Who am I? I am a sinner. I am broken. I have a heart full of selfishness, flaw and hopelessness. All of this- my human imperfection- was rewritten the day I became a Christian. When I accepted Christ as my savior, my destruction-lead path was destroyed. I accepted God’s love and grace, whispering that I am more worthy than I was ever told. When I realized that the Son of Man died for me, my self-concept transformed. I began to see how truly little I was and how big God was; humility was breathed into my life.
I am shaped on the belief that Christ died for my sins; I function solely because of this belief. I am shaped on the belief that the path God has for me is better than anything this world has to offer. I am shaped by humor. I am shaped by the desire to show others grace because God has shown me grace. I am shaped by love- love for God, love for others, love for those who have never been loved before. I am shaped by the value I hold for my relationship with God, family and close friends. I am shaped by my sorority which motivates me to raise money for meaningful philanthropies. I am shaped by laughter and the joy that hilarity brings me. I am shaped by watching too many episodes of How I Met Your Mother over winter break. I am shaped by the absurd amount of naps I take. I am shaped by my somewhat embarrassing adoration for inappropriate jokes. I am shaped by the love my mom has poured into my life. I am shaped by volunteering and leading Junior High students in Christian discussion. I am shaped by my insane love for cats even though I am allergic. I am shaped by the beauty God has infused into my life. I am shaped by my best friend who has shown me pure love by sharing the gospel with me. I am shaped by the student ministry I am in. I am shaped by my music taste (Coldplay, anyone? How about some Mumford and Sons?). I am shaped by my fashion choices. I am shaped by the perfume I wear. I am shaped by the society I grew up in- a typical Midwestern suburb full of soccer moms and a really good high school.
To put it simply, I am shaped by God’s love and sacrifice for me because it is the only constant thing I will have for my entire life and eternity. Self-Conception is deemed as “a more overriding view of ourselves, a sense of self through time”. That is why I place such an emphasis on God. Because How I Met Your Mother will end, Coldplay will eventually break up, I will lose friendships, the Junior Highers I volunteer with will grow up, I will not always experience laughter, and I will not always make the best fashion decisions. But Jesus remains.
I consider myself an onion- my various self-images over the years keep compiling, one on top of the other, but in the midst of all of these, under all the layers, is the promise of God’s love.
Until I was seventeen years old, I wasn’t a Christian. When I was younger, I was bullied for my weight. Over and over I was told I was overweight, fat, unworthy, not good enough. As Cooley suggested in the Looking-Glass self, I looked at myself through the eyes of my bullies and was ashamed. I was overweight and it was my fault. I was unworthy because I was ugly and that was my fault. That crap really builds up and shapes you when you’re younger. My parents divorced when I was five years old and my dad came out to me that he was gay a couple years later. I was so confused. All of these experiences amounted to a dorky, overweight girl who had no explanation for anything around her. I tried to cover up my insecurity with humor; that has always been my security blanket. In eighth grade, I barely had any friends and I reached a breaking point- I cried to my sister, proclaiming I was unworthy and unloved as a person. She took one look at me, and showed my tough love. She told me I was worthy, strong, beautiful, and if no one at school saw that they were downright wrong. She told me if I didn’t start believing in myself, relying on myself, and having strength within myself, I would fail. In that moment, I started believing I had to rely on myself for everything. Strength in myself and accomplishments became the idol and center of my life.
Moving onto high school, I still had extremely low self-esteem, but doing my hair and make-up helped a little. I made the Poms team and felt a little more accepted. I earned good grades, worked hard, and eventually made good friendships. But I still lived for social acceptance. I still craved physical approval, especially from boys. Freshman year I would upload photos of myself on Facebook that hardly looked like me. I wanted to appear better than I was because the person I was had never been good enough. Physical beauty was so ridiculously important to me- I needed to be skinnier, my eyelashes needed to be longer, my hair had to grow to long lengths. I was never going to be as pretty as the other girls in my school. I was never asked out; I was never desired by a boy. I believed that was my fault- I wasn’t desired because I wasn’t desirable enough.
Then I met my best friend, Maddie. She took me to church. At first, I thought I knew the gospel. I thought I knew who Jesus was. But until I let him transform my heart and become the Lord of my life, I was just a lukewarm, fake believer. Going to church only on Christmas and Easter isn’t Christianity. Accepting God’s love, value, sacrifice and grace everyday is real Christianity. Until I realized this, I had always relied on myself. That is what I was taught. I was trained to believe in myself, work hard for myself, and accept the physical self image my bullies had given me.
None of this was what I started to read in the bible. The truth? Jesus died for me, on the cross, bled out for my sin. That’s how worthy I am. God knit my innermost being together, placed every hair on my head, and sent His son to die for me. That’s how beautiful I am. After such a long season of unworthiness, when I became a Christian my life became so light. God poured His grace and love into me. I don’t deserve it because I am a filthy sinner, but He loves me so much he gives it to me anyway. It is a pure, selfless gift. Relying on myself and working as hard as I possibly could no longer became a concern. I still aspire to achieve goals, but not for myself. I desire to achieve goals for the pure goodness of the Lord. And my self-esteem? Skyrocketed. I may not always be the most confident, but I have an inner knowledge and belief that God made me, and that is what makes me beautiful. Physical beauty means literally nothing. And those embarrassing photos of me on Facebook that looked nothing like me? They became a part of the past. Why represent myself and something different when God has made me exactly the way I am for a reason? I am who I am, and I am joyous in that fact. If I didn’t have Christ in my life, nothing would have meaning. Nothing would amount to value. With Christ, I have value, love, no condemnation for my wrongdoings- just pure, joyous, laugh-out-loud grace.
So yes, society can try and shape me all it wants. Bullies can call me unworthy, tight Pom uniforms can whisper thoughts of ugliness into my ears, and a bad grade on an important exam can try and tear me down. But I know that I am truly defined by Jesus’ sacrifice for me.