Self image – “the idea one has of one’s abilities, appearance, and personality.” What is your self-image? How do you see yourself? Do you think you are good-looking, intelligent, kind, and important? I never really thought about self-image until recently. I just kind of tried to ignore the whole thought of me because thinking of myself sounded really selfish. And well, being selfish is just wrong. The funny thing is, I have actually spent quite a bit of time thinking about myself over the course of my life. Thinking things like how ugly I am, how stupid, how fat and how much I hate myself.
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you. Song of Solomon 4:7
I think a lot of people I know would be surprised to hear that I spent most of my life creating a negative self-image. I remember all the way back in Jr. High feeling fat and ugly and worthless. Looking back I can see I was not fat, but a perfectly normal weight. I was not ugly, but because I didn’t have boys chasing after me I knew there must be something wrong with my looks. These things became unrelenting thoughts in my mind, that caused a hatred to grow within me. A hatred for myself.
I never had a close relationship with my parents. I can’t remember them telling me I was pretty or feeling that I was special or important to them. Really I thought even they hated me. I am not angry because I know that they did the best they could with what they had. Unfortunately it did cause quite a few problems as I began to shape my self-image. I wanted to love myself very much, but I just knew I was unlovable. And when your own parents don’t love you (or so you think) then you know there is something really wrong with you.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love” Jeremiah 31:3
Years of my life went on and no matter how many boys told me I was beautiful I could never believe it. I knew the truth – I could see myself in the mirror! Love is blinding and anyone who thought I was beautiful was just fooled by love. I knew I was absolutely flawed in every way. And with all the emotional baggage I had from abusive relationships I was just damaged goods. Even though people would tell me they loved me, even that was hard for me to believe. How could anyone ever love someone so unlovable? It was just impossible.
It was not just the experiences I had of rejection that caused my negative self-image, but also my constantly comparing myself to others. I just never seemed smart enough, competent enough, or good enough, no matter how hard I tried. I was a perpetual failure in life, in love, in everything. It didn’t help to look around the world and see so many people who seemed to have it all together. Beautiful people, with successful careers and big houses and all the things that you should have in life. I had a failed marriage, I was a horrible parent, and I was dirt poor. I mean I really just had an endless supply to fuel my self-image of shame.
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Matthew 6:26
Once I came into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ I thought my self-image had completely changed. For the first time in my life I saw myself as beautiful. I could look in the mirror and be happy with who I was. Jesus spoke words of love into my heart that began to heal me in so many ways. I felt joy for the first time in my life. I was a daughter of the Most High God! What could be more amazing than being loved by a King? I thought my self-image had drastically changed. But I was wrong.
Until recently I had that broken record playing inside me, telling me I am worthless, unlovable and ugly. It’s just that I was able to ignore it more often than I had in the past. It only seemed to come up when I was upset or something bad was happening. Then those mean thoughts would bubble up out of the depths of my soul and grab hold of me. But I would eventually push them back down and forget all about them. That is not me anymore. Jesus has healed me. Wrong again.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10
The first time it really struck me that I still carry that harmful self-image is when a friend told me how sweet I am. Wait a minute, what? Me? You mean you think I am sweet? I am a horrible person. I am mean and angry and everybody hates me. Or am I…
You see the enemy would have me believe all these things about myself. He would have me fill myself with hatred and blame, bringing up every memory of every bad decision I have ever made. He would have me replay everything bad that has every happened to me, and then define myself based on all of those things. There is just one problem with that. Those things do not define me, and they never will.
Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4
I can never be defined by the standards of this world, or by the lies the enemy has placed in my head. I can only be defined by one thing – the love of God, my Father. I am valuable to my Lord. I am wanted, I am loved, I am special and I am beautiful to my Creator. He has known me from the beginning of my life, and cherished me, singing songs over me! No matter what I have done wrong in this life, no matter how many bad decisions I have made, I am still loved by the King of Kings. Jesus has redeemed me from my past and given me a new life. He never saw me as stupid, or ugly or worthless. He has seen me as His precious child. And if you have ever loved a child, you know just how deep and how wide and how long that love goes. It is a love that can never die, but can only continue to grow.
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Do not be deceived. No matter how bad your self-image is, no matter how many horrible things you say to yourself, you are actually being completely selfish. I never thought I was selfish, because how can a selfish person hate their own self? But in my obsession with tearing myself down piece by piece, I was completely focused on me. Just where the enemy loves to have us! How can we focus on the love of God, when we only can see how rotten we are? How can we feel the divine presence of God calling to us, when there is a wall of self loathing in the way? This my friends, is another form of pride.
In order to truly be selfless be need to die to ourselves. That means the self-image we have built up for ourselves needs to be torn down and replaced with the image God has given us. He paints a very clear picture for us, in His Word. We were made in the very image of God! We were formed perfectly by His hands. Yet we are also wicked and sinful people in desperate need of a Savior. Jesus has come to die for us, so we have the ability to die to ourselves. Jesus came to lay down His life, so that we could lay down our sin and egos and take up a new life as His dearly loved children. Thank God for your weakness! Boast in the One who is here, to strengthen you and uphold you with His victorious hand! You were not made to do this life alone – but to live in partnership with your heavenly Father.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.