There’s so much emphasis in the world now about self-esteem and freedom of individuality. These things are good. While I think they’re both very important, I’m here to say that mine comes from God.
For most of my life I’ve struggled with insecurity. Sixth grade was when my insecurity really started to show itself. I had started at a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders. Fifth grade was great because I was still in the same class as my best friend, and my twin brother was on the same “team” as we were (team = group of three teachers among which the students would change classes for math, science, and English). But when I got to sixth grade, lots of things were changing. I didn’t have very many friends in my classes, my friendships were shifting around, people started gravitating toward different interests, and I was starting to struggle in certain school subjects. Not to mention that this was the time in my life when I was starting to experience changes within myself and see the world as it is instead of from an innocent child’s world-view. The new school wasn’t my favorite because it had only been built a year before my class arrived – they were still working out logistics, and were extremely strict because they didn’t balance discipline with love. This only added to my insecurities because I thought I couldn’t measure up.
I got to middle school, and cliques started forming. I was making new friends and keeping old ones, but I still felt like I didn’t fit in, and I was different than a lot of people I used to be close to. I liked academics and music, and I didn’t think I was considered “cool” or “popular.” I had middle school acne, braces, and my hair was frizzy. (Just FYI, I did finally learn how to use a straightener. Phew. 😉 ) I was really little so my clothes didn’t fit right. Once I got to eighth grade, my self-esteem was getting better. I didn’t care as much about fitting in with my classmates, but I still struggled with self-image. I struggled with that “everybody-is-looking-at-me-and-thinking-bad-things-about-me” feeling.
High school was its own beast. My problem spiraled from normal, puberty-age self-esteem issues, to obsession. Tenth through twelfth grades were especially rough in this area. The perfectionist in me started to show. I compared myself to everyone around me based on my clothes and academics; nothing I did was good enough. I loved my life! But deep down I didn’t quite love myself, and that kept me from achieving so many things I would have liked to achieve. I could have been better at sports, band, art, or even academics if I had felt better about myself and pushed myself to try harder. I just didn’t think I could do it or even that I was worth it. When I was good at something, I didn’t think I was or ever would be…so I quit. I put myself through countless personal struggles because of my lack of Godly self-esteem.
My senior year of high school, I decided it would be best for me to leave my hometown and attend Auburn University. I had been to some football games, visited a church there that I loved, and my best friend and brother were going, so I knew I would be OK there, and I loved the idea of starting over. I knew I could grow if I forced myself out of my comfort zone to live in a brand new city with brand new people and experiences.
This was a life-changing decision.
Not only did I grow academically, I grew personally and spiritually. I still dealt with lots of insecurity (with added anxiety, but I felt much better about myself with a brand new start. My sophomore year of college was when I really decided to get it together and truly find myself. I tried on-campus counseling for my anxiety; I tried meditation and yoga because I thought maybe I just needed to calm down. I even thought about getting medication. During counseling, I was having some relief, but I still didn’t feel satisfied. I still felt like something was missing. That year I prayed, studied my Bible, and loved myself the hardest I had in a very long time. By my senior year, I was taking much better care of myself. What I realized was that I needed to pour myself into loving my God and He would help me love myself. I’ve always known that, but I had never really known it until that year. That was the year I started this blog – to share the renewed joy I had found.
I have never been more right about something in my life – that more prayer and Godly focus was what I needed. I had always believed this was the case, but I was in a rut that I needed help getting out of. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Counseling jump-started the process – helped me get out of myself – and God led me to the end. By my junior year of college, I had a new-found confidence, a boyfriend who would [exactly two years] later be my husband, and pure joy in the Lord. I had found contentment in myself and my God, instead of the world. It’s beautiful how much I can see God’s plan working when I let Him take control. Trust me, He knows exactly what He’s doing.
Now, I’m not saying that I don’t still have my own struggles – that I don’t still have bouts with insecurity or anxiety. I do. What I am saying is that God, my friends, and my brothers and sisters in Christ have made those burdens so much lighter. I now truly believe that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I’m able to write this to people I don’t even know – and may never know – because I’m confident in my God’s abilities, and I want everyone to know that. My self-esteem doesn’t come from my clothes (although I like having pretty clothes), it doesn’t come from the people who surround me, or the popularity I have; it comes from God. My individuality comes from my born-again identity in Christ. And it comes from the love He had to sacrifice His Son for me. For my self-doubt and my God-doubt. God wants me in heaven with Him one day, and that’s better than all of the physical beauty, worldly individuality or popularity anyone could ever have.