“They’ll like me if I’m a leader.” “They’ll like me if I’m skinny.” “They’ll like me if I have sex.” “They’ll wish they had liked me when I’m gone.”
These thoughts ruled my head and heart for years. So tied up in what others thought of me, I strived for perfection, while hating myself at the same time. I knew that Jesus had died on the cross for my sins so that I could enter Heaven, but I didn’t know that He saw me as beautiful and worth saving. I didn’t realize that I mattered deeply to the One who created the whole universe, to the One whose opinion matters most.
Growing up I was praised for being a good girl, for having good manners, always dressing pretty, for making good grades. But it was a heavy burden to stay so perfect. I was consumed with worry that I would mess up, fearful of people judging me, so I took it out on myself. Holed up in my closet, I would resort to self-harm to overcome the feelings of failure and worthlessness.
Control of my ‘perfect’ image was lost forever when I was raped. Feeling broken, I tried everything to get people to accept and love me. I even endured an abusive relationship. I wanted desperately to be important to someone, so I focused solely on making others happy and conformed to their standards. The problem wasn’t that I had been hurt, or that others didn’t love me. The problem was that I thought other’s opinions were what mattered most. I bought the lie that my status was defined by what others thought of me.
I had to have the best of the best. I needed a boyfriend. I risked my life to be skinny and the life of the party. Thinking I could work my way to being good, I charmed my way onto leadership teams. I was certain that others’ approval would confirm that I was worthy of praise. But only God is worthy of praise. “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1). I needed to realize this truth before I was able to let my guard down, before I was able to let the masks come off.
You see, Christ already thought I was valuable and precious regardless of how broken I had become. So much so, that He gave His life so that I could belong to Him and live. When I began focusing on Christ and who He is, I started to realize that I am not the center of the universe. When I took the time to begin to know Christ and to embrace why He died for me, I began to see myself through His eyes. He showed me who I really am. I am His creation, made for Him to love, and for me to love Him in return. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, I am pursued, made pure, and secure in His love. I am chosen by God.
“Even as He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love He predestined us for adoption to Himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
Today, God alone gives me purpose. He saves His best for me. My gifts, talents, and joy are from Him, not the world. His ways and thoughts are higher than the most acclaimed people on earth. When I praise Him, my heart is re-centered, and my thoughts change from fear to awe and wonder. Others can label me however they wish, but my identity is secure in Christ. Whether people judge me, or even dislike me, it’s what God thinks of me that matters most. God is a good, merciful, and sweet Father. He knows my heart and delights in my love for Him. It is easy to let the world creep in and try to ‘redefine’ my worth, but when I refocus on the Lord, I find peace, once again, in who He made me.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
Once I began to recognize and accept that God loves me unconditionally, I was able to put aside my worry of what others think of me. I didn’t have to do anything to receive His grace, and I don’t have to do anything to keep it. God loves me because He is love. Because of who I am in Him, I do not fear what others think or fear what the future holds, my hope is complete.
“But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” (Isaiah 43:1)