I once heard of a social experiment in which there were two billboards placed in two different cities. On each billboard was the exact same picture of a lovely woman who also happened to be full figured. The first billboard said “I think I’m beautiful, what do you think?” The second said “I think I’m fat, what do you think?”
The researchers did a survey of people who drove frequently past the billboards. The results? Something like seventy five percent of the people who saw the “I think I’m beautiful” billboard thought she was beautiful. And something like seventy five percent of the people who saw the “I think I’m fat” billboard thought that she was fat.
The way you see yourself is perhaps the most influential factor of the way that other people see you.
If there were a billboard of me filling the New York skyline 5 years ago, it would have read like this: “I think that no one loves me once they get to know me well. I think that my talent is the only reason people like me. I think that people abandon me, that I am a victim, and that I get lost really easily. What do you think?”
But God has really redeemed my self image the last few years. He has allowed me to see that covering up my face is not humility. Jesus has commanded me to love my neighbor as myself. Not more than myself. As myself. Which means that just as much as I am commanded to love others, I am commanded to learn to love myself. He commanded us to “be made whole” more times than any other command. Is that surprising to you? It is to me. But I want to do it. I want to follow his commands. So I have learned, day by day, to love myself.
If you were to read that billboard now, it would say “I think that people really like me, and that I like myself. I think the more they get to know me, the more they love me. I think that I am fun, loving, and valuable, and that I get lost really easily. What do you think?”
Believe me, some days it can be a battle to think like this. When I lose my keys, when I procrastinate, when I am confused about my next steps, when my sister in law has to give me directions to her house for the 14th time because I always get lost, I get mad at myself. I still have weakness’, and I still notice them. But I don’t focus on them as much as I used to. Even in seasons like this, when I am not doing great financially, when I feel alone at times, I am kind to myself, just as Jesus has been kind to me. Just like I would be kind to a friend.
Five years ago, I thought that the day someone asked me to marry them would be the day that I would know I was valuable. Having a mate that loved me would be a good reason to love myself.
Yeah, right. Today I am valuable. Period. God made me: that is more than enough reason to love myself.
In fact, now I know that it can be even harder with a mate in the picture to overcome self esteem issues, because you have a constant mirror in front of you. So I am not hoping for a man to tell me that I am valuable any more. I am praying that I can see myself as valuable today. The more whole I am, the more I will attract someone who is whole. The more whole we are as a couple, the less we will depend on each other for our value. That makes for a much healthier marriage.
And even if I never get married, if I learn to love myself, I will still get to live with someone I really enjoy being around:
I have a unique DNA of Jesus in me that no one else in the world has. Every day I live that out and am confident in it is another day that He is glorified.
I want to remember every day that I am beautiful, no matter what the circumstances are. I want to focus on my strengths instead of my weakness’ because that is the way that He looks at me.
I want to read the billboard that He puts in front of me every day, the billboard that says
“I think you’re beautiful. What do you think?”
(What billboard have you put up that is not always true? What billboard do you want to put up? What journeys have you been on with your own self esteem?)