Insecurity and low self esteem is a widespread issue for women of all ages. This week I teamed up with some ladies that I love dearly, to share out struggles, our journey and what we have done to gain a better mindset and heart in the area of confidence and body image. Grab a cup of coffee, put your feet up and come on in to our worlds.
My insecurities about my body image began at a young age. From before even grade school began I was known for eating a lot and for being chubby. I always felt bigger than the people around me, because I kind of was. The people I was around most often: my cousins and my best friend, were all way tinier than me. It was not until middle school that I stopped seeing myself as huge. Thinking about it now, I may have just been exposed to more body types in middle school than ever before, which probably helped me to feel more normal and not so “big” comparatively. Aaaand I probably thinned out and got a boost in my metabolism, because I do remember wearing size 14/16 at Limited Too in elementary school and I am that size right now…
Either way, I still have insecurities today. I have always had gorgeous friends and I have never felt quite on their level, and I accredited that to my severe lack of knowledge in the beauty department. I do not wear makeup everyday and if I do, I only wear foundation and eyeliner on my top lid (because I don’t actually know how to apply anything else) and I never do anything to my hair. I just bought my first hair product that is not detangling spray a couple of months ago! My lack in the area of “beauty” used to make me very insecure, but it also helped me to cultivate my own sense of beauty. I don’t struggle with feeling insecure when my hair is not done or when I have to go out sans-makeup, because I have gone through a journey of learning to love myself in the absence of those other things in the first place. I’ve learned to appreciate the plain and bare me. Through deciding to love myself this way, I have been able to fight against what pop culture tells me I need to look like to be beautiful and focus on other things that are important to me.
Nevertheless, I am a normal American woman, so I still struggle with thinking I am fat. I have never seen an ab on my body in my entire life. My cheeks have deflated a lot, but I am easily still at chipmunk-status, so I feel like without my glasses on, my face just disappears into my cheeks and I look like I came out of the womb yesterday. Much to my disappointment, the fat around my armpits is always still there. If I don’t have a thigh-gap I start to feel very self-conscious. And if I’m being very honest, I always have rolls when I sit down. But I think that because I used to be so large, or at least perceived as such by myself and those around me, I don’t ever feel huge anymore. I’m always up compared to where I was before.
Most importantly, I have come to a point where healthy is good enough for me. This has to do with my battle with gastrointestinal problems. Recently, I have had times where I cut so many foods out of my diet in hopes of escaping pain that at the end of the day, I would end up close to tears, because I was so hungry, but I was afraid to eat. I ended up losing eight pounds in a matter of days. For years, I had wanted to lose eight pounds and there I was: I had finally attained it. It was then that I decided that it was not worth it. Sure, I was noticeably skinnier and with that came a boost in my self-confidence, but the means it took to get there were painful. Another scary realization was that I had reached my goal, but it was not enough. My body didn’t look like I thought it would at eight pounds lighter. It was then that I realized that being so critical and intense about my body image and weight was a mentally and emotionally tricky path that I did not want to stay on. For me, putting myself in pain is not worth feeling the feeling of skinny.
Yes, I actually do have literal man shoulders and bad posture, but my biggest insecurity doesn’t have to do with my body… I was diagnosed with bellspallsy as a child. This means that the nerves in my face are un-aligned, so for lack of a better word, my mouth is “crooked.” My mouth naturally does not curve up equally on both sides; one side kind of lags, which is most noticeable when I talk. In photos, if I am on the side where my mouth doesn’t go up to the normal height on the cheek, I feel like you can see my nerves being stressed in my mouth and that it looks like there is something wrong with me. This shouldn’t make me feel ugly, but sometimes it does come dangerously close to doing just that.
If I am being truly and completely honest, when it comes down to it, I am happy with myself. I have grown to love my outsides as much as I love my insides. I put effort into what I look at in the mirror. I consistently push myself when I work out and I don’t trash my body. For now, I am proud of that and that keeps me happy. Deep down inside, I feel that when the time comes that I am not the only one seeing myself naked, I will be able to step up my game and acquire an ab or two (six is still a lot to fathom). I am not constantly thinking about how to make my physical appearance more appealing to other people in this way and that, because I am learning to live to please me first and foremost. Everyone is on their own personal journey in overcoming insecurities and I think it is important to recognize that. For me, it is most important to a) always want to improve myself b) have boundaries and most importantly, c) consciously choose to love myself. No one gets to beat me up, not even myself. Every day I choose to think lovely thoughts about myself when I start to think hateful ones. When you speak the truth even when it doesn’t feel true with God’s Grace, one day it will feel as true as it truly is. I believe that if you are not actively taking a step toward loving yourself, you are taking a step toward hating yourself. I know some of you reading this will think I am a naive, optimistic girl that lives in lala lands where the sky is made out of lollipops, but I truly believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe and that my love for myself is crushing my insecurities down bit by bit everyday.
When Ruthie first asked me to write a few words about my struggle with feeling insecure, I laughed and thought to myself, “Where do I start?!”
The first time I ever remember feeling self-conscious was in elementary school. A boy in my class pointed at me and yelled, “Why is your nose so big?” and to be honest, I don’t think I ever really looked at myself the same again.
I continued to hear comments about my nose here and there, with “witch nose” and “she looks like a man” being the most hurtful. I accepted those lies and told myself that as long as I had a big nose, I’d be ugly. My confidence was shot. I photoshopped all of my pictures, I couldn’t make eye contact with people when I was meeting them for the first time, and even when people would try to compliment me by saying something like, “You have such an exotic look!”, I couldn’t take the compliment. I assumed they were saying I looked exotic BECAUSE of my nose, and I didn’t want to look exotic, I just wanted to look normal.
At 25, I decided that I was going to get my nose done. In the months leading up to the surgery, I joined a few message boards and communicated with people that were getting close to their surgery date as well. We shared our “before” pictures with each other, what we wanted to change and what lead us to our decision. Two things blew me away: First of all, I wasn’t alone! There were THOUSANDS of people online who didn’t like their noses. Secondly, these women were GORGEOUS. I wanted to jump through my computer screen and shake them and tell them how beautiful they were and that they didn’t need to change a thing! I wondered, “Is this how they see me too?”
I couldn’t see my own worth at the time, but if I had spent less time researching plastic surgeons and more time researching what God says about me, maybe I would’ve realized that He was there all along shaking me and telling me that I was perfect just the way I was.
I went through with the surgery and love my smaller nose, but I didn’t magically become confident overnight just by going through with the procedure, either. I focus on other things now, like acne and acne scars, or that my stomach doesn’t look like the fitness girls I follow on Instagram, the list goes on and on.
But if changing my nose didn’t make me confident, it’s safe to assume that having clear skin or 6 pack abs wouldn’t either. If I’ve learned anything from my plastic surgery journey, it’s that my security clearly doesn’t lie in chasing what other people tell me is beautiful. And thank God, because that sounds exhausting!
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling insecure! I recognize now that it’s a choice, though, and you really do get to choose whether or not you feel good about yourself. So on days that my skin is so broken out that I want to cry, and on days that my clothes don’t fit the way I want them to, I’ve learned to choose feeling confident regardless. This becomes so much easier when I take the focus off of myself and focus on God instead. Instead of focusing on how I view me, I focus on how He views me. Instead of listing off things I don’t like about myself, I list off things I do like and I thank Him for each and every trait! Slowly but surely something wonderful happens: I’m not just reciting bible verses about God telling me I’m beautiful, I actually stop comparing myself to others and start to FEEL and KNOW that I am beautiful!
Today I can say proudly that I have flaws instead of hiding behind them or trying to conceal them from the world. I no longer want to blend in because I wasn’t created to blend in! How boring would that be if we all looked the same? But these “flaws” have made me who I am today. My skin is far from ideal, but you know what? It’s made me a better makeup artist, which is my ultimate career goal. My stomach has a 12 inch scar on it from a life saving surgery that I had, but I rock it because it’s my testimony, a reminder of my strength and a reminder that God’s keeping me around for a purpose bigger than myself. I’m finally content just being ME, and I love the freedom in that. And isn’t that what God wants for us? To be confident, bold, and unapologetically ourselves? Today I want to remind you that you are beautiful just the way you are. I hope you choose to believe it!
I am told often that I come across as an extremely confident person. I am confident in some ways and then very insecure in others. Here is a part of my journey. I would say that my insecurity started in middle school. We all know that middle school can be a very difficult time for adolescents. At that time I was in a predominantly white school, so I already felt as if I stood out. To top it off I was developing extremely fast. I got my period at 9 and had boobs at 8. I remember very vividly. I would do everything and anything I could to have it appear that my boobs were smaller than they actually were. Even if that meant wearing bras that were too small for me and wearing several bras at once. In high school I started to get a lot of attention from guys because of my shape and I feel like I didn’t really think about my weight, size or shape because I was getting so much positive attention. I was also moved to an inner city magnet school where most of the girls had curves and I felt like I fit in.
Fast forward to now. I have had 3 children and my body has changed drastically. Those of us who have had children can attest to what that’s like! Over the years, even prior to children I had put on some weight and have managed to take the majority of it off. I struggle daily to maintain/ lose weight and feel confident in my own skin. Thanks to my husband who tells me daily that I am beautiful, I finally believe that. I still struggle, however, with comparison and never feeling quite right or good enough. For example, I think my cheeks are too big so I often hide behind sunglasses or smile to the side to not expose the fullness of my face. For a while I thought I was too curvy, but have recently embraced my curves. I wear hair long enough to cover up the random neck roll I have that my brother used to call a hotdog. I’ve recently decided I hate my arms, and the list goes on and on.
At the end of the day, I have to remind my self that we cannot bring these earthly bodies to heaven with us. That truly what’s inside is what is most important. I’ve often had thoughts of standing before The Lord, and having to give an answer for why I obsessed so much over my physical appearance. I’m well aware that there are bigger more important issues at hand. It’s a shame how many thoughts in a day of mine are filled with self-disgust, comparison and insecurity. It’s not ok.
Practically, a few things you can do to overcome insecurity and low self esteem is first, speak positively about yourself. Don’t consume your day with thoughts and negative words about what you hate about your thighs and your hair and how gross your arms are. It’s a never ending trap. It takes conscious effort to stop the cycle and shift your thinking, but it helps and changes things. Two: Get around people that will lift you up and encourage you when you’re struggling. I also think it’s important to speak up and tell a trusted friend when you’re having a particularly difficult day and need the truth spoken over you in love. I have a few friends I lean on during days like these. Often times what we are seeing is misconstrued, twisted and even a lie. Another persons perspective can help get you to the other side. Lastly, prayer. I have found that bringing these issues to God is the most effective thing I can do to feel better about myself. God uses people and situations to cause us to see ourselves the way He does. I am nowhere where I want to be, in my mind, but I’m not where I started and I’m making every effort be better and feel better, mostly for my daughters!
Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today. Please feel free to leave comments sharing your journey/ struggles! I can assure you that we care and are happy to offer words of encouragement along with prayer. Much love,