This post is intended mainly for the ladies. Of course, guys will absolutely identify with this too, unless Ryan Gosling is reading this, because he is perfect and self image does not apply. But in the world of regular people, I’m afraid no one easily escapes the grasp of self image. It’s a dirty business and I’m fully confident it’s only getting dirtier. So, enjoy…and don’t stare in the mirror too long or weigh yourself afterwards. And boys, don’t start analyzing your dad-bod or think about how you won’t eat Carl’s Jr. tomorrow.
I read a meme today that said “Being a woman on the internet is an extreme sport”. First of all, I want to say memes are one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Honestly, if you could just see me in my room alone at night, listening to music and laughing hysterically to myself at all the brilliant meme profiles I stumble upon, I’m sure you would no longer speak to me on account that I’m seriously OUT. OF. MY. MIND. (I am blinded by my major loser tendencies from time to time, if you couldn’t already tell.) But it made me laugh because not only is it true but it’s grossly understated. Being a woman is not only an extreme sport, make no mistake. Oh no… it is so much more. Sorry boys, but you will never understand this life we live. (I know guys, it’s not easy for you either. All the burgers, motorcycles, sports, desperate attempts to prove your manhood. I’m sure it’s exhausting. I am kidding here. Sort of.) So boys, you can try, and you will fail. But ladies…we know. The female mind is probably the second most dangerous place in this universe, aside from hell. (I’m sure it’s a close rivalry.) But despite this, I am so proud to be a woman. I love every aspect of femininity. The way God has designed women to function is nothing short of a miracle. But even with all the beauty of womankind, there is a dark side that lies in wait, anticipating the perfect moment to torment you, and it most certainly will. So get excited, cause it’s super fun! *Sarcasm for all the lame, serious people. Wow, too much Gilmore Girls. My fingers can’t keep up.*
Before I begin, I want to be clear. The discussion of self-image is a slippery slope. In no way do I want to mislead anyone into believing this post is about the glorification of “self”. Yes, God made you perfectly and continually sees you as a stunning creation. But make no mistake, this is not a revelation about your greatness, but God’s greatness through you. Period.
So, everyone’s favorite topic….self image. It is described as “the idea one has of one’s abilities, appearance, and personality.” I first notice that this description says the “idea”. I love that because I think that an idea of all these traits is really all I have. I’de like to think I’m sure of a few things about myself but how sure am I? Frankly, I’m not sure at all. I am constantly growing and changing and the things which I was once sure of always seem to shift. My abilities get better and occasionally get worse. My appearance rarely gets better and usually gets worse. My personality… just gets worse. *self- deprecating joke, ha.* But wouldn’t it be wonderful to have not only an idea, but a concrete assurance in who you are and how beautifully God has made you? I know I strive for this. But alas, I am insecure woman in constant analyzation of my being and insecurity is always birthed from pride. Ouch. But i’m getting ahead of myself here….
God assures us that “we are beautifully and wonderfully made”. He finds delight in His creation. He loves each and every part of us that makes us unique. Yet, we consistently find ways to go and change his art to something we find seemingly more pleasing to the eye. But who’s eye are we referring to? I’m guessing it is probably not God’s. I’m so guilty of this which is probably why I’m writing this. So, I would have to ask you, what standard are you comparing yourself to? Is it an actress? It it whatever the newest lame Instagram influencer is? Is it fashion model, who by the way, doesn’t eat and probably has bulimia and chronic hair loss from malnutrition? Or is it God’s standard? I can be sure that for most of us, it’s probably not the latter.
What is your self-image? How do you see yourself? Do you think you are good-looking, intelligent, kind, or important? Maybe, like me, you are unable to answer some of these questions with any sort of certainty? Maybe the answers might be too certain. But might I propose, that both the uncertain or overly- confident answer might be the product of self absorption? Perhaps you place these questions on an impossibly high pedestal and in turn, are constantly disappointed with your lack of ability to measure up? Perhaps, arrogance drives the excessively assured response? Either way, the origin of this problem is that we love ourselves with a blind passion which will always lead to idolatry. This idolization of self, whether positive or negative, drives an insatiable need for validation. Does this validation stem from “low self image”? To the world, I believe that would be the correct interpretation. However, I think low self image may just be a frustrated, highly inflated self -image, which is always rooted in pride. I believe Paul would say we are thinking to highly of ourselves when he writes in Romans 12:3, “ For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself too highly than he out to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” This is a caution against pride as well as a warning not to judge yourself by your talents, wealth, or function, but to form the standard of judging by God’s character. Instead of judging by Godly character, humanity prides itself on things of zero intrinsic value; on ranks, titles, and external accomplishments; or on talents, learning, or wealth. We are failed time and time again in the search for human validation because it rarely exists. We cannot find identity in flattery from anyone else because everyone, in their human nature, is solely consumed with their own agenda. There’s nothing of greater importance than their own.
It’s almost humorous how many of our struggles stem from pride. “Love Yourself” has become the slogan of our generation, despite being the antithesis of God’s call to “deny yourself daily”. When Jesus was asked to define the greatest commandment, he told the Pharisees that the greatest command had two parts; to “Love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39 ). Humanity is so self-absorbed, however, it is constantly seeking out opportunities to take this out of context. “Love your neighbor as yourself” becomes a call to realize the thing most important doesn’t lie with actually loving your neighbor at all, but with the understanding that you love yourself equally and how to foster the relationship you have with you. God assumed that you already love yourself, but this selfish love will leave you empty because true love is selfless and sacrificial. The sacrifice of self is the creed Jesus calls us to; to lose ourselves in God and selflessly love the people around you instead of wallow in self- contemplation. *I know I’ve probably sounded very preachy in this but trust me, this is beyond tough for me to accomplish.*
It does seem contradictory to believe that self-denial, rather than self-esteem, could actually be the solution to female insecurity. But when we let self fade into the background and become consumed with Jesus, personal insecurities seem to melt away. We no longer look to ourselves – our own merit, talent, beauty, or uniqueness – to find confidence but instead, we find our confidence in Him. To think that God has made us wrong or ugly, or incompetent is an offense to God Himself. YOU are his creation. He pieced you together in all this infinite wisdom and you would say you are made wrong? Is “wrong” being not pretty enough, not rich enough, not funny enough, not “cool” enough? (What is “cool” anyway? No one’s cool. Everyone is weird, there are more popular versions of it.)
Charles Spurgeon said, “If a soul has any beauty, it is because Christ has endowed that soul with His own, for in ourselves we are deformed and defiled! There is no beauty in any of us but what our Lord has worked in us.”
We are so often led to believe that we all have “beauty within us” and that if we could only learn to love ourselves “just the way we are” we would find confidence and happiness. But the reality is, as Spurgeon so straightforwardly put it, we do not possess any beauty or goodness of our own accord. The only beauty or merit we can ever have is found Jesus Christ and all His loveliness will only come shining through when self has gotten out of the way. As John the Baptist declared, “I must decrease, but He must increase” (Jn. 3:30). So ladies (and gentlemen too,) rather than trying to build up your self-esteem with false sense of pride and “feel good about yourselves” (which doesn’t produce lasting confidence anyway), you might challenge yourself let thoughts of self dissolve completely. To “deny ourselves” according to the biblical pattern literally means to lose sight of ourselves and our interests. The question “who am I?” is not nearly as important as the question, “who is He?”
Of course, all is much easier said than done. But I’m finding that as I grow older and more mature in my faith, I’m starting to care less about the world’s judgments of me. It’s quite liberating. I mean, I’ve actually been going out into the world wearing my sweatpants, fuzzy socks and slides combo and fully enjoying every minute of it because I know who I am. I know God loves every little thing I deem an “imperfection” and would love to change. (I repeat, LOVE to change. See? I’m working on it….) I know what he has called me to and I’m at peace because of it. “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)
Now, if only this botox wouldn’t wear off so quickly……kidding. Sort of.
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” – Romans 8:29