Being the daughter of an Army Officer I had the privilege of experiencing different places, cultures, food and people every two years. I remember being a very happy child who had everything I needed. My parents loved us well and provided for all our emotional and physical needs.
However, when I hit my teenage years, besides the happy life I led, I began to notice the culture around me. I slowly started to feel I lacked something. I wasn’t like "some others." Yes by that I mean, I wasn’t slim, I wasn’t fair, I wasn’t tall and I most definitely wasn’t the first choice when it came to boys.
So I avoided social gatherings and every time I had to go out it was nothing but an effort. I couldn’t be myself. Everywhere I looked there were advertisements, television, posters and movies reinforcing an image of how a woman should look. A standard of beauty that was meant to be obtained. I listened to this message and I spent many days doubting the way I looked, pitying myself which led me to have a deep sense of insecurity.
I became determined to look a certain way, which meant conforming to our culture's sense of desired beauty. A bowl of soup OR a fruit became my staple diet. I lost all my weight. The best and most expensive creams were bought. My face felt and looked better. I soon began to get noticed. I felt great. If I could, I would have said "in – your – face - culture," but well something stopped me.
As much as it felt good to be noticed I was starting to feel a bit heavy. I had to get up every morning with the burden of living up to the expectations around me. It was too much to maintain. This was all beginning to tire me.
To add to this situation I developed a chronic skin problem which doesn’t allow me to use any facial cream except for one particular face wash. The irony! In the midst of all of this my health was failing me and I was forced to start eating normally again.
It was all coming back. Images of my early teenage years. But what could I possibly do? I had tried everything.
I was desperate and so I did something I should’ve done in the first place. Instead of looking at what people wanted me to be I began to look at what God wanted me to be. I asked Him: Who am I really? Why did you create me? What do you want for my life?
The following verses then came to my mind:
Genesis 1:27: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
Psalm 139:13: For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
Psalm 139:14: I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
Okay, hang on!
I’m created in the image of God? This faithful, awesome, holy God that I worship and love, that same God knitted me in my mother’s womb? He made me with his own hands? Wow! God must really care about me. He created me to look the way I look. When I began to see and understand all those things I felt a new sense of security. I felt special and important. I felt loved no matter what and I didn’t have to do a thing at all to prove myself. I felt free for the first time in a long time.
At the end of the day the colour of my skin, my appearance, the way I speak or my height do not determine my identity. Knowing and understanding who I am in Christ does because that is what truly matters and makes all the difference in how I see myself and live my life.
Have you struggled with seeing yourself as "beautiful" because you fear you don't meet cultural ideals of beauty?