Today I'm sharing with you a part of myself that I'm not proud of and I don't like. I'm hoping you can sympathize (or maybe even empathize), but it's something I've been thinking about and working on lately.
My mother swears that I was a happy, confident little kid. I vaguely recall having lots of friends and being fairly happy up until my mid-elementary years. But somehow, as I approached those dreaded "middle school" years, something changed. Perhaps it was a couple of toxic friendships that I found myself in. Perhaps it was the weight I gained. Perhaps it was my complete inability to grasp fashion trends. Perhaps it was my natural tendency to feel other people's pain (while attending a school full of troubled pre-teens). Whatever the cause, by the time I was 11 I was so painfully shy and self-loathing and depressed that some days it took all my strength to get out of bed. I would literally feel nauseated at the thought of going to school. I felt like everyone in the world hated me. I felt like the fat, ugly, weird kid that no one wanted to be friends with. I tried so hard to blend in with the walls so no one would notice me, because if I disappeared, no one could hurt me.
Looking back as an adult, I can see that most of this torture was self-induced. Most of other kids didn't think I was weird or gross at all. Lots of them talk to me on Facebook now as if we'd always been good friends. In fact some of what I was interpreting as disdain from the boys was actually awkward attempts at flirting. I see pictures of myself from those years and, while I sometimes question my choice of outfit and really wish someone had taught me to do something with my hair - I was neither fat nor ugly. But I took every careless adolescent criticism as a knife to the heart and let it shape who I became.
The funny thing about self-preception is that once we get into our heads that we are some way, it's very very hard to change that image. I felt fat my entire life. I have a naturally round face with full cheeks, and that made me feel chubby, no matter how thin my body was. In fact, in high school I weighed about 110 lbs (oh what I would give to weigh that now), but I felt like a whale. I wore baggy clothes and hid behind long hair (no one had introduced me to the Gap yet - I had no idea clothes could fit so well!). In college, even after I developed an eating disorder and starved myself down to 95 lbs, I felt enormous. I'd poke at my "chub" and lament that I didn't have a perfect hourglass figure like those other girls in the drama department (who, I'm sure, actually weighed quite a bit more than I did). I was looking at myself, but I didn't really see myself. I didn't see that I was missing a very key element. One can't truly be beautiful until she is confident!
Add to all of that the fact that I didn't start dating till I was 20 (and married the very first man I dated). I am eternally grateful that the Lord guarded my heart and that I can say I've never had an "ex" - but part of me regrets the lack of teenage courtship. Somehow a year or two of being courted intensely can't make up for a lifetime of feeling ugly and unwanted. There is a piece of most women, I think, that wants to be captivating. A piece of her heart that wants to capture the heart (or at least attention) of men - to know "yes, I am a viable option." Even after marriage, that little corner of the heart still wants to know "am I lovely? If some disaster befell this family, could I attract another provider? Am I worth pursuing?"
And this is my struggle. Especially as I am starting to get my body back into shape after 3 consecutive pregnancies (and 4 years of, therefore, feeling fat and unattractive), I find myself feeling very competitive. I find myself wanting to be the "hot mom" on the playground - wanting to turn heads at Walmart - wanting to be told I'm attractive. I am constantly comparing myself to the other women I see, and that will never accomplish anything but ruining my self esteem. I am not a supermodel. I'm not particularly stylish, I'm not tall, I'm not gorgeous, I'm not going to make the cover of a magazine.
But I know that none of that really matters. I should not be filling the holes in my heart with worldly romance. I should not find my self-worth in the opinions of others. And I certainly shouldn't wish to be a stumbling block to another man. I should be filling my soul with the Lord. I should be finding my self worth in the fact that HE loves me and HE created me and HE will do His good works through me. The romantic in me needs to remember - I have a husband who loves me and I have a Hero on a white horse (His name is Jesus) to rescue me. And that is all that matters.
So I will work on filling my soul with the word of the Lord. I will work on realizing that I am beautiful and worthy because I am His creation. And in that knowledge I will be more confident, and that, in turn, will make me lovely.