I’m going to let you in on a little (embarrassing) secret: I’ve never been very happy with the way I look.
I think I always assumed that once I got married, I’d be all confident and my self image would be fantastic because I’d finally found someone who thought I was attractive enough to look at for eternity.
Spoiler alert: getting married did not resolve all of my insecurities. Like, at all. Turns out, that change has to come from within or something. Ugh. Stupid.
As a kid, I remember reading a book one of my older siblings owned: A Crash Course in Teenage Survival by John Bytheway. I don’t remember much, but there’s one thing that always stuck with me — John Bytheway’s commentary on our sources of confidence.
He talked about placing our confidence in the wrong place: our social status, our boyfriends/girlfriends, our intellect, etc. (And don’t quote me on this, because I was like, 10…) Basically, the point Brother Bytheway made was that if we place our confidence in external, variable sources, that confidence is bound to eventually come crashing down.
If your confidence is based on our friends, what happens when you lose a friend or that friend says something unkind to or about you? If your self-worth is based on a boyfriend, what happens when you two break up? If it’s based on your grades, what happens when you do poorly on a test?
On the other hand, what is the one thing in our lives that never changes, sways, or succumbs to negativity? God. His opinion of us never changes, regardless of if we gain 15 pounds or our forehead is too wide or (insert insecurity here). He sees us for our worth, and He recognizes our physical and spiritual beauty. If our confidence comes from Him, it won’t falter because He doesn’t falter.
Now I feel a little hypocritical writing this because the truth is that I’ve never really placed my confidence in God, not fully. I place my confidence on what other people think of me (or, more accurately, what I assume they think of me). And when you do that, enough is never really enough. When you’re heavier than you want to be, you’ll berate yourself for not being thinner. But when you finally are thin, you’ll find other things to be unhappy about — your nose, your hair, and so on.
So here is what I’ve found: you can read Max Lucado’s phenomenal short story “You Are Special” a dozen times, scour countless articles about how confidence must come from God in order for it to be sustained, and watch Dove ads until the cows come home about the realities of airbrushing and how no one actually looks that perfect. But in my experience, doing any and all of those things will never be enough. The only way to true, lasting confidence is to turn to our Father in Heaven and seek His approval rather than the world’s.
In my darkest moments of self doubt and frustration, there are two things I remember that allow me to feel a glimpse of God’s love for me and recognize my own self worth.
Heavenly Father Thinks I’m Beautiful Even When I Don’t
First, I recall crying to my father (the fount of all knowledge) in my early teens about how unattractive I was; about how no boy would ever like me. He then said, “Amy, remember how your sister gave us homemade Christmas ornaments this year?” I nodded. “Well, how do you think she would feel if you said, ‘Thanks, this is nice — but the snowman’s nose is too big and his scarf is the wrong color and his buttons aren’t lined up perfectly’?”
I blanched. I would never say anything like that about something my sister worked so hard on! “It would hurt her feelings,” I replied sheepishly. My dad continued, “Do you think maybe that’s how Heavenly Father feels? I think it hurts Him to hear you talk about yourself — His creation — that way. He spent all of this time helping to shape you and make you who you are, with the qualities you have.”
Heavenly Father is the creator of our spirits and He loves us infinitely for who we are and what we can become. And He gave us the most incredible gift: a body! Constantly criticizing that priceless gift must make Him sad, especially when He loves us so deeply and thinks we are beautiful just as we are.
I’ve realized that while my body may be a result of genetics, Heavenly Father still loves me from my head to my toes. My self-perceived big nose? He loves it. My too-thick thighs? He loves those, too. While obviously we need to try our best to be healthy and to take care of our bodies, I think Heavenly Father also hopes we recognize the beauty in being exactly who we are right now.
Because I am exactly the way I need to be, even on those days when I look at the mirror and want to cry. And so are you. If Heavenly Father thinks we’re something extraordinary, who are we to disagree?
Loving Ourselves is a Way of Praising God
Secondly, I had a friend share with me a poignant experience she once had. Struggling with depression and lack of self-assurance, she visited a therapist at LDS Family Services. After the therapist talked with my friend for a while, he commented something along the lines of, “You know, loving ourselves is a way of praising God. Being happy with who you are, including how you look, is a way of recognizing His hand in your creation and your life.”
Being dissatisfied with our appearance and our imperfections is a tool of the adversary. He wants us to place our confidence anywhere but God, because he is miserable. He doesn’t have a body, and he’s more jealous than we can imagine. He doesn’t want any of us to be happy because he knows he never will be.
Our Father in Heaven, on the other hand, wants our eternal happiness. He wants us to love ourselves, and I truly believe that it hurts Him when we don’t.
So if you’re like me and genuinely struggle to see yourself the way He does, ask for it. Over and over again, not just once. Pray to know how you personally can love yourself more. See a therapist, ask your friends for help, turn to the scriptures and prayer and the temple. Do what you need to do to recognize your worth.
I want to love myself more! I want to be happy with the way I look; I want to have a positive self image. And God wants that for me too, just as He wants it for you.
It’s time we look upward, not outward, for approval.
This post was originally published on LDS Blogs.