It’s everywhere. Attacking from all directions. This constant nagging and mounting pressure that tells us that we are not enough as we are.
Change your looks. Improve your marriage. Parent more. No, parent less. Earn more money. Buy more things.
And I’ve bought into the hype time and time again.
If I could only change (fill in the blank), I would be happier. If I wasn’t so this, or if I could just stop doing that, then I would really be able to get somewhere in life.
Lately, though, God has been speaking to my heart and reminding me that I am his creation. Yes, I am a sinner and when my character does not align with his will for me, changes need to be made. But I am learning the difference between sin (like my laziness) and the qualities that make me unique in contrast to those around me.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 NIV
He made each of us by design. We have our own individual talents and gifts, and he has plans and a purpose for each of us. It’s when we try to acquire someone else’s gifts and pursue someone else’s purpose that we set ourselves up for failure.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
I am still very much a work in progress, but I have found three areas where we can seek to love ourselves better:
I am an introvert by nature. I haven’t always known that or understood that, only that I felt different from everyone else.
My whole life I’ve heard, “You’re so quiet!” or “Why don’t you ever say anything?”
I finally had this ah-ha moment when I began reading about all the different personality types. I know now that I’m never going to be the life of the party. I’m awkward and small talk is not my cup of tea. That’s okay.
I love deep, meaningful conversations where I can learn what makes people tick. I can seek out these types of social settings that won’t drain my energy, and I can also plan ahead for those times when I know I’ll need to be alone to “recharge” afterward.
Understanding the way that I was created helps me to embrace my strengths rather than dwell on my weaknesses.
I’ve been classified as “underweight” pretty much my entire life. I’m tall and I’m thin – the technical term is ectomorph which basically means I can eat a ridiculous amount of calories without gaining any weight.
Sounds like a dream come true, right?
Not so much.
I’ve dealt with cruel, degrading comments for as long as I can remember. For some reason, people don’t think twice about making negative comments to a “skinny” person, yet they would never dream of saying such hurtful things to someone carrying extra weight.
You’re nothing but skin and bones. Do you have an eating disorder? Why don’t you go eat a cheeseburger?
I’ve tried everything to gain weight, and so far the only thing that works for me is carrying a child in my womb. Not exactly a great long-term solution.
But after almost 30 years, I’m learning to let it roll off my back. God created me this way and while I may not love the reflection in the mirror, I know that he loves me unconditionally. Instead of focusing on gaining weight to please other people, I just want to lead a healthy lifestyle and eat plenty of nourishing foods.
Ultimately, our physical appearances were not made to last. Learn to let go of insecurities and become comfortable in your own skin.
“Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:4 NIV
Just yesterday, I found myself watching a YouTube video where this beautiful woman outlined her morning cleaning routine.
She made it look so simple.
Her humongous house was spotless and I felt so inadequate as I began comparing my homemaking to hers.
But then it hit me, the third item on her morning checklist involved dropping her teenage kids off at school. I realized I was comparing apples to oranges.
Sure, I might have time to clean my house and style my hair and grocery shop in peace if I wasn’t homeschooling a six-year-old with a two-year-old in tow. I realized that her calling is not my calling.
This is my reality that I chose when we decided to homeschool. It’s not something to mourn or lament. The way we spend our time is a reflection of our priorities, and for me, a magazine ready home and perfectly coiffed hair are taking a backseat right now. (No disrespect to her – my whole point is that we’re all on different journeys in different seasons of life and we aren’t doing ourselves any favors trying to be someone we’re not.)
When we fall into the comparison trap, we often beat ourselves up for failing in areas where we weren’t called to succeed in the first place. Rather than looking around to see how green everyone else’s grass is, let’s put more effort into watering our own grass.
Do you have any advice to share for balancing self-improvement with self-acceptance? I would love to hear from you in the comments.