Before we start, today is Miss CRYSTAL's birthday. Most of you know that she's very much a part of this blog, though silently so most of the time, and that it would be hard for me to keep up with it without her. Several of you have one-on-one email relationships with her too. So let's wish her the happiest of days. Miss Crystal, we're so glad you were born.
Ladies, thank you again so much for your comments on the cover for The Merciful Scar . They were super helpful. And to respond to ALISHA and a few others -- there are scars on the girl's wrist, but you couldn't see them here because the resolution wasn't that wonderful. Your titling suggestions for the bullying book were also great. I'll let you know what the publisher decides on. I like that you're seeing some of what it takes to get a book to its final state. (And trust me, this isn't even the half of it!)
YOUR RESPONSES TO THE LAST POST: I want to take some space here to reflect on your experience of looking "straight on" at yourselves. ALISHA said, "Ouch!" though she was able to offer herself some compassion. She's right, none of the less than lovely things you discover in yourself make you a "horrible person." Not even --
ALISHA: I've become pretty good at making everything about me.
TORIA: I was surprised that I really unncessarily push myself down a lot.
ABBY: I was reminded of how hard I am on myself and how much I rely on make up and that I still need to lose weight. There was a time this year when I refused to even look at the mirror because I was so self-conscious about my weight. I hung a robe over it.
EA: I am often afraid to tell people what I really think about things when I disagree, even when I feel like I should say something. I don't know how they will react and I guess I'm afraid of not being accepted.
BULLETSOUL: When I looked at myself in the mirror I thought I was kind of a crazy mess. I had a hard time facing myself. I kept looking away and I'm not really sure why.
IRELAND: When I looked at myself honestly, there weren't really any surprises. I worry too much, I'm afraid of imperfection, and I have a hard time letting go. I put a lot of stock in my physical appearance which really comes around to bite me. I'm scared of how long it's going to take to get where I need to go.
RACHEL: When I took time to really look at myself, I was surprised to realize just how vulnerable I am. I've always learned to be a strong, independent young woman . . . but when I really thought about it, that' s not true. Sometimes it used to feel like I was compassionate to a fault. But as I've gotten older and become more skeptical of people and situations, I've started to numb myself to that sensitivity, as though it were a weakness or something. When I looked at myself in the mirror, it seemed like my body reflects the paradox inside me. I'm not all nails, and I'm not all flower petals either.
EMII: It's like my insufficiencies have become all of me.
SASHA: All I saw was a tired girl who was ready to go back to sleep! I've been working on not judging others but lately it seems to have gotten harder.
THERESE: When I look in the mirror all I see is my terrible secret in my eyes. The word "liar" comes to mnd. I look fine on the outside, normal . . . but only a select few people know what I deal with everyday. I feel like I'm lying to the world. I'm beginning to hate the mirror.
At this point, Ladies, I have pushed my salad aside. There's a lump in my throat because I hear cries for help in your thoughts --
* I pray that Jesus will do a miracle for me.
* Prayers, please?
* I hope that God will take care of me. I know he will, but I'm scared.
* I know something should change but I don't know how.
I'm thinking we can't move on to our next "thing" and leave you here like this.
Many of you did see and offer hope:
* This is showing me to know and BELIEVE that I am precious in God's sight. And for anybody who doesn't believe it, they need to get a life, in Christ.
* I noticed that my self image has gone up a little since the last time I really looked at myself a few months ago
* I've started to think of myself in a better way lately.
* Sunday during the sermon I felt the Holy Spirit, I really think I did, and I think I'm on the right path. I just have to pray, pray, pray.
* I'm just me, whoever that is
* A few years ago, the Lord helped me get through a super intense time of hating myself and now I actually think I'm pretty cool.
* I promise the feeling (of self hatred) passes. Keep praying.
* I'm still learning how to deal with it, but I'm trying to be gentle with myself. No lectures on how I should know better, or no time outs in the corner because I've been bad. It's more taking my inner little girl self by the hand and saying we're going to figure this out together.
What can I add to that? How can I swallow this lump in my throat and use words to help you make your way through the self-image labyrinth? I can offer you these things that I know to be true. I KNOW --
Truth #1. Some of this is normal. Painful, yes, but normal. Being critical of yourself, comparing yourself to other people and coming up short, not knowing if who you are is okay -- all of that is very much a part of figuring yourself out. Teen age girls have been doing this since Eve was sixteen (or was she ever?) Remember when you were twelve and one minute you were giggling hysterically and the next you were sobbing into your pillow for no apparent reason? That was normal then. This is normal now . . . to a certain extent. (Keep reading)
Truth #2: This is part of how you grow. If you never saw a single flaw in your false self, how would you ever transform into who you truly are? Jesus TELLS us to deal with the big ol' log in our own eye. Reflection and self-examination are vital to peeling away the layers and getting to our purest souls.
Truth #3: It is just as important to see what is amazing about yourself. Maybe even more important. To put it bluntly, God doesn't make a bunch of crap. Please forgive me if that's offensive, but sometimes it takes that to make us realize how true it is. We are not junk. Some of us have been taught so much about "original sin" (most of it a gross interpretation of the Bible) that we think we are basically "bad" and we can only be "good" by chiseling ourselves down to nothing so God can start all over with us. Or something. Who KNOWS where that kind of theology is supposed to lead! Who we are at the heart of ourselves is God-made and wonderful ("I am fearfully and wonderfully made" comes to mind). That gets covered up by a lot of garbage we pick up as we try to make it in this world (which we're going to talk about more). Our job as the people of God is to clean that all off and get down to who we really are. So what is WITH all this "I am basically a bad person" thing? Ladies, if we are going to say we're Christians, then let's treat ourselves that way.
Truth #4: The only way to see yourself as you truly are is through a deep relationshp with God. You figure out who God really is, on your own -- through just talking to him, talking to people who live as if they know God, reading the Bible in a seeking-God way, spending time with God Every. Single. Day. No matter what. Asking questions about every doubt you have. Every one. Searching until you find. Knocking until the door is opened. Asking until it's given -- that knowledge that you are an amazing you and God is an amazing God.
Truth #5. It's going to take your entire lifetime. I don't know one woman who doesn't deal with her self image on a regular basis, and I know a lot of deep, godly women I want to be like when I grow up. This is a process and it's only going to be finished when we're in God's arms. But it doesn't have to be a battle. It doesn't have to be pure anguish. It is an act of self-love and an act of God-love, and it will only enable you to love other people more and more sincerely. The process of getting your self image true and clear is much as Alisha says, taking your hurting, frightened inside self by the hand and saying, "We're going to figure this out together. You, me and God."
There's a bigger "we" here, too, ladies -- and that's this blog and the honesty and the compassion that I see here. Yikes, no wonder I had to stop eating. It's tough to eat when you're this emotional.
But I need to say one more important thing, and this is going to be hard so please stay with me and know that any rough edges you may feel are only coming from my almost-desperation to help you. Here it is --
If in examining yourself in that mirror, words like "hate" and "loathing" and "disgusting" and "worthless" entered your mind, that isn't real. It isn't you. And it isn't God. It. Is. Not. That has come from someplace outside of you that doesn't know what it's talking about and it needs to be tied up and gagged and dragged away. So if you're feeling any kind of hatred toward yourself, please promise me that you will do the following things:
1. Keep coming here to the blog. Keep using this as a place where you can express what you feel and not be told you're bad or wrong. Keep letting us pray for you.
2. Email me personally. Even if you've done it in the past, do it again. I'm not going to lecture you or preach at you or try to insinuate myself into your life. I just want a chance to chat with you a little more. It may be a one-time thing or it may be on-going. I just have to do this. It's a God-thing.
3. Find an adult you trust, preferably a woman, who will help you through this unnecessarily rocky time. You can't do this alone, nor should you have to. What is the body of Christ about if not this? Keep looking until you find her. The right woman will understand.
Now, the challenges we face in getting straight with our beautiful selves often come from outside of us. As MARLEE shared with us in her comment from two days ago, someone close to her expressed an opinion of her in a disparaging manner that set her self-esteem back weeks. SASHA said though she thinks she's pretty cool, it's when she's around other people that she really begins to feel her self-confidence falter. That's where we're going next, and you can begin to comment about that if you want to in preparation for Friday's post. But for now, please just sit with today's post, will you? Share your reactions. Let me know if this helps . . .
Doggone it, I just want to make lattes for all of us and sit together and talk and cry until we can just be. You are incredible young women. Perhaps my belief in that is the best help I can give you.