One morning this week after dropping my kids off at their junior high school, I remembered how painful those years were for me. I disliked myself so much. I constantly wished I were thinner, prettier, more stylish, more popular, liked by boys, etc. The struggle to love myself began when my childhood best friend broke my heart in 6th grade. For whatever reason, she said cruel things about me behind my back, which I later heard from others. She said I was a “fat nerd.”
The words sound silly now that I’m an adult, but believe me, at the time they were anything but silly. They were devastating. It took me approximately the next 25 years to stop seeing myself as a “fat nerd.”
But one of the most wonderful things about Jesus is that He doesn’t waste our pain. He wants to use it for good, and He promises to do so if we will let Him.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
Somewhere along the way, I developed compassion for other girls and women who feel unlovely. I think maybe it was while I was in college, because I started to feel more accepted and better about myself then, which allowed me to look back on the times when I felt unlovely. I taught elementary school for four years after I graduated from college, and I can think of three different little girls in my classes who were not liked, left out and lonely. I took extra special care of them. They were the ones I wanted to build up. Because I was that little girl once.
I am now 42 years old, and it grieves me how many beloved women I know feel badly about their appearance. Ladies, I have this burning desire to build you up and have you look in the mirror and see yourself the way God sees you. It is a scheme of the enemy to make God’s daughters feel unattractive and unsightly and flawed. He wants you to be so focused on what you dislike about yourself that you don’t have energy left to do the mighty things God has planned for you. He wants you to be ashamed of the way you look, so that you will keep your chin down and no one will get to see the beauty of God’s image reflected in your eyes. He wants you to constantly compare yourself with others, (super models, celebrities, your best friend, your sister, your neighbor), and come up short, so you will keep wondering, “What’s wrong with me??” He wants your constant companions to be discontent, disgust, shame, and anger, because these things can paralyze you and keep you from fulfilling your God-given purpose.
Just writing about this infuriates me. It makes me hit the keys harder on the keyboard. I say it’s time for you to tell the enemy of your soul, “No more!!”
My sweet sister, let me remind you some of the things God says about you in His Word.
Song of Songs 2:10
My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.”
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
1 Samuel 16:7b
For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Every time you start to put yourself down, whether in your own head or out loud, stop yourself and quote a Bible verse that says you are beautiful, or wonderfully made, or a woman of great depth with a precious heart.
Have you read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott? The mother in the book is called Marmee, and I treasure one of the things she says to her daughters. “If you feel your value lies in merely being decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I so cherish in you. I so wish I could give my girls a more just world. But I know you’ll make it a better place.”
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, 1869
Do you have a daughter? If not, imagine that you do. Would you tell her that you wished she was thinner? Or had fewer pimples? Or fewer wrinkles? Or that she had better hair? Or that she had better curves? I’m going to assume that you wouldn’t. Because you love her as she is. So why is it hard for you to do the same for yourself? God loves you as you are because you’re His daughter.
Not long ago I got a wonderful American Girl book for my daughter called The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls. My favorite part of the book tells girls not to compare themselves to others. The same message is for us, adult women! “You don’t need to measure yourself against anyone at all, including friends or other girls at school. You’re you—a one-of-a-kind original—and you’re beautiful in your own unique way.”
Amen to that!
Here is something else you must read. A poem written by Hollie Holden. I just saw this earlier this week. It was meant for you, my friend.
That spoke right to you, didn't it? It spoke to me.
Another reason you must learn to love yourself as you are is so that you can freely build up other women. We are sisters. We need to help one another shine and carry on and be strong. I tell you, if you struggle with insecurity about your self-worth, you will be tempted to put other women down so that you won’t feel so bad. But that’s a lie too, because there is only a fleeting moment of pleasure in thinking badly of someone else. In the end you’ll feel worse for putting her down. A critical spirit will harden your heart and make it ugly. God wants you to be free to love yourself and others in a radical way.
I challenge you: learn to see yourself as a beautiful daughter of the King, then train yourself to see all of His other daughters the same way.
We can be a powerful army of women who fiercely protect and support one another. We can stop wasting time wishing we looked different and spend more time chasing the dreams God has placed in our hearts to build His kingdom! This makes me giddy with excitement! Let’s do this!
I have an assignment for you. Take some time to write down all the things you dislike about your appearance. Then burn them in the fireplace. Then write down what God says about you and post the truths where you can see them often.