Quite a while ago I was enormously moved by a TV programme on body image, presented by ‘How To Look Good Naked’ stylist Gok Wan. He specifically focused on UK youth and how they perceive their bodies, self-worth and identity. Particularly memorable was a teenage girl who spent two hours DAILY editing photos of herself, inspired by pro-anorexia websites and dangerous ideals about what body shape/look is perceived as beautiful. The case of this young lady is not an unusual one, but one example of the body hate that is widespread amongst our youth and which often remains long into adulthood (and which breaks my heart).
Whilst some say that we shouldn’t be overly concerned by low self-esteem (“just get over it!” sound familiar?), feelings of inadequacy actually affect’s someone’s spirit, self-belief and motivation. It can destroy relationships and friendships through fear, comparison and jealousy. If someone doesn’t feel empowered and comfortable with themselves, it affects that person’s mindset and what they think they will be able to achieve, and eventually what they will/will not achieve. When I thought less of myself than I should, I shrunk away from doing things (having fun, meeting people, participating in community groups), from expressing myself (I always believed I had no voice & no relevance, which opened the door for people to walk all over me), and therefore from making an imprint on the world around me. What’s the big deal with low self-esteem? It is all-consuming and eats away at a person, eventually stopping them from achieving their goals and aspirations. And in actuality, the issue is harmful because some people take their life because they don’t feel good enough/accepted/like they belong.
How do we break free from the cage of low self-esteem, comparison and harmful beauty standards? It’s a lifelong commitment and vow to reject evil messages about ourselves and to challenge the ones from the world around us (from the magazines, the TV, from music lyrics & videos, from our peers). It’s a conscious, day-by-day effort to think positively and wonderfully about what you look like and who you are, and to celebrate what your gifts and talents are. For example, when I observed someone editing a photo of me I refused to let the incident go without challenging the mindset behind the editing. Of course, the photo was to be uploaded onto a social media networking site, so the idea was that those freckles and blemishes made the picture less attractive to all the eyes that would be viewing the picture. But I’m not out to impress anybody by conforming to any airbrushed standard, or to win the approval of all the people who will be seeing the photograph, or to be determined by the number of positive comments that would spring from such an airbrushed photo (in fact I get annoyed when someone clicks “like” when the photo of me is clearly airbrushed – “it’s not actually me!”). So even if my friends or those close to me say otherwise, I am able to confidently say, as I did in the above example, in love and gentleness: “no, this isn’t right. God in His infinite wisdom and mystery created me like this. I won’t be demeaned or made to feel inadequate. I know my worth”.
Nobody has it all-together for all of the time. We have bad days and let the world and remarks get us down, angry, hurt and upset. I had to chastise myself the other day as my husband reminded me that I wasn’t practicing what I’m preaching, so to speak. I was consumed with self-doubt, picking at what seemed to be my every flaw. I even had a dream in which I was criticising my appearance! But that isn’t a free life. Nor is it the truth. The Bible constantly reminds us to set ourselves apart, to not conform ourselves to the world, to fix our eyes on Him, to pursue righteousness rather than worldly pleasures. This morning I was convicted of those very statutes.
It’s perhaps a cliché, but the truth is that inside each of us there is invaluable worth and on the outside of every one of us is beauty. By changing the way we think and by purposefully abstaining from and challenging the messages around us which say otherwise – whether through the internet, mags, newspapers, or even our closest loved ones – we can see that God-given beauty in ourselves and in others.
I’m sorry this post wasn’t supported by more Bible verses. I just wanted to encourage someone today through my own daily thoughts. Perhaps here are a few appropriate verses to finish with:
- Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:12).
- Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
- Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things (Colossians 3:2).
- Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17).