I'm a person with good self-esteem — most of the time, anyway. We all have our moments where we get insecure. But I felt fine about the way I looked and really started coming out of my shell a few months ago. I lost a lot of fear of man and that felt fantastic.
Then we started filming us students goofing around for a Bible college graduation video, and when we watched the video playback, I became incredibly insecure. I felt like I looked so awkward and not attractive, and my self-esteem took a bit of a hit.
I definitely think I'm beautiful when I look in the mirror and don't get insecure in social settings a whole lot, but whenever I see pictures or videos of myself, I get that same feeling of "ugly" and "awkward." Why is this happening? What should I do about it?
We can all relate to that moment of seeing or hearing ourselves and wondering where the vision we hold in our heads disappeared to. I used to think I'd make a great news anchor or TV personality, until I heard the playback of myself speaking into a tape recorder. We all feel self-conscious at some point. But self-esteem is not the answer. Job 37:24 tells us God "does not regard any who are wise in their own conceit" (ESV).
The enemy doesn't care if we feel overly good about ourselves or overly bad. Both are rooted in pride and take the focus off our Maker and place it on ourselves. In the first case, we take credit, boasting for something we had nothing to do with (1 Corinthians 4:7), in the second, we doubt His goodness in making us the way He did and disbelieve His Word that says, "everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:4). Everything, and every person, is made for His glory (Colossians 1:16). What a wonderful purpose that gives our lives!
How we feel about ourselves is not our problem. Not really.
I knew a woman who had a picture in her mind's eye of what she looked like as a teenager: tall and slender. When I met her, she was still tall, but no longer slender. When she saw herself in photos, it was always a shock to remember how much her weight had changed. Conversely, some women hold images in their heads of themselves as overweight and slovenly, when in fact, they are quite trim and lovely. We are easily deceived.
The problem with all of this comes down to something you touched on in your letter: whom we fear. You said you no longer fear man, and that's good. "The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe" (Proverbs 29:25). But whom do you fear instead? To be truly free, you must replace the fear of man and all efforts to gain the approval of people, with the fear of God. His approval is the only one that matters.
No matter how good or bad you think you look in pictures, the measure of your worth is not what others think of you, nor what you think of yourself, but what God thinks of you. He made you. He fashioned every detail of your frame. Psalm 139 proclaims you are "fearfully and wonderfully made." You are not a collection of random DNA combinations; "God knit [you] together in your mother's womb." You are more valuable than you realize. You are more loved and more sought after. But you are also more desperate than you imagine. Apart from Christ, you are utterly without hope.
Ephesians 2:1-3 says, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." Then verse 4 begins, "But God…" That is quite possibly the most hopeful phrase ever written. It continues,
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:4-10).
Those who are saved by grace are God's workmanship. There is no possibility of boasting in that because God raises us to life when we are dead in our sin. Dead people can't save themselves. It is this glorious redemption that frees us to serve Him, knowing He owes us nothing — He has already given us all things in Christ — and we owe Him everything. There is no ground for boasting, nor is there any reason for self-condemnation: Christ died for us (Romans 8:32). He is trustworthy, and all His works are good (Psalm 37:5, Psalm 115:11, Proverbs 3:5-6). But apart from Him, you are worse than you realize.
Whom will you believe — the mirror, the video playback, your heart, your friends — or God? Consider what's at stake when you believe any voice other than His: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs" (Jonah 2:8, NIV 1984).
When I'm tempted to discouragement about my appearance or performance, I think about 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
I pray you will cling to these truths and take hold of the grace that can be yours, by the power of His Holy Spirit.
For His Glory,
Copyright 2013 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.