Kevin Costner’s moving tribute to Whitney Houston at her funeral offered fresh insight into why Whitney may have initially turned to the alcohol and drugs that ultimately took her life.
Costner said he and the superstar became fast friends because they came from the same background. Both were raised in strict but loving families, where church was the center of their growing up years.
Whitney knew she was loved and accepted, Costner said, and knew her voice was a gift from God. But as a young adult, when complete strangers gave her an outsized success, she struggled with waves of self-doubt. “Am I good enough? Do I deserve this? Will my next project disappoint them?” Costner called it the burden of fame.
It was pretty overwhelming–a skinny, mischievous kid from New Jersey called “Nippy,” catapulted into the stratosphere of superstardom. In rapid succession she racked up seven consecutive No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 Hits, eventually selling over 170 million albums, singles and videos worldwide. Seven studio albums and three movie soundtrack albums all earned diamond, multi-platinum, platinum or gold certification. Even her version of the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in 1991 became a best-selling recording.
Theories abound as to when things started to go terribly wrong. Bad choices, bad companions, addictive personality, fear of failure. The problems snowballed. Drugs wrecked her voice. A new album underperformed. Once adoring fans booed her offstage in Europe. It must have been excruciating to experience and it was equally painful to watch. I make no excuses for any of it, but it’s tragic nonetheless.
Over the weekend I heard a couple of Christians discussing Whitney’s story. They talked like the Holy Spirit bullet-proofs believers from making such destructive choices, as if true believers never experience such a downfall. That’s ridiculous. The Holy Spirit certainly has the power to help us overcome addictions. But our self-will and brokenness can insist on doing life our way first and there are consequences.
I’ve known several wonderful, talented people who’ve made a solid commitment to God who, nevertheless, fell hard for dozens of reasons–bad choices, genetic predisposition, addictive personalities, and, yes, self-doubt, low self-esteem, and fear of disappointing others. They are brave people who have worked hard in Twelve Step programs and with the help of the Holy Spirit to get their lives back on track.
You may never have struggled with a serious addiction. If so, thank God. But that doesn’t mean self-doubt will never tap you on the shoulder. At some point in life, if you do something extraordinary or, conversely, if you suffer a major failure, there will be times when you, too, will be plagued by the same question, “Am I good enough?”
Psychologists say common sources of self-doubt are: 1) significant past experience(s) when you tried something and didn’t succeed (or saw someone else fail at something), 2) someone important to you made crushing statements about you and you believed they were true, and/or 3) you have a melancholy temperament that tends to see the downside of things, including yourself.
What will help?
Identify the wounds that have cut deep and how they have shaped your attitude toward life. Name the lies you’ve believed about yourself as a result. Reject them–especially those perpetrated by our culture, such as you’re too old, too fat, not smart enough, not normal. Dig into scripture and replace the lies with God’s truth. The Bible is God’s love letter to us all.
Yes, the Bible says we are all sinners. But that’s a description of our spiritual condition and our need of a Savior. It’s not a statement about our worth. God says we’re made in his image. That makes us eternally valuable. Jesus thought we were worth dying for. The Holy Spirit loves us so much he promises to take up residence in our hearts to help us handle anything that gets thrown at us, if we ask for it. That’s a pretty profound posse’ of supporters.
So poke your thumb in the eye of self-doubt and dare to be fully you! God’s counting on it. He has no understudy to play your part. In fact, he has celebrated you since the day you were born.