makeup comes off, what’s left is an honest question: who are you? My heart breaks for those who feel they don’t measure up in life. It’s one thing to never feel like you’ve done enough, but it’s a great tragedy to feel as though you aren’t enough. If you have ever felt trapped by the lie of inferiority and insignificance, allow me to throw you a lifeline by exposing four areas of intimidation.

1.) Roots of Rejection

Within each one of us is a natural desire to feel validated. Unfortunately, however, without an inherent sense of personal significance, our lives can tailspin into a destructive cycle of performance-acceptance behavior. In this trap, when we perform well, we feel worthy of praise and validation. On the contrary, when we don’t perform well, we don’t feel valuable. Even worse, when we perform well and don’t receive praise, we feel rejected. As such, roots of rejection­­—especially those stemming from childhood—negatively affect our perception of ourselves, of others, and of life in general, often resulting in unrealistic expectations and a proclivity towards perfectionism.

2.) Shame

Rejection, embarrassment, and a lack of validation often contribute to shame: the feeling that you are defective at the core. Shame tells you who you are not, resulting in defensiveness and being distant. Emotionally speaking, shame opens the door to anxiety and depression. It builds walls of self-protection and overconfidence, both of which prevent others from having access to bring truth, life, and freedom to us. Please understand, however, that shame and guilt are not synonymous. Guilt says that you have made a mistake; shame says that you are a mistake.

The earliest account of shame at work in humanity is recorded in the book of Genesis, chapter three, after Adam and Eve opened the door to sin in the world through their free will. Upon realizing their own nakedness, Adam and Eve covered themselves and hid in shame from the presence of the Lord. In Genesis 3:8, the Lord asked, “Where are you?” He did not ask because He was unsure of their whereabouts; He asked because He wanted to bring them out of hiding and into the light of truth. His total commitment to our freedom from shame was capitulated when Jesus hung on the cross, stripped naked and exposed for our deliverance. Today, instead of shame and dishonor, our inheritance stands true: “you will enjoy a double share of honor…possess a double portion of prosperity in your land…and everlasting joy will be yours.” (Isaiah 61:7 NLT)

3.) Fear

Fear distorts our perception of reality, creating a “reality” that is built upon imagination and speculation. It’s precisely why our emotions don’t validate truth; they validate our perception of truth. My point is that if we don’t manage our internal world, fear will eventually manage us and undermine our destiny.

At the core, fear compromises the integrity of our relationships, creating an unhealthy dynamic of “walking on eggshells” and a hierarchal pecking order of personal value. In a fear-based relationship (such as marriage), the undercurrent is often survival instead of thriving, where the motivation is control instead of co-laboring towards a purpose. Similarly, the offspring of a fear-based work culture is an army of “yes men” who forsake authenticity and transparency with honor for people pleasing and saying the right thing for fear of punishment.

Most unfortunately, fear compromises our health, sending our bodies into stress mode. As is the case with athletes, those who compete with an underlying fear of eventual injury increase their potential risk of actual injury.

4.) Hiding Places

While not intended to be a generalization or exclusive to this topic, people drowning in inferiority, insecurity, shame, and rejection often seek to mask their pain by hiding in:

– Materialism
– Isolation
– An overemphasis upon appearance
– An insatiable appetite for accolades
– Being overly opinionated
– Narcissistic behavior
– Overconfidence (Self-Importance) & Pride
– Comparison
– Pornography & Promiscuity (where they can be the “hero” without the risk of real intimacy)


Though this definitely is not an exhaustive list, freedom from inferiority, insecurity, shame, and rejection is found in the following:

1.) Embrace Your Identity

You are God’s prized creation. He designed and fashioned you to His liking and in His image. When He looks at you, He sees someone whom He loves endlessly and unconditionally. In fact, you are the work of His hands. In Psalm 139:14-18, the psalmist articulates God’s precious creation this way:

“For You did form my inward parts; You did knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I will confess and praise You for You are fearful and wonderful and for the awful wonder of my birth! Wonderful are Your works, and that my inner self knows right well.  My frame was not hidden from You when I was being formed in secret [and] intricately and curiously wrought [as if embroidered with various colors] in the depths of the earth [a region of darkness and mystery].  Your eyes saw my unformed substance, and in Your book all the days [of my life] were written before ever they took shape, when as yet there was none of them.  How precious and weighty also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I could count them, they would be more in number than the sand. When I awoke, [could I count to the end] I would still be with You.”

Notice that in verse 14, the psalmist describes himself as a “wonderful work.” Arrogance?  Hardly. An identity formed by the revelation of the delicate and precise works of a loving Father? Exactly. When we receive the revelation that the same thoughts penned in Psalm 139 are true for us, we can develop a healthy self-image and receive affirmation from the Lord Himself.

2.) Realize Your Significance

Significance is so much greater than self-importance. As I mentioned in a previous post, your significance is a God-breathed uniqueness that emanates from the very core of your being. This uniqueness gives birth to dreams, ideas, strategies, and innovations that the world needs, and that is precisely the point: you are not an island unto yourself. You’re a vital component of your community and nation at-large. Simply stated, you and I have the distinct privilege of being contributors to something much bigger than who we are individually. To validate this thought, the Apostle Paul, as recorded in 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, stated, “I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, limpid and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it.”

3.) Seek Validation

Spending your time trying to be well liked by everyone is exhausting. Trust me, I know this from first-hand experience. The harsh reality is that not everyone is going to like you (or me), and that’s okay (though somewhat disappointing). Approval addiction is a dead-end, my friend. Instead, seek validation. When you’re validated as an individual, your uniqueness will be respected and appreciated even in the face of disagreement. In like manner, you can extend respect and appreciation to those around you despite personal differences. After all, if the strength of our relationships is based solely upon points of agreement, what happens to the relationship when a disagreement arises?

4.) Celebrate Unity in Diversity

Parents, supervisors, coaches, pastors, and leaders, I’d like to speak directly to you for a moment: you should not look to create clones, robots, and “yes men” within your family unit, team, or organization. We must put aside our small-mindedness, factions, cliques, and even our propensity towards denominationalism. Promoting individualism isn’t the point (nor is it ever the goal). Rather, we must promote the significance and uniqueness of each individual, because they are a vital contributor to a purpose and plan greater than themselves. To that, there is no formula; formula is for infants. Instead, empower mature leaders! We are in this life together, working by unity, expressed in diversity.

5.) Turn Off the Highlights

Comparison will derail you quicker than you might imagine. Don’t compare your behind-the-scenes footage with someone else’s highlight reel.

6.) Don’t Ignore Your Scars

Scars don’t flaunt failure; they display your humanity. More importantly, scars prove that He is Healer of your broken places. As you continue to trust God with every part of your life, you will see that He uses it all for His purpose because He wastes nothing.

My heart longs for men and women—real leaders—who will be brave enough to crash the chaos of broken lives, and with words of affirmation and arms of love, dismantle the lie that has held so many people—“plastic” people—captive for too long. I implore you to build people for real significance. Remind them of who they are and what they were born to do.

And if you haven’t heard it in a while…I believe in you.

Photo Credit: cheezecakegirl via Compfight cc

  • Gina Queener

    Great word Chris – you’ve definitely awakened my spirit with this!

  • Mark

    Not only its a great message, but it really speaks to some areas I am struggling with right now!