I cannot remember a time in my past when I was consistently happy with the way I looked. As far back as elementary school I compared myself with other girls. Iíll never forget one particular girl; she was so pretty . She had long black hair that she wore parted down the middle in two pony tails. I remember wishing my hair would grow longer. I remember how her pony tails, clamped at the end with a colorful barrette, would rest on her shoulders. Iíd go home, part my hair down the middle, make pony tails and measure the length. I could almost get my hair like hers, but I had alopecia ( hair loss) around my right temple. Pulling my hair into a pony tail on that side would reveal my ďbald spotĒ and that would never do.
Then there was another girl who was light-skinned and slightly plump with wavy hair. We called it ďgood hairĒ in those days. She also had ďbig legsĒ and that was a good thing back then. One particular summer I wrote in my diary that I planned to stay inside so my skin would lighten up and eat more so my legs would get bigger. I found that entry in my diary a few years later and erased it because just reading it embarrassed me.
A few months ago, I found a short story I wrote when I was in the ninth grade. Itís called ďSchool TermĒ. Itís about a girl (me) who experiences all kinds of new things in the high school marching band. One section tells about her relationship with the drum-major. He begins to persue her but neglects to tell her he has a girlfriend. My heart still sinks a little when I read the words I wrote:
ďJaneri looked into the mirror and saw her ruffled hair. She looked sort of like a muppet. She thought of Sedetra with her long, wavy hair, brown skin, white teeth and great body. Janeri took off her clothes and looked at herself naked. Her arms were long and skinny; she had fat thighs that looked out of proportion to the rest of her. Her legs were shaped funny and her big knees didnít help any. There was no way Eric would pick her over Sedetra... no way.Ē
Those words summarize how I felt about my appearance most of my life. Not enough of this, too much of that. Never able to compete with the next girl. Failed relationships with boyfriends, one failed marriage and another rocky one seemed to validate that point. I donít know why it mattered so much what I looked like as a child, but as a woman I thought if I looked better Iíd find someone to love me and, just as importantly, stay with me.
That was then. Over the years, as Iíve grown in my relationship with the Lord, the way I see myself has changed for the better. Though life always seems to offer me someone to compare myself with and someone to reject me, those instances, instead of pulling me down a spiral of insecurity, bring me back to the Lord again and again for reassurance. Each time, the darkness of my insecurities fades away in the light of His love.
As Iíve grown, Iíve had to be more honest with God and take a cold, hard look at my actions, thoughts and feelings. Iíve had to acknowledge and repent of things that were hidden in my heart like jealousy and envy. Iíve had to take responsibility for the decisions Iíve made that perpetuated my problems. For example, I spent much of my time as a young adult hopping from relationship to relationship. I now know that I was sowing to my flesh and Iíve learned that when I do that, I reap corruption. Also, Iíve learned that comparing myself with others is unwise. When I do that Iím not thankful for who God made me to be.
Perhaps the most life-changing thing Iíve done is accept the love of God as enough and not seek the approval or acceptance of man. I live to please God now, not others, not myself. I know God loves me and that frees me up be me without fear. Iím free to look like I look, talk like I talk, dress like I dress. Though I still care about my appearance, itís no longer an obsession or measuring stick of my worth and value.
I know that I am not the only woman who has struggled with her self-esteem. There are many who struggle with appearance and the larger issue, self-worth. My heart goes out to todayís young women. The world is selling what it calls beautiful. Just look at any teen magazine or music video. My heart goes out to women whoíve been beaten, abused and rejected, and left feeling ugly and worthless. My heart goes out to wives whoíve had to deal with infidelity and the feelings of humiliation and inadequacy it causes.
To each one I say, I have had the privilege of laying my self esteem at the feet of Jesus and experiencing God-confidence that grows as the years go by. No matter what happens, I walk with my head up knowing that He will never leave me and that Iím valuable to Him and beautiful in His eyes.
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Very well done . . . from one big kneed gal to another. I could identify with what you wrote (and wrote well) It takes a while to get through, but it is comforting to know that there are more struggling especially when they have learned and show the love of Christ.
Jameria, this was straight from the heart and went straight to my heart. I was with you as you shared those thoughts as a child and teenager, right through to where you laid your self worth at the feet of the Lord. Praise God for the work He does in each of us, and I hope and pray that those who most need to hear this message will be led to read it. With love, Deb