Self-image. In a “worldly” sense, our self-image is how we see ourselves based on our appearance, performance, relationships, and how we think others perceive us. Our outlook on life, our sense of purpose, and even our happiness, are all affected when we begin questioning our worth, our looks, our importance, and our overall success in life.
Our self-image changes over time. We gain experience, we reflect, and we interact with other people. This has been such a struggle for me. The most obvious example is when I passively fish for compliments on my appearance. I’ll spend some time doing my hair, maybe put on a little makeup, pick out a nice outfit, and then expect Chris to compliment me as soon as we lock eyes. If I don’t receive that instant gratification, I get passively upset and begin a self-analysis. Do I look okay? Am I beautiful? My head slumps down, my smile fades, and eventually it becomes noticeable to those around me. How about that for a big pity party! My expectations, as well as those pesky insecurities, have been way too high and it reflects in the words I speak and how I act towards others.
Maybe you relate to this on some level. Maybe it’s how you view yourself or how you define your strengths and weaknesses. What about how you perceive personal growth or failure? Are there areas you’re continually struggling with? All these thoughts that race around and suck you into an overwhelming whirlwind of self-doubt and condemnation. Let’s face it, insecurities with self-image are no fun! When our minds are continually on our faults, or what we perceive as shortcomings, it leads to pain and confusion.
Hold on. You are not the only one in this mess.
We’re in this together, right? With God. The Heavenly Father that loves us and placed us where we would grow and flourish. He’s a Daddy that loves His children unconditionally. Even if you don’t recognize your true identity in Christ, God still loves you. It’s not something you earn by reaching some goal, it IS your true reality. Check this out:
Now the body is not one member but many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand I don’t belong to the body,” does that alter the fact that the foot is a part of the body? Of if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye I don’t belong to the body,” does that mean that the ear really is no part of the body? After all, if the body were all one eye, for example, where would be the sense of hearing? Or if it were all one ear, where would be the sense of smell? But God has arranged all the parts in the one body according to his design. For if everything were concentrated in one part, how could there be a body at all? The fact is there are many parts, but only one body.
1 Corinthians 12:14-19 J.B. Phillips
If you were to say “I’m not like that beautifully fit person I see on Instagram who seems to have their life figured out, I haven’t accomplished anything close to that and I keep falling short of my ideal healthy lifestyle,” does that change who you are in Christ? Or if you said “God is doing incredible things in his life and he’s serving and praying all the time but I don’t seem to pray enough and I’m not sharing enough scripture with people,” does that mean you have no part in the body of Christ? Goodness no! You are so amazing and you DO have a place in this beautiful family that God brought together. Do you see that you are important, too? And so are those other people. God doesn’t look on the outward appearance, He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
The parts which do not look beautiful have a deeper beauty in the work they do, while the parts which look beautiful may not be at all essential to life! But God has harmonised the whole body by giving importance of function to the parts which lack apparent importance, that the body should work together as a whole with all the members in sympathetic relationship with one another.
1 Corinthians 12:23-25 J.B. Phillips
Self-image. When our focus is on the things that are constantly changing, our self-image is subject to constant change. But God is our rock. He doesn’t change. We can endeavor to view ourselves the way God sees us. Oh boy, that can sound difficult when you’re smack dab in the middle of a rut.
When these self-image issues were at a high for me, God brought certain people into my life that helped bring my mind back to the truth. I had been craving friends, specifically other women, to spend time with in person. In this past year God answered that prayer and I gained a friend that I felt so comfortable around. Her name is Kristin and she opened up about some of the deep wounds she had experienced and how her faith in God had strengthened (she shares much of her experience and research in her blog, AllegiantLove). We really just spent time together while Chris and I lived in Indiana and it was so refreshing! The inner tensions eased when my time was spent with people who loved me where I was at; however, after the move to Montana, new self-image issues began to surface as I struggled with understanding my purpose.
Just reading this post isn’t going to be the end-all cure to your struggles.
It’s relationship with God that will endure.
Okay, Montana. The wealth of options of how to spend my time left me feeling overwhelmed and I began questioning whether or not I was hearing from God. Lord, what is my purpose? Why am I here? What do you want me to do? Where should I work? What places should I visit? Who should I talk to? In hindsight, God provided encouragement right when I needed it while also giving me the space to grow. Just like the plants in the garden need space to grow and flourish, I needed the space to live out what God had been teaching me all along. Talking with Kristin a couple weeks after moving here was a big turning point for me. She comforted and encouraged me with loving words and got me thinking on the spiritual blessings the Lord has already poured into my life. These reminders are so good as we learn how to be confident in our faith and who God has made us to be.
God’s love is so sweet.
Since then, I’ve found comfort in spending thoughtful time with Father and reading about what He has done for me already. Ephesians 1:3-10 (shown below) highlights some of these accomplishments. God helped to loosen the hold those false thoughts had on my sound mind. He helped me to experience His love and the love of His son, Jesus Christ.
Balance. There seems to be a beautiful balance to life. What we spend time thinking on has an impact on how we see ourselves and others. If you’ve been struggling with self-image, your mindset may not change overnight. Don’t spend your time dwelling on the incomplete goals, the failed fitness agendas, the past regrets or jealous thoughts. Again, it may not change over night. It’s an ongoing process and a walk with God so open up to Him about the things you are struggling with. I guarantee He is there listening and prepared to help. He has had all eternity to plan out a solution.
Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven! For consider what he has done — before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ — that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son. It is through the Son, at the cost of his own blood, that we are redeemed,
freely forgiven through that full and generous grace which has overflowed into our lives and opened our eyes to the truth. For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in him.
Ephesians 1:3-10 J.B. Phillips
It’s not my desire to put up a false front and make you believe that I have my life figured out. Just to be clear – I don’t. But as it stands now, I’m far less concerned with needing to know my purpose, and far more thrilled with how cool our Heavenly Father is. He recently led me to a devotional that helped me to recognize my misplaced craving for validation and that my trust in Him had been blurred. Not only did I come to understand this, but two of my friends have been reading through the devotional with me and they were able to share their thoughts and struggles as well. It helps to voice the things you’re going through and allow God to help you. Let God know about your inner struggles. Wait patiently on Him and go easy on yourself. He hears your heart’s cry.
Remember, you are beautiful in God’s eyes.
Your heart is what He sees and His love for you expands all eternity.