about the epidemic of insecurities

I’ve never really been the girly girl, although that’s probably less due to a lack of desire and more a lack of feeling as if I couldn’t be. Regardless of the why, it’s affected a lot of who I am. Over the years I’ve gradually gotten more hardened about emotional things, or at least I pretend to be. I wanted to be that girl who was called a tomboy and never cried and hated romantic comedies because otherwise I always felt like an awkward, nerdy little girl who was trying too hard to be like all the pretty stereotypical celebrities I saw on TV.

So even though my heart may have skipped a beat when the man and woman on the movie kissed for the first time after an hour and a half of tension between them, I stifled a smile. And when the man’s wife on the animated cartoon died, I blinked really fast to hide the tears and tried not to breathe lest the pain in my throat come out as a sob. Even now sometimes, it’s still hard for me to admit I have real, womanly emotions. Ronnie recently took me to a romantic comedy for the first time. It wasn’t the first time because he’d refused; rather, I had never asked. I just didn’t like romantic comedies. They were for girls who spend a lot of time making their hair look messy and buy their clothes at the mall instead of Target or Ross. They’re the pretty girls. Meaning: I didn’t want to go to the movies because I didn’t want to see that particular show. I just didn’t think I’d feel welcome. Every other girl in the theater would look at me and think, “She doesn’t belong here. Isn’t there some Bruce Willis action movie she should be watching in the next theater?”

Somehow I got completely off topic from my original point. Perhaps God is leading this blog post in another direction. Buckle up.

Here’s what I know for sure: leading up to about the past few weeks or so, I was an absolute, emotional wreck for a couple months or more. Maybe it was longer, maybe not, but it felt like years. I spent hours–yes, hours–each week in tears for one reason and one reason only: I was ugly. As a result, or maybe vice-versa, I was fat. I was incompetent. I was ineffective, a failure in every way. I hated my hair. I hated my body type. I hated my face, especially when it broke out. I hated that I wear a retainer at night and I have bad eyesight. I really, really hated everything in my closet. And I felt stuck: we didn’t have money to buy a new wardrobe or permanent retainers or eye surgery or an all-new hairstyle. I was stuck with mono still, barely able to get out of bed in the morning and definitely without energy to work out. We weren’t able to buy a treadmill and when we did get one, it broke within days.

I became completely obsessed with my ugliness. I constantly put on more makeup. I changed clothes ten times every morning to find something I’d feel comfortable in, and I’d often change clothes when I came home from work because I still felt ugly or awkward. I put on lipstick constantly because it made me feel prettier. One day Ronnie and I were taking a day trip and I thought I had left my lipstick back in Lubbock. I cried. And cried. Because that lipstick was the only thing that would make me feel pretty.

I cried in the bathroom at work. I came home from work, sat on the bed, and cried. I wore Ronnie out with my crying, and still he was patient with me. He told me, “You can’t keep looking at yourself and seeing only negative.” He told me constantly how beautiful I was, what a wonderful wife and stepmom and employee I was. But my feelings were stronger, that I was an awful wife and stepmom and daughter and sister and employee simply because I was too ugly.

I compared myself to everyone around me. They were all prettier and better dressed. Comparisons came from the strangest, most unexpected places–some of which I’m too embarrassed to even mention.

So day after day, I sat and cried because of who I wasn’t. Ronnie asked me constantly where these feelings were coming from, but I couldn’t tell him because I honestly didn’t know. I have been trying different forms of birth control lately for health reasons and chalked it up to that. My hormones could easily be adjusting to new medication and causing my mood swings. It could have been a spiritual attack, lies the devil was telling me to tear me down, to think only in terms of my outward appearance and completely neglect God’s perspective. It could have just been 28 years of insecurities coming out because I finally felt safe with someone who had vowed to love me ’til death do us part. Regardless of the reason, I hated the way I was feeling and reacting almost as much as I hated myself. I felt completely crazy.

Here’s the weird thing: it wasn’t just me.

One of my close friends was going through a similar situation. She spent every night crying over everything and nothing. She couldn’t support her husband. She couldn’t take care of her kids. She couldn’t do anything but sit and cry. She was convinced she was crazy.

Another best friend was falling apart. She spent all day crying. She was crippled by sudden, irrational fears and anxieties. Her boyfriend patiently supported her while day after day, she sat beside him crying. She texted me, a sobbing mess. I went to talk to her and comfort her and reason with her, but how could I encourage a person when I’m crippled by my own irrationalities? She too was convinced she was going crazy.

More and more I began to hear about friends of mine who were struggling with various but similar issues and responding in much the same way. It was an epidemic of insecurities and we all started wondering what was going on. I finally confessed to two of our pastors about my struggles and asked them to pray. Tim wrote back:

“will be praying, read this today and thought it might help.
James 1:18
He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true Word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.
i made some of it bold cause i know how stubborn you are.”

I have to confess, in all my girliness, I teared up a little when I read it. Then, out of the blue, the very next day, yet another close friend of mine sent out an email to me and a few other girls. God had put a word on her heart and encouraged her to share it. With her permission, I’ve copied it here:

“I feel like God has spoken to me the last couple of days about beauty, self esteem, rejection and what how we as women need to be looking at ourselves. It all started at Monday night prayer, Berry had asked anyone to stand who had felt rejection lately. I quickly had a conversation with myself and decided that I had not felt rejection lately, that yes I didnt get the job I wanted and I may not have the man in my life that I want, but that I hadn’t really experienced true rejection lately. I left prayer and as I was driving down 82nd street and God spoke to me. He told me that I should have stood that in fact I had experienced rejection recently and that I had been rejecting myself. Earlier that day I had a conversation with a friend telling them that I was no longer going to have an interest in a certain person because I had seen a picture of his ex-girlfriend and I thought she was gorgeous and there was no way he would have an interest in me if he had dated a girl that beautiful. In that moment I rejected myself, put myself down and had decided I wasn’t good enough. I was completely unfair to myself and basically slapped Jesus in the face. Psalm 45:11 says that the king is enthralled with our beauty and we are to honor him for he is our lord. WOW! To me that is powerful. It tells me that the only opinion of me that I should be concerned with is Gods opinion of me, not the worlds opinion, not another persons and certainly not my own opinion. I know for myself as a woman I’m constantly seeking the approval of myself through men. On several occasions I have based my happiness and self esteem on what a guy thought. This has left me heart broken and empty time and time again. It has lead me to have sexual relations with men over and over and that has only lead to guilt and shame. I say all of this with the hopes of encouraging you, and letting you know that when you seek approval elsewhere God is jealous and it only puts you further from Him. A friend also once told me that when we put ourselves down we are also putting Christ down because He lives in us and we are only hurting Him. I have never sent anything out like this before, I hope that it encourages you to love yourself and only think good about yourself because your heavenly father does. I know that I am tired of comparing myself and judging myself according to the world and God has really convicted me to change.”

It was the perfect word of God coming through her in a mighty way. God was saying, “Rebecca, I hear you, I hear all of you, and this is what you need to know.”

When I started this blog, I intended to write about other major events God has revealed to me in the past month, not the sobbing, bumbling mess I was the two months prior. It seems as if God had other plans. Is it a coincidence that once I got through the overwhelming rejection of myself God suddenly overwhelmed me with peace instead and revealed his vision for my life? It’s almost as if the enemy was trying to prevent that from happening, but I’ve covered that blog before.

I can only believe that someone reading this needs to hear these words. She (or even he) needs to hear James 1:18 and Psalm 45:11 and Psalm 139. So I’ll end with them, again, in case you missed them the first time. And I’ll make some of it bold because I know how stubborn you are too.

He chose to give birth to us by giving us His true Word. And we, out of all creation, became His prized possession.
James 1:18

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
honor him, for he is your lord.
Psalm 45:11

You have searched me, LORD, 
and you know me. 
You know when I sit and when I rise; 
you perceive my thoughts from afar. 
You discern my going out and my lying down; 
you are familiar with all my ways. 
Before a word is on my tongue 
you, LORD, know it completely. 
You hem me in behind and before, 
and you lay your hand upon me. 
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, 
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit? 
Where can I flee from your presence? 
If I go up to the heavens, you are there; 
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, 
if I settle on the far side of the sea, 
even there your hand will guide me, 
your right hand will hold me fast. 
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me 
and the light become night around me,” 
even the darkness will not be dark to you; 
the night will shine like the day, 
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; 
you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
your works are wonderful, 
I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you 
when I was made in the secret place, 
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 
Your eyes saw my unformed body; 
all the days ordained for me were written in your book 
before one of them came to be. 
How precious to me are your thoughts, God! 
How vast is the sum of them!
 Were I to count them, 
they would outnumber the grains of sand— 
when I awake, I am still with you.
If only you, God, would slay the wicked! 
Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! 
They speak of you with evil intent; 
your adversaries misuse your name. 
Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, 
and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? 
I have nothing but hatred for them; 
I count them my enemies. 
Search me, God, and know my heart; 
test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, 
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139