When a friend is struggling with her appearance, many of us might say something like: “You are beautiful just the way you are. God made you and he thinks you are beautiful. And I do too. You just need to believe that this is true.”
There are important truths embedded in this counsel, to be sure. The dignity of every human being made in the image of God means we all have an inherent beauty. But this glorious truth doesn’t always help us when we feel unattractive or anxious about our appearance.
For me, I can convince myself that I am beautiful for only so long. All it takes is for my scale to register a few extra pounds or to walk past a woman who is younger and prettier than me, and that bubble bursts pretty quickly.
Why doesn’t this truth stick? Why doesn’t this astounding knowledge—that we are beautiful because we are made in the image of God—eradicate, once and for all, our feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt?
One reason is that we often mistakenly turn this truth about God into clichés about us. When we turn the spotlight away from God and onto ourselves, we twist the truth.
So “God is beautiful and made us in his image” becomes “You are beautiful because God created you.”
Herein lies the flaw in our well-meaning advice: it starts and ends with us.
When we focus on ourselves, we’re only compounding the problem. That’s because self-focus is our problem. Sagging self-confidence is often a preoccupation with self; struggles with comparison, measuring up, and fitting in reveal our self-absorption.
“Low self-esteem usually means that I think too highly of myself,” explains Ed Welch. “I’m too self-involved, I feel I deserve better than what I have. The reason I feel bad about myself is that I aspire to something more. I want just a few minutes of greatness.”
Feelings of inadequacy about our appearance often arise because we feel we deserve better than what we have. We aspire to something more.
We may not feel like we’re grasping at greatness—we just want to fit in with the other moms or the popular girls at school—but then again, we never seem to be liked enough or included enough to make us happy. We never get what we think we deserve.
This is why our beauty struggles seem set on repeat: self-is never satisfied.
But there is hope for you and for me. When we accurately diagnose our struggles with beauty, we can beak free from this destructive cycle, and find liberating truth in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
~adapted from True Beauty