Most women today, asked to describe their ‘self-image’ will give an answer associated with body image. The degree to which our deepest identity is shaped by how we feel about our bodies is confounding. The struggle is real: I can personally attest to the overwhelming number of women who are literally ‘not at home’ in their own bodies. The cultural pressures that influence a woman’s negative self-talk are enormous. Every day we are bombarded with images in media that distort our perception of true womanhood. These images destroy our sense of beauty within. Many of us cannot even receive praise without questioning it.
Why are we our own worst critics?
For many women, the negative self-image with which we burden ourselves begins in our formative years—even as toddlers, we internalize negative sentiments about our bodies. It is in this crucial phase that our self-worth is shaped, for good or ill, by words of endearment or censure.
Tracing Back Time
As a little girl, I never thought much of myself. I had a hard time seeing myself the way I was. There was always someone better—someone smarter or prettier than me. My own rebellion led me to believe that my parents tolerated, but did not delight, in me. As a teen, I was consumed with longing to have a boyfriend; I believed that if I were only attractive, a boy would date me. Over the years, I began to hate my body and criticized every part of myself in the mirror. I even let my critical approach define how I lived, quickly learning coping mechanisms to hide my flaws. I was constantly looking for people to validate my self-worth, relying on their words as truth and settling for imitation love at so many levels. There were times I saw myself as valuable—with conditions. This life of constant hiding led me to struggle with a profound loss of positive self-image; resulting in anxiety, depression, and insecurity. From these emerged patterns such as lack of trust, confidence, fear, envy, and more.
When I encountered Christ in 2004, I did not receive the gift of ‘spiritual amnesia’, because there is no such thing that exists. Our new life does not replace our old patterns.
Through the work of Grace, the old is redefined and redeemed, so that our scars become a testimony to God’s Redemptive Power.
How do you see yourself? How do you define your self-image?
Self-image is an opinion you hold of yourself. The most important words you will ever speak in life are those you will speak to yourself. They are your interior dialogue. Your self-perceived strengths and weaknesses are often evident through the labels you give yourself. When your interior dialogue is positive, you will recognize your own assets and potential, while being realistic about your liabilities and limitations. But therein lies the link between self-image and self-talk: if you hold a poor opinion of yourself, you will inevitably focus on your faults and weaknesses, often blaming yourself for your failures and imperfections. For instance, you might say, ‘That was such a stupid decision’, or ‘I can’t believe I just did that.’ Or you may reason, ‘I am a loser, therefore I can’t’ or ‘I am shy, therefore I am unable to.’ These self-defeating labels, along with cultural expectations that define external beauty, form the foundation of our belief system. This toxic brew leads many women to live in hatred of their bodies.
Who God Says I Am
The key to cultivating a positive self-image is first recognizing the true source of beauty and worth: God Himself. Who does God say I am? Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.” Genesis 1:27 further says “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” – Imago Dei. This revolutionary idea, which is unique to the Judeo-Christian worldview, tells us that we bear the imprint of God upon our very souls. This is what gives us intrinsic value and worth. This is what sets us apart for eternal significance.
C.S Lewis, in his famous essay, The Weight of Glory writes, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses.” I must see myself for who I really am and care for my body, honoring it with the highest dignity.
The knowledge of who God says I am carries with it an obligation of positive self-recognition.
Who does God say you are?
Evaluating who you are through the lens of God’s word will create a lasting impact on the woman you will become. Affirming who you say you are will drive your beliefs, behaviors and decisions; it will directly impact the quality of your relationships, the nature of your homes and your health. Who you say you are will shape your understanding of how you see men, or why you even need a man. It will set healthy boundaries and raise godly standards. The more we know God, the more we discover who we are. The more we understand ourselves, the more we can strategically understand each other.
Self-Image Begins Now
The mainstream media would love to have us believe that unless we possess toned and tanned bodies, our very worth as women is in question. But it is God’s Word that enables us to refute this ugly standard and despicable lie, that has us trapped for generations.
It begins ‘Now’, when we say, ‘I am who God says I am.’ The Word of God we hold in our hands has the power to break every stronghold and establish habits that will render these insidious lies virtually impotent. We are not defenseless, nor are we powerless in this generation. Through the Holy Spirit, we are clothed with Power from on high (Acts 1:8) that enables us to discern what is counterfeit and what is true and noble (Philippians 4:8).
As women, we must radically shift the false expectations placed on us by the world and return to the Word of God. We must redefine and rediscover our true worth, as God sees it. We must see ourselves beyond what we can do, and focus on who we ought to become. As daughters of our heavenly Father, we must behold true beauty as God defines it. As mothers, we must create a safe environment at home that allows for our daughters to see truth and shine. As wives, we must make brave decisions to uphold our honor. As leaders, we must courageously pioneer new pathways to leave a legacy for a new generation to discover their true worth and pursue their God-driven destiny.
We can only discover our true worth when we know not just who we are, rather, ‘Whose we are.’
Dear Sister, make every word you utter about yourself lead you to become the light of the world and the salt of the earth. You are beautiful and your beauty, just like your capacity for life, happiness, and success, is immeasurable. God is calling you to live beyond your comforts, to see past your insecurities, and breathe beauty into the world just by your existence. And it begins ‘NOW’ – right where you are.
Today, together, let us affirm to:
- REFUSE – To succumb to the image of this world and lower our standards.
- RECEIVE – God’s Word, letting it infuse our self-image to strengthen our belief system.
- REPLACE – Negative words spoken to ourselves with ones that will lift our self-image.
- REDISCOVER – Self-image through the lens of the One in whose image we are made.