“I can’t wait to be pretty
Oh the things that I’ll do
I’ll kiss pretty people and live out the blue
I’ll dance with the lights on in a crowded room
When I’m pretty, oh the things I’ll do.”
These lyrics struck me as I drove one morning listening to my Discover Weekly playlist on Spotify. A quick perusal of the comments on the official YouTube demo tell me these words resonate with people, particularly women, in a powerful, heartbreaking way:
“Literally every single lyric is how I feel.”
“Tons of people tell me I’m pretty and it feels nice, but at the end of the day when I look in the mirror it pains me to look at myself.”
“I’ve felt like this for years, afraid to live my life because I’ve never felt pretty.”
The past few weeks, I have found myself going through a podcast series produced by Abiding Together where they explore the four identities of women: daughter, sister, mother, bride. The women on the show do a beautiful job exploring the wonder and beauty of these identities while acknowledging the real ways these identities become distorted and the ways our wounds restrict us in our ability to live into them fully.
I have certainly lived many years of my life feeling held captive by insecurity about the way I look. I have found many strategic ways to exile and cope with these feelings. For starters, I never speak them out loud- I bury them deep in my heart where no one can see them and hold them there tightly. Secondly, I evaluate the things someone might think about my appearance and make sure I think it about myself before anyone else can. Finally, I have a wide variety of facades I go to for cover: a name-brand outfit, exuding the air that I don’t care how I look, a charming personality, a witty mind, a quick laugh.
All of these actions hide the reality that I am just a girl, a daughter, a sister, who wants to be loved and delighted in and who wants to be free from these thoughts of insecurity. I want to see myself as the Father does, but all the recitations of the phrase “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the world are probably not going to bring me to the place of freedom I desire.
I must admit, when the idea for this blog started percolating in my mind, my first thought was “oh yes, very cute brain. I definitely want to publish something on the internet about my deepest rooted insecurities. Ha. Good one.” But then I found myself on a road trip with two dear friends. They are beautiful, smart, kind, and holy women. The very best in the world! And when this song came on the radio, they both felt it. In this moment, I realized that maybe these thoughts, strategies, and voices were not just in my head. Maybe they were in the heads of the women I love most, the women I walk with in my life who are daughters, sisters, mothers, and brides.
While this post is vulnerable and quite honest, I have seen over and over again in my life that “the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:5) The best weapon against shame is vulnerability and light. As our friend Brene Brown says, “What makes you vulnerable, makes you beautiful.” It is with a renewed conviction I realize that my physical self is not something I can continue to have a distorted view of while still becoming the woman God has designed me to be. I need to untangle the parts that are twisted. I need freedom.
In Isaiah 61:7, the Lord speaks over His people, “Instead of their shame they will have a double portion. And instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion.” This is my hope for my view of self: that I will rejoice over my portion – that I, and my sisters around me, will learn to rejoice in who the Lord created us to be. I have invited Christ to redeem my life spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. I have to be willing to allow Him to redeem my life physically as well.
So what is the way forward?
The first step, I believe, is repentance. One definition of the Greek word for “repent” is to “change one’s mind.” While so simple, the battleground of my view of self is my mind. I have to be willing to say “I will no longer rage war with my own body and self.” The podcast I referenced earlier has a beautiful episode where it leads the listener through a meditation of renouncing lies we have told ourselves about the way we look and exist in the world. Freedom will not come once we reach a certain standard for ourselves. Freedom will come through the renewal of our minds and a total intolerance for thoughts that lead to lies.
The next step I have been working to integrate into my life is particularly challenging. Henri Nouwen in his book “Life of the Beloved” talks about our identity as “Blessed” and the importance of speaking and receiving blessings over our lives. If we only speak curses over ourselves, how can we begin to believe ourselves to be blessed and beloved?
Nouwen writes, “I am increasingly aware of how much we fearful, anxious, insecure human beings are in need of a blessing…When we are thrown up and down by the little waves on the surface of our existence, we become easy victims of our manipulative world, but, when we continue to hear the deep gentle voice that blesses us, we can walk through life with a stable sense of well-being and true belonging.”
I have had to stop and ask myself some hard questions about why it is so easy to curse myself and the way I look, but it is almost impossible to speak a blessing over myself or to receive the blessings of others in this area of my life. It is a twisted, manipulative form of pride that tells me I am the exception.
“For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.”Galatians 5:1
So today, I will choose to speak a blessing over myself. I will allow Jesus to look at me. I will ask Him to give me the grace to see myself as delighted in. I will allow the Spirit to enter the places of great woundedness in my heart and bring redemption, peace, and hope. I will take a step towards freedom, and I hope you will come with me.