The Other Side of This

When I turned in the film project, I was proud of it—really proud. I had worked hard. A few hours later, I wasn’t proud anymore. They hated it.

One of the problems with flaws is that we often don’t see them until they’re pointed out to us—and then, afterward, that’s all we can see.

In the creative world, you need thick skin to accept critiques of your work so you can get better and grow, and learn from different perspectives. But that initial feedback stuck with me. It played in my mind on repeat. On a good day, I might have viewed the feedback on my film project as constructive criticism because really that’s what it was. But it wasn’t a good day and that wasn’t the lens I was seeing through. I hadn’t had a good day in a while.

That night, I trudged upstairs to my home office, while my wife and three kids laughed and played in the living room. Dropping into my chair, I stared at the wall of shelves full of career memorabilia special to me, but not worth much to anyone else. It used to inspire me to see my old cameras there, and VHS tapes of my grandpa’s silly infomercials, like for “Mo Hair”—a product to help people grow hair. So goofy yet amazing. My Grandpa Erickson was the reason I discovered my love for filmmaking.

But that night, my attention caught on the award I’d received in college from my peers: “Most likely to work on an Academy Award Winning Film.” It seemed to be making fun of me now, like I was kidding myself. I worked with really talented filmmakers. If I couldn’t hit that same level, and that was my main role, what was my worth? If I wasn’t a good filmmaker, who was I? 

“I started to believe that if I didn’t measure up to those around me, then I certainly wasn’t worthy of serving God.”

I started to believe that if I didn’t measure up to those around me, then I certainly wasn’t worthy of serving God. I wondered if I should leave my job at Seacoast. 

The Spiral

I felt like an imposter. They’re going to figure out I’m not really any good at this. I spent more time worrying about people watching my work, than I did in creating it. I was sabotaging myself. I worked longer hours and spent less time with my family. I began to lose the joy in the things I normally loved to do. One night, I picked up the Donald Duck necklace that my daughter Zelda had made for me. If I’m terrible as a filmmaker, maybe I’m a terrible father, too. My friends probably don’t want to be around me. Do I even really have friends? 

The Risk

It’s a risk to open up to someone, to talk about what you fear most, but I was spiraling toward an emotional breaking point. I knew the enemy wanted me to hide what was eating me up inside, but I also knew God wanted me to bring it into the light so he could help me through it. 

I met with Pastor Chip Judd for counseling, and something he said really stuck with me: “Comparison is the root of all inferiority.” There will always be someone better in this race. But if I compared myself to who Christ says I am, I would realize my worth. Isn’t it interesting that the answer to comparison is to focus on someone who is perfect?

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

I also talked with my team leads about how I was struggling…which was hard. But I’m blessed to work with good people who care and want me to succeed. They were voices of reason, helping me see that I’d been putting words in their mouths, making assumptions that weren’t true. I can knock on my director’s door anytime. “Can we talk?” We joke about it now, but that open door has been so important. 

The Why 

I had to ask myself some hard questions. Who was I doing this for? For myself or for God? How was I defining my worth?

A verse from Galatians helped me put things in perspective.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. – Galatians 1:10

When we allow the world to define us, we lose sight of who God says we are. We need to remember who we’re doing everything for in the first place, and be honest with ourselves.

The Way

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that God likes to use our gifts in ways we hadn’t thought of and during the most unlikely times. Take quarantine for instance—a difficult time for the entire world. But during it, I became more intentional, spending time with my family. I focused on my relationship with my wife. I also helped develop Seacoast At Home that allowed people to experience Seacoast weekend services in their homes—to still worship and connect with others when we couldn’t meet in person.

It ended up tapping directly into my gifts in live production, all the filming in the moment. I was able to serve as a bridge between the production and film teams. I stopped obsessing over how others might see me and focused on what I love doing. I began to breathe easier and started creating for the right reasons. I began producing things that were good.

The Confidence

I’m becoming a better filmmaker because I know who I am now—whose I am. I am a child of God who has a purpose. It took the encouragement of those around me to remember why I do the work that I do, that I am called to help tell stories from our campuses that point people to God. I love showing people how God’s grace and our perseverance can take us somewhere altogether new and unexpected. 

The Long View

Now, I don’t want to make it seem like it’s one and done. I still have days when I struggle. But I don’t stay down as long. I have more tools to help me and people to remind me of who I am. Now when I sit at my desk at home and look at my memorabilia wall, I can smile again and feel inspired. I’ve added something new to it, too—my Master’s of Arts diploma—and I’m finally taking steps to launch a training series I’ve dreamed of for years.

Before my identity was tied to the approval of others, but God doesn’t want me to compare myself to others. He wants me to see myself as he sees me. He wants that for you, too. We—are loved, and we are enough.

Questions for Discussion

  1. Have you ever had a time where you worked incredibly hard on something, but it didn’t measure up? 
  2. Where are you setting unrealistic expectations for yourself? 
  3. How are you defining yourself?