The way we view ourselves involves so much more than physical appearances. When we look in the mirror, of course, we will see the forehead someone made fun of in middle school, the crooked nose, and the asymmetrical face…with the occasional pimple. We shrug and try to manipulate our looks before going about our day. Men might do a few push-ups. Girls might buy a new lipstick. ‘Maybe this shade will really make my eyes pop,’ we think as we stand in line at Target.
But so much more cutting than these aesthetic realities, are the thoughts that bounce off the mirror and slap us in the face. Thoughts of unworthiness, of not measuring up to societal, or personal standards. Our inner critics silently rage in the cage of our minds, unfiltered. But our self-image is just that…an image, a representation or likeness of ourselves. So, if our self-image is something outside of ourselves and not inherently who we are, that means it’s fluid. We get to choose how we see ourselves.
We get to choose.
But as with any creative endeavor, we take our cues and inspiration from elsewhere. Crafting our self-image is no different. The trouble is that as we grasp after an identity, an image of self, we are not very kind to ourselves. One deadly source of self-image is a comparison to those around us. We walk into a room and derive our value from our perceived ranking among our peers.
Am I the strongest man in this room? The funniest?
The professor really liked her question…I wonder if people think I’m smart?
They seem to have so many friends…do I have enough?
The list goes on.
Perhaps worse than these perceived, comparative identities are the ones that have been spoken over us. The words that have created mental ruts in our brains and have shaped our thinking patterns. Maybe people have said “you have too strong of a personality”, or “you’re too meek”.
“You have ugly feet.”
“It’s your fault that people have hurt you.”
“Why can’t you just be like your brother?”
If we hear these things enough, our thoughts can’t escape the well-worn paths and we just might believe them. We let others guide our hands as we shape our image of ourselves. The only way to fill in these ruts is to make paths of truth that are just as well worn, taking every thought captive. For me, a healthy self-image comes from what God thinks about me. This image is outside ourselves, but not in the usual ways we grasp for it. This identity is graciously given to us to treasure and speak over ourselves.
I am made in the likeness of God, with empathy, compassion and a passion for justice.
I was carefully put together in my mother’s womb with fear and wonder.
I am a child of the Most High God.
The child of a strong, yet gentle Father who knows what’s best for me.
I have flaws and gifts, strengths and weaknesses.
I am enough.
When we speak these truths over ourselves, a curious thing happens. We start to believe there is enough worth to go around. Negative competition lessens as we stop trying to steal our value from others. We see others as God sees them, and as we extend grace to our friends, we find there’s enough grace left for us, too.