I’m sorry that I’ve woken up in the morning and been totally disgusted and unhappy with what I see in the mirror. I’m sorry that I’ve been so sad I haven’t fed you properly, or given you enough sleep or resting time. I’m sorry that I get so wrapped up in other people; what they think of me, what they want from me, and actually forgetting along the way that I haven’t always known what I’ve thought about you. I’m sorry that I feel shame at my stretch marks and the bits of my body that I don’t like – I’m sorry that I’ve starved your body to look like somebody else and I’m sorry that I’ve tried so hard to change you that I forgot to embrace all that you are in your entirety. I’m sorry that I forget to tell you how beautiful you are, every single day, and I’m sorry that I’m always waiting for someone else to say that you’re lovely, you’re funny – you’re wonderful – when it should have always come from me.
So there you have it. This column has said a lot about how we relate to other people; what we should expect from others and expect from ourselves in that realm of relationships and dating and falling in love. Recently, and as I’ve found with some important people in my life, how we view ourselves and the relationship we have with ourselves is so, so important. One of my favourite films of all time is The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which is where the quote at the top comes from. In various parts of my life, those fateful words up there have been an absolute reality for me. I’ve been involved with some people who, quite frankly, didn’t treat me right or make me feel loved or wanted or needed in a particularly positive way. Those experiences, for a long time, caused me a great deal of emotional turmoil (oh, this post has teenaged diary all over it, doesn’t it?!) and some serious confusion about how I should view myself. Some of these people were so important to me, but they made me feel unbearably rubbish and low and unnecessary. I remember praying a few times that the only way I could be rid of these feelings would be if God called that relationship or friendship off completely – and most times He did without me even realising, and not because He doesn’t love them or value them as much as He does me, because He definitely does, as painful as that has been for me to process sometimes, but because it was better for us both for that to come to an end.
In other cases, it’s been other influences over me that have shaped how I look and view myself. I mean, find me a young woman who isn’t effected by the way women are potrayed in the media or how a size 18 is too big and a size 6 is too small – how are we to know who we are and whether we’re gorgeous or not?! I come from a culture where having a boyfriend was an indicator as to whether you were ‘worthy’ or important or special, and so a lot of the time my worth has been based purely on what I’ve had or not had, or whether I have an attractive figure or whatever else. Over the last few years, God has really challenged me on this. He pulls these bits and pieces away from me, whether at first its so that my heart is protected and I’m being looked after by good old Jesus (He’s such a babe, isn’t he?!), but also because at the end of it all, what I’m left with is just God.
Jesus tells us to “Love your neighbour as you love yourself“, and I have to say I’m an absolute pro at the first bit, but the second section is a definite work in progress. It’s been a real struggle when God puts me in a position where I have to learn my worth on my own – I’ve been put in situations or have gone through that cliche Christian idea of “seasons” where I’ve literally been left to my own devices, and the options available to me are to cling to the ideas and thoughts of people, or I can work this out with God. I can’t honestly say to you all that the second one has always been my go-to; more than anything, I have to go through another gruelling sesh of feeling like an absolute knob when people let me down or don’t give me what I think I need and God just kind of stands there like “hey, I’ve been here trying to do that all along?”. I can only imagine how frustrating I can be sometimes!
What I’m trying to say, in a roundabout way, is that in relationships, it seems that the healthiest kind of relationships are the ones in which there is a least a shred of self-respect for either party. I’m not saying there needs to be some kind of perfect balance between thinking you’re brilliant and so is your Mr or Mrs, but what I am saying is that you need to know that you’re worth something, at least. That you are precious, maybe – or even that you’re just a decent person. We accept the love we think we deserve based on what we think of ourselves. Someone once said to me that we can’t really love our neighbour properly when we don’t even love ourselves. I guess that says a lot for those couples where he or she ends up with a complete tool who treats them badly and they just put up with it because, well, that’s what they’re worth, isn’t it?
WHO TOLD THEM THAT?
Who told ME that?!
Oh wait, I did.
No wonder we wake up in the morning and feel sad at what we see in the bathroom mirror while we brush our teeth. No wonder. No wonder negative self-image is a turn off for most people, no wonder a lack of self-esteem doesn’t always attract good and decent people. No wonder. The aim of all of this isn’t that when you start to feel better about yourself you’ll land the lad or lass of your dreams; the aim is that you’ll have a better relationship with you. Take all of those people away that you look up to and lust after – take away all of those compliments or flirtatious moments or whatever else. What are you left with?
You need to know how much you’re really worth – and for me, the best place to look for that is the Cross. I believe that Jesus died on the Cross so that I could live and be free. Did he die so that I could look at myself and feel shame? Did he die so that I can be disappointed by his handiwork and wish he’d made me differently? Did he die so that I can flirt with guys and find my affirmation in them when everything I need to know I’m good enough is found in Him dying in the first place?
You are worth so much more than you think you are – and I maybe, just maybe, you owe someone special an apology.
Peace and blessings x