I walked into the room, lamely late for my best friend’s party, and gave her a massive hug. She wasn’t offended because she’s the most gracious person in the world, and I soon breathed easier and joined the laughter.
I had planned on spending the afternoon walking the beach, shopping for her gifts, and arriving well loaded as all good friends do. But when another friend invited me up to the mountain ridges, I went.
There’s almost nothing a mountain won’t fix. Majesty and beauty, strength and wonder all in one. Exercise and a heaving of those muscles while the heart bursts over snow capped ridges and summer flowers.
So, I went at a risk of time, paused to snap photos, and listened to my friend say, “You do you!” when I created sudden pauses in the hike because I just had to get that next photo.
Only healthy people will tell you to be yourself when it’s unhandy for themselves.
But later in the night, with the party dwindling and dishes washed, three of us girls sat at the table while heart sharing began to spill forth.
“I don’t know why I can’t love myself,” she said. “Why are some things such a big deal?”
Her mom and I listened quietly before I spoke. “I don’t think we’re supposed to love everything about ourselves,” I said gently. “Some things God wants us to change, to work on, to dislike because we’re not doing what we should to be healthy.”
This feminine gospel that tells us to “Be You” at every turn can actually cause a lot of damage. A woman can spend the rest of her life telling herself that she’s beautiful and loved just the way she is, and that would be true. God does love us just the way we are.
But He also loves us too much to let us stay the way we are.
Some things we’re supposed to dislike so greatly that we change how we are and how we live. For crying out loud sisters, none of us are so wonderful that every aspect of us is awesome. Why waste any more breath trying to prove to our brains what we already know isn’t true, when we are assured by Jesus Himself that the truth sets us free? This includes the truth of all things on all accounts.
It’s just that we need wisdom on what to change and what to accept.
“Right now, my muscles are sagging a little,” I told her. “I’m not going to the gym because I’m working almost every day and it takes all my energy. I can spend the rest of my years telling myself to love myself just the way I am, but my muscles will still sag and I won’t like it.”
But is that okay? Yes and yes!
What about the dark circles under my eyes? I can try to assure myself that looks don’t matter and those are fine—but I will forever hate them, and perhaps God wants to show me ways to de-stress even though I’m in a very stressful circumstance right now.
There’s a lot on my plate and I tend to run like a hamster on a wheel until I nearly drop over. Those dark circles could be a sign that Jesus wants to lead me to a place of rest and greater peace even in the midst of chaos.
I can run with grace or I can scurry with tension. Therefore, looking at myself in the mirror and vainly trying to shove the “truth” that “I’m ok just the way I am” could actually deprive me, keep me, hinder me from becoming who God wants me to be.
God loves me just the way I am, but He also loves me too much to let me stay the way I am. Perhaps some of the things I don’t like about myself are things God is using to show me He has a better way for me to live.
Let’s look at another example. (This one’s vulnerable, sisters.) I have never needed a size D bra, and have always moaned about the fact that someone could land an airplane on my chest and be just fine.
Does God love me just the way I am? A million times, yes!! Do I need to run off for a seven thousand dollar boob job? A million times, no!!
The thing is, girls, what does Jesus want to change and what does He want us to be at peace with?
One of my friends is targeting her weight. She doesn’t like the added pounds and is making changes to her diet to shed them. She knows she could spend the rest of her life telling herself she’s loved just the way she is, and that would be true—but, she also knows that Jesus wants her healthy, and if a lack of wise choices is causing her body to wear down, He loves her so much that He leads her to better things.
Another friend talks about her smaller-than-wished-for chest. “I’d never spend thousands of dollars on a boob job,” she declares. “If some guy doesn’t like it someday, I’ll tell him to take it up with God because He’s the one who made me that way.”
I smiled. “That makes sense in every way,” I told her.
Accepting our physic is vastly different than destroying our physic, sisters. God may have given me a smaller chest but he didn’t give me an entire box of ice cream to stuff myself with at midnight while I balloon to 300 pounds.
Embrace true conviction; discard insecurity. Our minds are a battle ground and we get to choose which side we give energy to.
God doesn’t target anything for us without extending an invitation to us. Letting us “be us” isn’t the most loving thing for our Creator to do when we are harming ourselves. Therefore, this near-gospel of “Be Yourself” has a side effect that can be dangerous and full of bondage.
Our Creator God has good things in store for us. Loving Him is the key; not loving ourselves. Loving Him will cause us to be at peace with ourselves while simultaneously changing ourselves. It’s not one or the other—it’s both!
Our greatest healing comes not from embracing our lack, but from embracing God’s fullness to replace the lack. We won’t find the fullness if we coddle ourselves in the lack.
For the love of our Creator, for the love of our families, and even for the love of ourselves, I’m urging us twenty-first century women to take a second and broader look at what “loving ourselves” really is!