Dear Ginger: Self-Perception

dear ginger

Dear Ginger,

I was at the conference this weekend and your story really touched me. I have trouble with self-confidence. I always have trouble trying to find who I am. Or I’m never good enough. I play sports, but I’m never the best. There is a girl who called me a “fat seal” this year and that really hurt me. She’s bullied me since the 5th grade and this year I started cutting. I told my parents but I really need someone’s advice who has also struggled with not likening yourself. The very first night when you talked about how I’m God’s masterpiece. But I still haven’t figured out to deal with her because she constantly likes to bully me. I feel like I’m always worried about something or stressed. I tried making myself throw up, but it didn’t work so I didn’t try it again. I don’t like how I feel or look and I was wondering if you could help me. –M

Dear M,

There is so much packed into your letter. It sounds as if you are really overwhelmed by your world right now, and I don’t blame you. Any ONE of the things in your note would be enough to leave me anxious and worried. But you mentioned self-confidence, finding yourself, being good enough, bullying, cutting, identity, anxiety, self-destructive behaviors, and not liking how you feel or look.

I’m planning on responding to the issues you’ve raised, but I wanted to let you know that I’m going to break up my thoughts into at least two parts. The first will cover your own self-perception and the second response (next week) will concern the bullying aspect of your situation. I am so sorry that you’ve experienced such unkind words.

Self-Perception

Right off the bat I’m hoping you had the chance to watch the video I shared in yesterday’s post. It’s a clip from a recent Dove Beauty Campaign. Here’s the link just in case.

I think this clip is picking up so much steam around social media because it speaks to a feeling we all have. We focus on our imperfections, weaknesses, and flaws. A six-minute video demonstrated so clearly how we can miss the big picture of who we are and how we are really perceived. Did you notice how age wasn’t a factor? These woman, whether 19 or 45, all struggled with this issue.

So first things first: you are not alone. It may seem as though the rest of us have this aspect of life together, but the truth is that all of us have our hard days where we doubt our beauty and worth. We let magazines, movies, and celebrities tell us what is beautiful and valuable. If we take marketing, media, and culture at face value we are left believing that this list is what makes you important:

Clothing
Body type
Sex Appeal
Education
Popularity
Notoriety
Celebrity
Prominence
Talent
Money

Need I go on? It takes five minutes of channel surfing to discover what we are told to value. And that’s why what I’m about to tell you is going to seem so trite and simple, while at the same time controversial.

Trade the list.

I do not live up to the standards set by this world or Hollywood. My teeth will never be white enough, nor my thighs skinny enough to even come close. There was a time in my life when I was willing to trade anything to hit that standard of beauty. I was tanning, dyeing, whitening, dieting, and doing everything in between. But then my life became so inward focused that I was missing out on what would have brought true joy and value to my life. Yes, I could spend four hours in a gym every day and keep up a perfect weight and figure, but then I wouldn’t have time to do so many of the things that I actually love.

M, what do you love to do? Do you have gifts or passions? Do you love singing, reading, playing sports? I know you mentioned not feeling the best at anything, but I think a majority of us feel that way. I am not the best at anything. I have lots of 3rd place ribbons and honorable mentions to my name. I was not the valedictorian or the prom queen. I was never destined for American Idol, Olympic Trials, or the National Spelling Bee. In the grand scheme of blogs, mine has fairly low readership. But I had to decide along the way whether or not being the best at something was really my ultimate goal. It’s just not. I’ve had to let that one go. So instead, I just started doing what I love to do. I took my passion plus a desire to impact the lives of other people and that’s how I live my life. Can I tell you how freeing it is to stop trying to live up to someone else’s list?

Your value, purpose, and significance are deeply important in this life. The question is: where are you looking for those things?

purpose

“…Millions of people spend a lifetime searching for love, acceptance, and success without understanding the need that compels them. We must understand that this hunger for self-worth is God-given and can only be satisfied by Him. Our value is not dependent on our ability to earn the fickle acceptance of people, but rather, it’s true source is the love and acceptance of God. He created us. He alone knows how to fulfill all of our needs.” (Robert S. McGee, The Search for Significance)

At the conference I talked about our desire to be known and to know who we are. I truly believe that the source of that answer is found in our Heavenly Father. As the One who created you, He knows you very best. You have worth because He says so. There is nothing you could do to gain or lose His love. That is a promise we can take to the bank every day. I do not have to be successful or pleasing to others to have a healthy sense of worth. My worth comes to me from God. I read in His word over and over how He feels about each of us as His workmanship, His poeima, His masterpiece.

Worth It

In his book, The Search for Significance, (which I highly recommend) Robert McGee walks the reader through these same questions and issues. He makes a strong point in this diagram.

There are two possible options we can choose to determine our self-worth:

-The world’s system: Self-Worth = Performance (what you do) + Others’ Opinions (what others think or say about you)

-God’s system: Self-Worth = God’s Truth about you

M, I can’t make you know this just by saying so. This has been a long journey for me too, but so worth it in the end. I’m going to share some tips and resources through the rest of this week, but I want you to know that I am praying that you would turn to the One who knows you when everything on the outside says you don’t measure up. Please, please tell someone if you ever consider cutting or hurting yourself again. I am praying that your desire to hurt your body would disappear as you grasp the depths of His love for you.

“How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” (Ephesians 1:3-6, MSG)

For more on this topic check out these posts:

Dear Ginger: Uncomfortable in my Own Skin
Prove It!
Inside and Out
Fearfully and Wonderfully
True You: Self-Esteem
True You: Beautiful
God Looks at the Heart

Following,

Ginger

Beautiful

beautiful

I’ve received many questions and e-mails over the past few weeks from you, Bloggies. I am touched by your vulnerability and so thankful for your honesty in sharing your hearts and stories.

Care to know the most common phrase utilized in your messages?

“I don’t like how I feel or look… help me.”

As I was writing some of my responses, a friend shared the following video on Facebook. And while I do not believe our looks are the source of our happiness, this film by Dove’s latest Beauty Campaign has given me much to think about.

More to come.

Following,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Uncomfortable in my Own Skin

dear ginger

Hey Ginger!

I am struggling about my self-confidence. I know that I am supposed to love myself for who I am and everything. But I am truly stuck. Some girls at school are calling me names, and it is just bringing down my confidence in myself. I don’t cut myself or anything, but I have tried cutting, but I just won’t let myself do it. I was just wondering what would be the best way to raise my confidence in myself. I have talked to my parents, but I am just too scared to tell them that I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin. Have a great day.

-S

S- Thank you so much for your note and for sharing what’s going on in your heart. I’m so sorry this has been such a season of pain and sadness in your life. I want you to know that I’m praying for you especially today.

First of all, I want you to remember that you don’t have to be afraid to share with your parents about how you are feeling. I think they would care deeply about your hurts, just like they care about your successes in school. This is a tough battle for a lot of teens, and especially a ton of teen girls, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a big deal. Bullying is a really big deal and I can understand why it leaves you feeling negatively about yourself.  I want you to really think about telling your mom or dad. I know there have been times when I’ve been scared to share things, but it’s usually because I want to protect someone else, or because I’m afraid that they will be disappointed. Trust me, your parents will love you no matter what.

Secondly, I’m sorry that you feel so STUCK.

I know that I was stuck in a pattern for a long time in my life. I felt like I was a car in the mud and no matter how hard I pushed on the gas, the wheels would just turn and dig me down further.

You see, I’ve always struggled with loving the way that I look – especially when I felt that I didn’t fit in with other girls my age. It seemed like everyone else could eat whatever they wanted and still look the same. I felt like there was nothing I could do to stop worrying about my boday and start actually be comfortable in my own skin.

I didn’t try cutting, but I did make myself throw up. Sometimes we think we can do something drastic to feel differently or make a change, but the truth is I needed something stronger than myself to create change. I needed something stronger than self-esteem, self-confidence, and quick fixes. Hurting myself was only… hurting myself. I was digging my wheels deeper into the mud.

Even now, as a 30 year-old, the lie that says: You aren’t good enough because of the way you look – creeps in and wants to threaten all the confidence I have in the Lord.

So what do I do when that lie knocks on the door of my heart?

1. I claim truth. I read and remember the words that God has said about me.

2. I remind myself the value God has placed on my life.

3. I drop the lie that if I can just raise my self-esteem everything will get better.

4. I keep myself encouraged and grounded by reading the words of others who have struggled just like I do.

5. I cling to WHOSE I am, rather than who I am or how I’m failing.

6. And finally, I remember the hard road that I’ve walked and how I don’t want to go back there again. I’ve got too much to look ahead TOWARD. I want to keep fighting.

I needed something outside of ME to pull me out. In my own story, God has used His Word and Truth, books, accountability, and especially counseling to give wisdom and insight into my “stuck” situation. But more than anything, God has replaced my self-doubts with confidence in Him through a deeper relationship with HIM.

I believe that God does not desire for us to stay in that muddy place. He wants to pull us out of the pit. That’s why I want to recommend some resources for you today.

1.    Lies Young Women Believe (blog and book) by DeMoss and Gresh

2.   The Search for Significance by Robert McGee

3.   Graceful by Emily P. Freeman

4.   Perfectly Unique by Annie F. Downs

5.    2nd Corinthians chapter 10 (especially verses 4-5)

God wants our hearts, and is fighting for them. I truly believe this. And I’m happy to say that He is helping me get free, even in the smallest of ways. That’s my same prayer for you.

No matter what I might infer about my looks or weight… or even what others might say – the TRUTH is what I must cling to, even if I don’t feel that it is true…

“You are a beloved creation of the God of the heavens, that created you just like you are. When you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, you need to remember that the God who remade this sunset right here, He formed you in your mother’s womb, every part of who you are. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of, there’s nothing to look at and say,

“It’s not beautiful.”

You can’t look at some airbrushed picture of someone who doesn’t even look like that in real life and compare yourself to that. That’s not the reality of life. But what you are, is perfectly made by God of the heavens and He meant it on purpose.” 

― Lacey Mosley

I’ve found the secret of freedom to be different from what the world says. I haven’t learned 6 steps to higher self-esteem. Instead I am learning to reprogram my mind and know my Heavenly Father MORE. How He sees me is the only thing that matters.

Praying for your heart today, S. Please write again soon.

-Ginger

True You: Beautiful

“As people who have been created by God, we are infinitely precious to Him because we are His creation. Regardless of our outward appearance, we are all made with that spiritual potential to relate directly to Him, spirit to Spirit…

You may not look so favourably on your outward appearance, but when God looks at you, He sees His beautiful daughter. While God cares deeply about our own personal struggles with our outward appearances, whatever they may be, He cares even more for you.”

― Corallie Buchanan, Watch Out! Godly Women on the Loose

“Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear:
    Forget your people and your father’s house.
The king is enthralled by your beauty; 
    honor him, for he is your lord.” (Psalm 45:10-11)

We are continuing to explore the work of the Master Craftsman this week. I hope you’ll join the conversation…

Following,
Ginger

Inside and Out

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; 
      you formed me in my mother’s womb. 
   I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! 
      Body and soul, I am marvelously made! 
      I worship in adoration—what a creation! 
  

 You know me inside and out, 
      you know every bone in my body; 
   You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, 
      how I was sculpted from nothing into something. 


   Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; 
      all the stages of my life were spread out before you, 
   The days of my life all prepared 
      before I’d even lived one day. 

 Your thoughts—how rare, how beautiful! 
      God, I’ll never comprehend them! 
   I couldn’t even begin to count them— 
      any more than I could count the sand of the sea. 
   Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! 

Psalm 139:13-18, MSG

Challenge for this week: Write your own Psalm of praise thanking God for how He made you! Be specific, be honest, and be thankful – for every single part of the True You He created.

Following,
Ginger

Fearfully and Wonderfully

Psalm 139 says that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made”. It tells me that God formed me and wove me together in my mother’s womb even before she knew that she was going to have a child.

He chose my green eyes, and my frustrating eyebrows that seem to have a mind of their own. He chose my dishwater hair color, my body type, and my height. And yet too often I carelessly comment about how He formed me.

We are all quick to lament the size of our thighs, the length of our noses, and even the shape of our toes! The words “fearfully” and “wonderfully” express the gentleness and tenderness with which we were created.

Have you ever held an infant before? Better yet, have you ever seen someone who is reluctant to hold a baby? It’s generally not because they dislike babies. They usually refrain from holding the baby because they fear hurting it. They recognize that something so fragile requires tender care. God showed ultimate tenderness as He formed us. David wonders at God’s care when he says in Psalm 8:3, “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place.”

Why mention the stars when talking about how God created us? Read it again. The universe is the work of God’s fingers! There is no part of us that was casually or thoughtlessly formed. If He perfectly placed flaming balls of gas and magma into the sky, what does that say about how He created you and me? He declares you to be His poema, His poem, His masterpiece. Not only that, but He continues to think on us even after He created us!

“How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!”

(Psalm 139:17, NLT)

God not only created you as the crown of His creation, but He thinks innumerable precious thoughts about you!

I hope you will treasure that thought and promise today.

Following,
Ginger

God Looks At the Heart

Thanks to a thoughtful question by H, we are spending this week reminding ourselves how perfectly God created each of us and how deeply He loves us.

As I considered how to respond to H’s question, I couldn’t help but think of the many times in my own life when I have felt ashamed or upset because I couldn’t make myself live up to the standard of our culture’s beauty.

I remember the start of 4th grade as if it were yesterday. Our classroom was oddly located overlooking the school gym, making concentration next to impossible if any other class happened to make their way to P.E. during a test. The carpet was peach and we had windows that also faced the back parking lot and soccer fields.

I can’t recall what I wore on the first day of school, but I vividly remember a boy walking up to me quite candidly and piping up that “My dad said you got fat this summer.

Not, “How was your summer?” or “I wonder what 4th grade will be like?” or even “I don’t know what to think of Mrs. So and So.” Not only do I wonder what compelled the boy to share this information, but I also wonder what made his father decide to proclaim that message to his son. One sentence and I carry it always. Isn’t it amazing how hearing from others can affect how we feel about ourselves?

It’s the inside that counts”… right? But I care a lot about what other people think. I mean, we want to look a certain way, be in the right group, say the right things. And sometimes that goes well for us, but other times it just… doesn’t.

I remember being in school and loving recess. Any good game requires selecting teams. And how do we usually pick teams? Team captains. Being team captain was awesome. You got to pick your friends and the really good players. But any time you played and it wasn’t your best friend as the captain, or it was a sport you weren’t really good at… bad news, right?

You watch as everyone starts calling out names. You just cross your fingers and hope. Please oh please let my name be called next! I’ll be better than last time. I promise! And still you weren’t called. Who wants to be picked last? Not me. Not most of us. It’s hard when it feels like everyone is judging you based on how you look. Most people care about the outside. And that even includes people who really love God… like His prophets.

There was a prophet of God named Samuel. God actually came to Samuel and said that he was supposed to go and pick the next King of Israel. We can find that story in 1 Samuel Chapter 16. God told him to go to the city of Bethlehem and to find a man named Jesse. When Samuel came to Bethlehem he found Jesse and his eight sons. Samuel told Jesse that he wanted to worship God together with all of his sons and then eat a meal together. That sounded like a good idea, so Jesse called all of his sons together…or at least most of them.

So Jesse comes back to meet up with Samuel and his first son walks in and Samuel thinks to himself, “This has got to be the new King! Just look at this guy! He’s huge!”

But God told Samuel “Looks aren’t everything. You can’t just be impressed by the outside. This is not the guy I’ve picked to be king. Men look at the outside, but God looks on the inside… I look into their hearts. So, Eliab, the first son turns out to not be the King, but Samuel didn’t have time to worry, because Jesse’s next son, Abinadab showed up to be introduced. Even though Abinadab was handsome, Samuel knew that Abinadab wasn’t God’s choice for king either.

Next came Shammah. Samuel got pretty excited, because Shammah was a good dresser and looked the way a king should. But, Samuel realized that Shammah wasn’t going to be the King either. This went on and on with the next four son’s of Jesse. They were strong, warriors, smart, and even fun to be around. But God did not choose any of these seven sons of Jesse.

Samuel turned to Jesse and said, “Don’t you have any other sons?” Jesse did have another son, but he was so young and inexperienced that they hadn’t even told him about the dinner. David, the youngest, was out taking care of the family sheep.

The other sons of Jesse must have been pretty surprised to hear that Samuel wanted to meet the runt of the family who was just a shepherd boy. Everyone was getting pretty hungry, but Samuel told them they weren’t moving or eating until someone sent for David. 

Check out 1 Samuel 16:12-13. “Jesse sent for him. He was brought in… God said, “Up on your feet! Anoint him! This is the one.”

Samuel took his flask of oil and anointed him, with his brothers standing around watching. The Spirit of God entered David like a rush of wind, God vitally empowering him for the rest of his life.”

When Samuel came to choose the next king of Israel he thought he would pick the biggest son of Jesse. He then thought he would choose the athlete, or the guy who dressed like a king. But God had something else in mind. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.” Jesse’s youngest son, David, was out tending sheep. He hadn’t been brought in to meet Samuel with the rest of his brothers. David probably felt left out… maybe even purposeless.

David was Samuel’s last pick, but he wasn’t God’s last pick. God chose David out of all of Jesse’s sons, out of all the men of Israel, to be KING. God picked the right man for the job. Even more amazing, God has chosen us to do mighty things for Him.

The Bible says that even before your mom knew she was going to have you, God picked you. God loves each of us just the way we are. I’m claiming that promise today… and for my fourth grade self.

Following,
Ginger

Just As You Are

“You are a beloved creation of the God of the heavens, that created you just like you are. When you look in the mirror and you don’t like what you see, you need to remember that the God who remade this sunset right here, He formed you in your mother’s womb, every part of who you are. And there’s nothing to be ashamed of, there’s nothing to look at and say,

“It’s not beautiful.”

You can’t look at some airbrushed picture of someone who doesn’t even look like that in real life and compare yourself to that. That’s not the reality of life. But what you are, is perfectly made by God of the heavens and He meant it on purpose.” 

― Lacey Mosley

 

Praying this would sink into our hearts today…

  “You made my whole being; 
       you formed me in my mother’s body. 
  I praise you because you made me in an amazing and wonderful way. 
       What you have done is wonderful. 
       I know this very well.” Psalm 139:13-14
Following,
Ginger

Dear Ginger: Skinny Preztel Thin

Dear Ginger,

Last year in school we studied Greek mythology and as I looked at the goddess Aphrodite I saw that she was a large woman but she was also known as one of the prettiest women in the whole world. But now all I see in magazines and stores are skinny pretzel thin girls and I can’t shop in any clothing store without making myself cry. I’m tired of it and I tell myself I want to be like those women but I know I won’t ever be that thin. How can I let God tell I’m beautiful without feeling like he’s lying to me? Please help me find a way to stop me from getting so sad.

-H

My heart breaks for you, sweet one. I am so sorry that you are hurting so much and that you find yourself so very sad. I wish that I could give you a big hug right now.

I know what you mean. It’s so hard to try to tell myself that the way that I look is beautiful when models and actresses make me feel the EXACT opposite.

I’ve struggled with this my whole life. How often do I stand in front of my mirror and think, “I know I’m supposed to like what I see, but God, do you know what it takes to be pretty in this world”?

Some days I believe the truth about what God says about me, and other days – like you – I’m prone to listen to the lies that Satan wants to feed me! So how can we fight those lies?

1. Keep pursuing Truth. Are you reading the Bible, in a Bible Study/Small group, or able to spend time with someone who will continue to remind you of God’s Truth? I think my whole story changed when I started reading the Bible on my own. It’s important that you have a translation that you can understand – one that’s easy for you to read. I recommend The Message, The New LIving Translation, or the God’s Word Translation for teens especially. I feel like these versions utilize the kind of language you use on an every-day basis.

2. Memorize God’s Truth! God’s Word should be in our hearts and minds, on our tongues, and posted all over our world… try sticking post-it notes with verses in places that you can see them on a daily basis!  I will give you some of my personal favorites for combating lies: Psalm 19:14Psalm 22:23-24Isaiah 55:8-9Deuteronomy 30:19-201 Thessalonians 2:4Psalm 139: 23-242 Corinthians 12:9, and of course, 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.

Here’s what Kenneth S. Weust says about memorizing God’s word:

“[The believer] is to so yield himwelf to the Word that there is a certain at-homeness of the Word in his being. The Word should be able to feel at home in his heart. . . The Holy Spirit uses the Word of God what we know as He talks to us and guides our lives. He can efficiently talk to us to the extent to which we know the Word. That is the language He uses.”

That hit home with me. If I want to walk in the Spirit every day rather than being overwhelmed by the images of skinny models in the world, I need to speak the language of the Spirit. Memorizing God’s Word is going to be so important when we tackle any struggle- but especially the kind that take up residence in our hearts and minds.

3. Don’t fight this alone! Share with a trusted youth leader, friend, consider seeking out a counselor who can help you work through these issues. I’m 30 and I’m going to a counselor about this very topic for the first time in my life. I’ve been able to be honest and I can see real change happening in my life… but I had to be willing to share! I’ve never had an interest to join the armed forces.  Combat sounds terrifying to me. But do you know what sounds even worse?  Fighting alone.  I like my chances WAY better if I have someone (make that lots of someones) by my side.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”  Ephesians 6:13-18, The Message

I wish I could tell you that I’m cured of my desire to be thin, pretty and perfect… but I’m often still struggling in this area, sometimes on a daily basis. But I’m fighting. I have to choose only to fill my heart and mind with good things, especially God’s Word. The world says that my worth comes from my outward appearance, God tells me my worth is found in my heart. “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7, NLT)

Too often I let comparison or a desire to look a certain way steal the victorious life given to me in Jesus. I don’t want numbers on a scale to have control over my countenance and emotions. So each day is a battle. Each day I choose whether I’m going to seek the attention and approval of others, or if I’m going to seek my Father. I have to remember that our God is totally trustworthy.

Praying for you H. I’m going to keep writing posts this week with your letter in mind. Please write again soon…

Following and stumbling,
Ginger