Advice for the Woman Who’s Not Happy in Front of the Mirror
My mother had me late in life. So, by the time I was 12, she was nearing the magic age of 50. I remember sitting in her bedroom while she dressed in the mornings. We would talk about my plans for the day. And as I sat there, my mind would drift, “I wonder if I’ll look like my mom when I grow up?”
She was a small-framed, almost frail, woman, with what she endearingly called her “baby belly pouch.” It hung right above her panty-line. I can remember she always tried to hide as she dressed almost like she was just a little embarrassed or uncomfortable for my 12-year-old eyes to see her nakedness.
Her behavior left an impression on my heart, perhaps as a woman, there is something wrong with how I was created. Perhaps as a girl, there were some things I should hide.
I never talked to my mom about what she thought about her body. In fact, talking about anything personal or my concerns about growing up was completely taboo. So, for me and my curious 12-year-old mind, we were left to navigate my growing body and developing perspectives by ourselves.
But then I hit my teen years and then early twenties, and all the questions I never asked, all the concerns about baby belly pouches and if I would look like mom switched to concerns about whether I was pretty enough, smart enough, could achieve enough and before I knew it, I was more concerned about my panty-line and the impression I left than I was about my character.
As I moved through my 30s, I cared less about measuring up. I call those my non-conforming-radical years, but then I hit my 40s and early 50s and I exchanged my open-mindedness for conformity.
My focus shifted from refusing to be measured to whether I could keep up. Could I compete for the job, the promotion, the career, or maintain the social media sculpted images of home, family, and life?
There was a fair amount of comparison that ruled those years and it all caused my mind to sway from being content with my blessings to needing just a little more to demonstrate my worth and value.
How Do You See Yourself?
I wonder if you have ever found yourself fretting over how you look, what you do, or how much you’ve achieved. Maybe you are like me and had parents who remained silent when it came time to answer the questions that preoccupied your mind. So, you formed your own perspectives and expectations and today you find yourself struggling to keep up with your self-imposed standards.
I’ve stood right where you are standing, looking in the mirror and not being completely satisfied with the reflection. I know the frustration of unobtainable standards but I am also learning I don’t have to stay shackled to the image I’ve created.
I’m now sitting at 64 and I find myself thinking about all the things that influenced me. The questions of my childhood and all the time spent wondering and hoping that somehow all my doing would result in acceptance: God being satisfied with my efforts, my parents being proud of my achievements, and my husband being pleased with the wife I’ve become. And what I am discovering is that all those years spent striving to earn favor and worrying that I wasn’t measuring up were but a distortion of God’s truth.
God never asked that we work to become a mini-image of Him (self-made perfection in earthly form). He only asks that we abide in Him, reflecting his image of love as we grow closer to Him.
This radical shift in my awareness of whom God is has made me rethink how I should walk in the world. Perhaps instead of focusing my remaining time on trying to maintain an image that boosts my ego and satisfies the expectations of others, I should focus my efforts on becoming an image bearer—a reflection of my Father.
When You’re Not Happy In Front of the Mirror, Be an Image Bearer
I want to encourage you to take a few minutes, allow your mind and heart to grow quiet, and ask yourself, “By what standard am I defining myself? Whose image am I trying to present to the world?”
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.
Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, and develops well-formed maturity in you. (Romans 12:1-2, The Message).
These verses urge us to take the focus off ourselves and fix our gaze on God. But how do we make this essential move?
Here are 4 steps to consider as you navigate your journey:
The scripture says, “Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” I think Paul, the author of Romans, is telling us to surrender every aspect of our lives to God. So easy to say, yet so hard to do.
The thought of surrender brings to mind images of passivity and defeat, and I don’t know about you, but that isn’t a place I want to live. Yet, I am learning that Godly surrender is the most active and freeing approach I can take in my life. Placing God’s will and His plan before my own takes faith and each time I take a step in obedience, my character reflects His just a little more.
Paul goes on to add, “Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.” The word embrace is defined as accept or support willingly and enthusiastically or holding closely in one’s arms. I think both definitions paint the image Paul is trying to convey. To reflect God’s image, we need to hold Him close in our hearts and as we hold on, we are to accept His love and grace willingly and enthusiastically.
Focus on God
The verse instructs us to “…fix your attention on God.” In our world today, I think this is much easier said than it is to accomplish. There are so many distractions that demand our attention, but there is one thing I have found that helps me refocus my mind. I talk to God.
Sometimes we talk while walking on the river trail. Other times, we chat in the early morning over a cup of tea. It doesn’t matter where you are, how you feel, or what you look like, just take a few minutes to share your feelings, hurts, and victories with God. The key is to be brutally honest with yourself and Him and then keep your eyes and heart open as you wait for God’s response. And that leads me to the final step…
Respond to His Direction
I think this is the hardest for me to accomplish. I am more than willing to tell God all about my challenges but what I’m asking is for Him to validate my wants, ambitions, and desires. If His direction is different from my expectations, I have a dilemma.
How about you? Have you ever earnestly prayed, received God’s response, and been frustrated with the outcome? Well, I am beginning to understand that in those times, I have to revisit that step of surrender, then embrace God’s best for me, refocus my attention on Him, and then respond to His direction. It is an endless cycle and as humans, we will travel this road many times. But the beauty in our journey is God is faithful and promises to meet us each and every time we seek Him.
Although I still carry the baggage from my past and the never-ending distractions of today, I’m learning that I am best defined by God, who lives in me. And as I grow closer to Him, his light begins to shine in me more and more, a reflection of his love, an image of his truth.
I hope you recognize just how wonderfully and uniquely God has created you. You don’t need to strive, compare, or relentlessly work to achieve. Your past, today’s challenges, or tomorrow’s successes don’t have to define you. God has already done all the heavy lifting. All you need to do is nestle into His loving arms and allow His light to capture your heart and shine bright through you.
You are God’s image bearer, a divine representation of His unconditional grace.
Do you ever doubt your standing, in God’s eyes or in the eyes of others? Here’s why that’s not true: Do You Ever Feel Like You’re Not Enough? With Jodi Shultz – 172