You know those memes that say, “What I think I look like” and “What I actually look like” with a picture of someone really attractive and a picture of someone looking really awkward? Well, when I was in middle and high school, I had this same problem every time I looked in the mirror. For some reason, I had this image of myself in my head where I looked like Kate Beckinsale (you know, the really gorgeous woman from Van Helsing and Underworld?) and every time I stepped in front of a mirror, my expectations were shattered. Looking back on it, I don’t know how I thought that was a realistic expectation, given that I was somewhere between 13-16 and Kate was like 32, but nonetheless, it was partially for this reason that I was never satisfied with how I looked.
There was always something wrong with me: whether my eyebrows looked hideous, or my nose was too big, or my eyes were too small—you name it, I noticed it. And the problem only moved south when I got into college—the only part of me I was happy with, my figure, suddenly started to change and grow and all of a sudden I didn’t love my face or my body. Even though I have never been “ugly” or “fat,” I refused to accept anyone’s compliments, always denying anything positive about myself. Looking back on it now, I think part of my problem was that I saw everyone else doing the same thing. Someone calls you pretty? Immediately shoot that compliment down. Someone tells you that you look nice today? “Oh, please, I’ve never looked nice a day in my life.” And somehow, it felt that if I did anything other than deny these compliments, I would be in the wrong.
It took a long time before I was able to look in the mirror and be content with what I saw. In all honesty, it really only happened this past year. Part of it was that I got away from some toxic relationships and found people who love me for exactly who I am. Most of it was that I learned to accept God’s love. But in the words of my very wise husband, what it really came down to was that I learned to value myself.
Because, in the end, it isn’t really about how we look. I could diet for years and work out every day, but if I don’t value who I am as a person, it isn’t going to matter what I look like on the outside. It was my insides that needed to be loved. The real question is, why don’t we love ourselves? Why don’t we love our outsides, or our insides?
The reality of the situation is that God loves you. God made you.
Genesis 1:27a says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them.”
So, not only has He made you, but He also made you in His image.
Romans 5:8 is one of many verses that tells us God loves us: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
So, we know that God loves us even in our sin—even in the worst kind of ugliness.
And Psalm 139:13-16 describes how intimately He created us: “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Let’s really look at what these verses mean. If we say we’re not happy with the way we look, are we saying that God could have created us better? Are we saying that the creator of the entire universe, who made this beautiful earth and the heavens and everything around us, that He messed up? If I hate my face, or my stomach, or my butt, do I hate God’s handiwork? 1 Peter 2:9 says that we are God’s “special possession”; are we hating what is most special to God? We know from the previous verses that God made us with great care and purpose, and yet we are spitting on His masterpiece every time we tell someone, “No, I’m so ugly.” Furthermore, we’re made in HIS IMAGE! That’s like if someone said, “You’re so beautiful, just like your mother!” and, with Mom standing right there, you replied, “Ugh, no, I’m hideous.” Truth be told, in not loving who we are and what we look like, we are spitting on God’s plan, His work, and His image.
What it all comes down to is acceptance. We have to fully believe what Psalm 139 says, we have to let the fact that God made us perfect wash over us, until we’ve completely accepted it. Letting in the love of God is the only way to truly learn to love yourself. And it’s a process. It takes time, and effort, and a lot of hours looking in the mirror and reminding yourself that you’re beautiful, you’re perfect, you’re valuable to God. He made all of us different for a reason, and by degrading yourself you are degrading that special purpose that He made you for.
To finish off, I’d like to leave you with some royal examples of how to love yourself exactly the way you are. One Little Mermaid gives quite the illustration, in my opinion. At one point in the movie, Ariel is woken up suddenly, out of a dead sleep, and when she makes the assumption that it’s her wedding day (thanks to Scuttles), she looks in the mirror, fluffs her hair once, and rushes out to see her man. She doesn’t brush her teeth. She doesn’t comb out her bedhead. She doesn’t change into a pretty dress and put on some makeup and rub out her eye sleepers—she looks in the mirror and, confident in how she looks after just waking up, goes to see her man. Another great example is Jasmine. Sitting in front of her vanity brushing her hair, she doesn’t turn away from the mirror, ashamed of how she looks. She smiles at her reflection. Not only that, but she has enough self-confidence to know that she is worth so much more than all the money the snooty princes keep bringing. “I am not a prize to be won!” Remember? Now, that’s a whole other topic for another time, but that’s some self-confidence if I’ve ever seen it. Shouldn’t we, as God’s special possession, see the same worth within ourselves?
Lastly—and this one really hits the nail on the head, I think—let’s look at how the sea witch Ursula looks at herself in a mirror. In this scene, she is using her magic to appear as the lovely maiden Vanessa. While looking in the mirror, she sings a song about her evil schemes and laughs devilishly, clearly very proud of herself. As she tilts the mirror towards herself, we see her not as the vixen Vanessa, but as Ursula, the octopus woman. And yet, she is grinning and laughing at her reflection, confident and proud despite her looks. Now, if Ursula can even look at herself in the mirror and feel confident, can’t we at the very least look at ourselves and be proud of our own dastardly accomplishments? Because, let’s be honest, you are not uglier than Ursula. So if she can look in the mirror and be happy with what she sees, why can’t you?
The truth is, loving yourself takes work. Accepting who you are, inside and out, requires a lot of effort. So I’m going to leave you with a “GO” challenge, as we like to do in my church’s college group. I want you to take a picture of yourself first thing in the morning—no makeup, no rinsing off your face, no fixing your hair. Use the very first picture you take, regardless of how it looks, and look at that picture once a day. When you’re looking at it, tell yourself, “This person was made by God. God created them in His image. He created them perfect. They are loved and wanted by God, just the way they are. They. Are. Perfect.” Do this every single day until you can look in the mirror and say it to yourself, out loud, and really believe it.
And, remember, if worse comes to worse, you can at least remind yourself that you are more beautiful than Ursula, and laugh wickedly with pride.
Author’s Note: I apologize for taking an obscene amount of time to make another post. I was getting married, and buying a new kitty, and going on a honeymoon, and a bunch of other things. I will be making a much more pointed effort to post once a week from now on! Thanks for reading!