Seriously, when I was a teenage girl (is it weird that I remember it so vividly?) I thought and felt a lot of what you've talked about. But (a) I couldn't articulate it the way you do and (b) I SURE wasn't going to share it with anybody. The people I admired seemed to have it completely together, so to admit that I didn't was out of the question. I just tried to act like I did.
In your honesty you totally nailed our next subject: self-respect. A few snippets of your responses ...
* It's so hard to actually love me. I tear myself down most of the time--sometimes unconsciously, because it's a habit. And not a good one.
* Sometimes we confuse self-depreciation with humility when really they are entirely different things.
* Where is the talk of secret prevention, of how to handle stress and fear, of how to practice self love?
* Sometimes part of me cries out, "I just can't!" I say I can't love myself, or accept that I'm forgiven, or human even, sometimes.
* I've had a few moments where I look in the mirror and I realize that I am God's workmanship, and Jesus is my older brother, and I'm precious and unique. I'm trying to make those moments last, perpetuate and establish them, but it's hard. At least it proves that on some level I can accept forgiveness or love me
* Sometimes I don't feel like I love myself, and why should I?
Yeah, I'm thinking it's a no-brainer that we need to spend some serious time looking at this inner issue and working our way through it.
Where to start? Feels like we ought to look at where all this self-doubt comes from. My experience has taught me there are three basic areas.
AREA A: The world doesn't respect us. All you have to do is listen to a radio station (other than a Christian one or NPR) to realize that. Everything is critical, judgmental, and snarky. And in your own mini-world, that has become personal for some of you. I'm going to quote HAYLEE here, because she spoke to this with such passion --
"We get so blasted with dirty ideas, words, songs, movies, books, you name it! I have a problem with this because the boys in my class can talk so dirty most of the time, and it makes me mad. Most of the things they say are disrespectful to women ....Even WE tend to not respect ourselves anymore, because we hear and all of this stuff every day...so it is difficult to keep our minds clean and pure because there are so many things out there that tell us differently than what the Bible says, that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made".
I hate it. I hate it so much.
AREA B: Christianity itself can foster self-loathing. Sometimes it's our own misinterpretation of what's being preached and lived in our congregations, but not always. The following are ERROR MESSAGES I hear often among Christians:
* Rate yourself on how many good things you do and how well you do them. If you aren't knocking yourself out doing church or charity work or constantly praying for everyone on the planet, you are somehow less than.
* Be totally vigilant about, as RACHEL put it, "Maintaining our knowledge of our own dignity and value without letting it turn into pride or vanity." You're walking a tightrope, girl, and falling off is not allowed.
* Dying to self means denying your own dreams and desires and even your true personality so you are a blank slate for God to write on. In other words, self-love is bad.
* Be conscious of your own SIN all the time. Yes, you're saved ... but don't screw up.
AREA C: Some degree of beating yourself up, or at the very least doubting yourself, is part of adolescence. It's there, just like puberty is. Think back to when you were a tween. Other people might have asked if you had any mirrors in your house or made fun of your snort-laugh, but deep inside you had a pretty strong sense of you. When I was 10, I was pretty happy with my sweet self. By the time I was twelve, I could barely walk to the pencil sharpener without dying a thousand deaths over what people might be thinking of me. The teen years are a time of self-examination, but sometimes -- because of AREA s A and B -- examination turns into flagellation.
AREA D: Deeper life crises that mess with your mind. Things that barely caused a ripple in your view of yourself when you were a kid can hit your self-respect right between the eyes when you're a teenager. Your parents divorce. You have to move to a new city in the middle of high school. Your boyfriend breaks up with you. You suffer from depression. You're overwhelmed by schoolwork. All of that can take its toll on fragile self-love.
Just knowing where that well of self-hatred is doesn't automatically dry it up, but it CAN remind you not to go there and draw from it. So let's step back and look at those four AREAS you may be unconsciously drinking from -- instead of going for the Living Water. (Sort of gives new meaning to the Woman at the Well passage, doesn't it?)
Journal about it.
Pray about it.
Maybe even collage with the question, "Why can't I love myself? Where does that come from?"
If you want to comment -- please do! -- tell us which AREA seems to be the deepest source of your own struggle with self-respect.
Meanwhile, I'll be praying for you. I can find a reason to love each special one of you, and I barely know you. If I can do it, so can you.
And please, please remember: God loves you. How can you do anything less?