“As long as you look for someone else to validate who you are by seeking their approval, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You have to be whole and complete in yourself. No one can give you that. You have to know who you are - what others say is irrelevant.”
- Nic Sheff
The other night my teenage son came along with me to do errands. As an eighteen year old, I am sure it was the thrill of his life to run errands with his dear old mom, but to add insult to injury on the list of things to pick up with the bottled water and toilet paper was yes wait for it people … a new bathing suit for me! Ugh! Just thinking about this upcoming purchase was causing me great stress and believe me it had nothing to do with my son coming along. I debated about postponing the bathing suit ordeal, yet I knew that my son is pretty cool about that sort of thing so I went for it. I am a blessed woman because not only did he not object, but he even gave his opinion on suits. I would say I have a son who is an excellent sport and off to a great start of being a compassionate and patient husband one day!
Well ladies, I am sure I am not alone in my feelings here. It is not a fun experience to try on bathing suits at my age I can tell you. After two kids, three abdominal surgeries and being in my mid forties, what often looks huge on the rack, seems to magically shrink in the change room. I find myself almost every time behind closed doors mortified trying to squish my body into what seems like the swimsuit from hell. Then to make matters worse, I have the pleasure of viewing myself from every angle with the full body mirrors. Now that’s really lots of fun! I always feel like the judges from American Idol with each one. You know the standard line “Ah, it’s a NO from me!” Funny though by some divine miracle I did end up finding not one but two suits that looked decent on me, so I did what any self respecting woman of my age would do! I bought them both because at my age you just never know when you will find another suit that looks good on you again!
There is so much pressure all around us for women to look good. We fuss over our hair, our weight, our skin and our wardrobe just to name a few. I remember even when I was in my early 20’s about to be married, I put great pressure on myself in this area. Weighing about 125 lbs and in great physical shape, I faithfully drank Slimfast shakes to hopefully shed a few unwanted pounds before the “big day.” In hindsight I see how unnecessary that was for me at that life stage, but at the time I could not see it. In university I participated in a psychology study that has left a lasting impact on me to this day. If we helped a grad student with his or her thesis work, we got bonus marks so I was all for that. When I arrived for the assignment, the grad student was flustered and clearly unprepared for me. She apologetically asked me to take a seat and encouraged me to look at some fashion magazines while she got ready. In a few minutes she announced that she was ready. She asked me if I felt that I had any body image, self esteem issues or weight issues. I answered “no,” as I clearly did not really feel I had any of those. She then had me stand in front of a screen and I am not sure how she did it but just like those crazy fun house mirrors, she morphed my image to look as flat as a pancake. It was very humorous, as I looked like a paper doll. She then instructed that as she had obviously made me very paper thin, she would gradually morph my image to what I really looked like. I was instructed to tell her to stop when she reached the “real me,“ in my opinion, which I did. Next she did the opposite. She started with a very obese version of myself that was very difficult to witness and kept making me smaller. Too bad that did not exist in real life! I was instructed to tell her to stop when I thought she reached what I would feel would be my "ideal" weight. It was to be the me on the screen where I would feel beautiful and satisfied, and so I did. That was it and then we sat down to talk. What she proceeded to tell me next has impacted me ever since. First of all she said the magazine viewing was not to fill time, but a planned part of the experiment. It was to fill my head with what society deemed as beautiful. Next she said that what I perceived as the “real me” was about 30-40 lbs over my real weight and my “ideal” me would be very anorexic if that was actually me. I was shocked because for someone who did not think I had body image issues, this was a very eye opening experience. Often I have shared this encounter to enlighten people with the fact that even when we think we are not affected by the world’s view of beauty we often are.
Even young girls feel this pressure to look a certain way. I teach eight year old students. I remember doing a lesson on new year’s resolutions. We discussed many options for them to consider of what would be a good new year's goal for someone their age and I can assure you that weight loss was not one of them. When each was asked to share individually what goal he or she had selected as the most important, one little girl said her goal was to lose weight. It broke my heart that at that age that was the most important new year’s resolution she could come up with. I jumped in and explained as children are always growing and changing, it would be a better option to say as a goal, “I would like to become more physically fit.” She was content with that, and it made we feel better as eight years old is just too young to be fixated on a weight issue.
The Bible says that “man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.” We can be so hard on ourselves as women and people in general. It is not wrong to want to look nice, but when too much emphasis is put in this area, great problems can result. Focusing on our inner qualities is just as important yet we often fail to realize this. Inner beauty is in God’s opinion what He truly values. God looks at us through a loving father’s eyes. He does not see a flawed, mediocre person, who is unworthy of love and acceptance as he or she is. Instead He sees a unique and amazing person that He created with a calling and purpose. He looks down and says “That’s my kid!” I love what author Max Lucado says. He says “ If God had a refrigerator your picture would be on it. If He had a wallet your picture would be in it… Face it friend He’s crazy about you!” Every one of us is so unique and special. We need to stop looking at the world’s measure and standard of beauty and look at what God says about us. He cares so deeply for each one of us and longs to have a relationship with each one of us. He desires a friendship with us to love on us and reveal His unique will for each of us. See yourself the way you were meant to be seen, as the truly special and beautiful person you are. Don’t look at the photoshopped versions of perfection because you as all of us will always fall short. Focus on who you are, not on who you are not. We all have room for improvement, yet we all have amazing qualities too! Next time you look in the mirror, let it truly sink in that you are incredible and that the world has become a much brighter place simply because you are you are in it! Self improvement strategies are wonderful, but let’s not lose sight of who we really are!
Here’ s to the beautiful person you are no matter what you are wearing! Please enjoy these two videos about who we are in Christ as women and men. They are very powerful. Don’t just listen, but hear who you really are!
Psalms 18:19 NCV - Because he delights in me, he saved me.
Little Lesson Learned: See yourself the way God does. You’re perfect through His eyes of love!
Copyright: Littlelessonslearnedbydana, 2014