If I asked you “what in your life do you compare the most to others,” what would you say? As much as I don’t want to admit it, one of the first things that comes to my mind is my appearance. And I might be so bold to say that our appearance is one of the most dangerous things for us to compare, because it can affect us so deeply. It can be an intimate part of who we are, so when we mess with our ideas of it, we can cut ourselves to the core. That’s what happened to me.
About a year and a half ago I found myself in a downward spiral of insecurity and self doubt based on my disappointment in the details of how I looked. It came upon me like a quiet fox, sly and sneaky. So much so that I’m not even sure how I reached the point that I did. Many days I found myself looking in the mirror disappointed with the imperfections that nobody pointed out but me: The dark circles under my eyes; the unpredictable red spots in the undertones of my skin; the make up that not only didn’t cover up the problems I saw, but also seemed to make matters messier; the hair that laid flat and never did anything that I planned for it to do; the hair that also never grew as quickly as I wanted it to; the weight that I had gained and the clothes that didn’t fit the same because of it; the outfit that I settled on because I already tried 5 other options and I was running late, leaving me flustered as I had to rush out the door. All this disappointment in how I looked led to disappointment in who I was, and teary eyes more days than I’d like to admit.
Mornings like these felt like they ruined me. I’d feel defeated. I’d angrily throw another top onto the pile of already rejected outfit choices. I’d irritably rub my eye make up off after messing it up for the second time. I’d become short with my husband because he was the only “reasonable” thing I could lash out my frustration on. Poor Adam. He witnessed many meltdowns that I couldn’t explain, and therefore he couldn’t understand. He did his best to reassure me that I’m beautiful, but I just failed to fully believe it. He hugged me and held me as hot tears rolled down my face, with me sputtering about how I was just having a bad day, because crying over what outfit I couldn’t decide on felt unreasonably childish and dramatic. When really on the inside I was thinking, Why can’t I just be prettier?
Sadly, I think that thought runs across every girl’s mind at some point or another. Women young and women old; we’re trained to measure ourselves in comparison to others. And when we feel like we’re not stacking up with the rest, we settle on the lie that we’re not pretty enough. Here I was at 22 struggling with insecurity more deeply than I ever had in my life. Aren’t these the kinds of things that teenagers deal with? And so I felt like my struggles were amateur. That I should be more than capable of handling them. That I shouldn’t need to reach out to someone else and let them know how I was hurting.
But the isolation of my feelings left me feeling weak. I pushed on and did what I could to combat it all. And some days I’d do just fine. Some days I’d do great. But some days I’d be hanging on by a thread. You see, when we turn inward and rely on ourselves to solve our problems, sometimes we might have victories. Sometimes our battles are just the right size for us to handle. But other times, many times, they require a much stronger army. We’re in need of the support of others that can come alongside us, support us, cheer for us, pray for us, fight with us. It wasn’t until I remembered that truth that I started to see some light.
Even more than that, though, in our battles we need a victor. One that knows our hearts and knows our struggles and loves us the same. One that loves us deeply, passionately, and desperately no matter where we are – in the mess or in the clear. One that sees our hurts, and our mistakes, and our shame, and our sins, and still willingly lays His life down for us so that we might be set free. And so it was Jesus that ultimately pulled me out of my pit. He was right there all along, offering me a hand. It just took me awhile to finally grab hold of it. But as I did, He held onto me. He’s been holding onto me. He’s been stealing my attention away from my appearance and fixing my eyes on who He is. And as He’s been doing so, I’ve been fighting back.
For too long I hoped that make up would help rid me of the imperfections I see in my face, but my inabilities and lacking knowledge led to more frustration and disappointment. So I packed it all away for a month, which turned into two months, which turned into most days, unless I choose to use it because I want to, not because I feel like I need to.
Instead of staring at the parts of my body that were holding more weight than they ever had before, I started to do something about it. I slowly, but surely, started making a habit of working out, and I started making small improvements in my diet. And I’ve worked to stick to it. It’s been a process, but I’ve been rejoicing in the progress.
My clothes were too often making me unhappy and frustrated, so I overhauled my closet and got rid of the things that I didn’t love. And I’ve changed my outlook on what is necessary to have hanging on the rack.
I’ve learned/I’m learning to take care of my body in the best ways I can because this is the home that God gave me on this earth. He knitted me together in my mother’s womb and He looked at me and saw that I was good. I am – you are – a product of God’s handiwork. There is no flaw in that. He only desires that we see that too and allow Him to use us as a vessel for His spirit in this world.
So for the past year or so, I’ve been handing over my insecurities. I’ve tried to focus my heart more on what God has planned for me in this life, and that in turn has left me distracted from wallowing in self pity. Are there days that I look back? Oh yes. It’s a process. But again, I rejoice in the progress. Because Jesus didn’t give up His life for me so that I could sit around in a jail cell that is locked from the inside. He gave up His life and as a result set me free. Free from the chains I put on myself. It’s an ongoing, everyday decision to embrace who I am, as I am, and stop wishing I was this or that. I try to do things to better myself and take care of myself, but more than that I make my overall aim to be Jesus. So that I may be defined completely by who He is, what He’s done, & is doing, in my life, and how I can honor Him. And that, to me, sounds a lot more like contentment.
This post is a part of the ongoing Pruim Life series, From Comparison to Contentment. You can check out other posts in this series here.