Digging through a box of photographs I realize that over my 35+ years of marriage, there are few pictures of me. My excuse? I took the pictures.
Well, that was true most of the time.
The underlying reason was I didn’t want to see pictures of myself.
I judged my looks as less-than, not good enough. Reflected in the picture was the unhealthiness of not only my body, but also my heart, mind, and soul. Therefore, I didn’t want to be in pictures. That mirror was too revealing.
According to a UK study, women look at themselves in the mirror an average of eight times a day. Some women as many as 38 times a day. Men, you aren’t exempt. You look in a mirror around 18 times a day.
In our image-obsessed culture, we judge ourselves and others based on the external—the look in the mirror. But that’s flimsy and subjective.
A mirror or reflective surface doesn’t tell us who we are. It merely reflects today’s packaging. And sometimes the packaging doesn’t look that great. But does that change who you are? Who I really am?
I don’t like mirrors. And I judged those who often looked in mirrors as vain and self-absorbed. That’s the problem with judgment—we assume we know the motive behind the action. That’s rarely, if ever, true. The only one who can accurately assess someone’s motive is God. He sees each person’s heart. You and I don’t always know our inner thoughts. How then can we know another’s?
Over the last nine months, I have made an effort to pray over my addiction and self-esteem issues while looking in the mirror. Through this process, God has taught me extraordinary lessons.
1. Your self-image has nothing to do with the reflection.
How you think about yourself reveals what inputs you choose. Do you spend time inhaling the latest diet fad believing that will change your body and thus your self-image? It won’t. We each have a self-image set point which has nothing to do with the size of our body. Instead, it is based on what you believe about who you are.
Others cannot see you as any greater than you see yourself.
This is a sticky issue for many of us, because we don’t want to view ourselves too highly. Yet, God tells us He delights in us. Let Him adjust your set point to reflect an accurate self-image that brings Him glory. He will do it.
2. How others view you doesn’t define your self-worth.
If you’ve experienced any type of abuse—physical, sexual, mental, emotional—your ability to accurately judge your value is severely damaged. Others told you, or tell you, by their treatment that you mean nothing to them. You conclude that you mean nothing. Period.
The truth is you are made in the image of God and have value far beyond what you can imagine. It is a huge help to work with a counselor on issues of abuse.
3. Outward beauty only reflects the inner person.
With our culture’s obsession with beauty and youth, it’s no wonder we get tripped up. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice. However, when it becomes an obsession, when you go to extreme lengths to rectify something you think doesn’t look quite right, then you are out-of-focus.
If you complain, criticize, and believe everyone is out to get you, your precise makeup job will not hide your character. Some of the most striking people I know are not the most fashionably dressed or well made up. It’s their inner beauty that radiates.
The journey to correct character issues is long and arduous. But it can be done by submitting to the Holy Spirit’s work in your life, agreeing with God that you sin regularly, and choosing to follow God along a new life path. It means admitting you are wrong.
4. Gratitude is a game-changer.
Psalm 34: 1 says, “I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.” When you learn to look beyond yourself and see the goodness God pours lavishly out every day, your attitude sweetens. When you say “Thank you” to someone who opens a door for you or is kind to you, your heart lightens. You begin to see others as for you instead of against you. Choosing gratitude allows you to look for good things in each person and circumstance. Gratitude is a muscle; work it like there’s no tomorrow.
5. Negative influences damage your whole psyche.
Ever spent five minutes with a Negative Nancy? How do you feel? Dirty? Tired? Depressed?
Negativity impacts every fiber of your being. Remember Eeyore? Chicken Little? These two characters were convinced doom was inevitable. They were victims of circumstances. Always.
When you allow negative influences to permeate your world, nothing is ever right or good enough. Something is always wrong. Negativity steals joy. It is victim thinking. You are only a victim if you allow yourself to be one. Viktor Frankl, holocaust survivor, wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Your circumstances may stink or worse, but you have control of your attitude.
6. You can super-charge your daily inputs.
What you allow into your mind matters. Do you listen to a steady diet of talk radio or news? Do you bombard your ears with constant sound? When was the last time you spent an hour or more in silence? What books do you read? How many of your friends are life-giving? Life-draining? Do you get a consistent amount of sleep each night? Are you tied to your smartphone? One habit I’m working on is not checking my phone before I’ve spent time reading the Bible and praying every morning. It’s been a game-changer for me. You have control over what you allow to influence your life.
7. Exercise is not a four-letter word.
Okay, I know there are eight letters in the word. That’s not what I’m saying! 😉 You may not be an exercise guru (I’m not), but getting some form of exercise every day greatly improves your mood. You don’t have to go to the gym, simply park your car at the end of the parking lot and walk in. Even the simple act of spending 15-20 minutes outside in the fresh air rejuvenates your being. So, when life overwhelms, go for a walk around your home. Get outside and play hide and seek with your kids. Do something that takes you out in the fresh air.
8. What you ingest profoundly impacts more than the body.
I told you about my food addiction in a previous blog post. But, as I’m healing from this addiction, I discovered another phenomenon. What I ingest affects my mental state, attitude, and emotions. On those days when I don’t make wise food choices, my body immediately reacts. When the stress level is higher than normal and I run to junk food instead of something with usable nutrients, my mind gets fuzzier. When I hype up the caffeine instead of getting some fresh air to reawaken my tired mind and body, lethargy sets in with a vengeance and I’m more irritable.
9. Choosing consideration changes your attitude.
This is a tough one because it deals with our human tendency to judge. If you are human, you tend to jump to conclusions and judgments. What if the next time you are tempted to judge yourself or another, you pause and pray instead? You ask God to help you see beyond the reflection to what may be going on beneath the surface. Perhaps in that simple, but profoundly difficult action, God reveals something to you.
Is that perfectly put together woman who brushed past you a snob? Or, has she just heard she has cancer and can’t see anything in front of her from the shock?
That text message from your best friend hit you wrong. Before you jump to the conclusion she’s mad at you, pick up the phone and talk with her. Maybe her three kids’ activity level has worn her out, and she lacks the capacity to respond to anything with grace and thought.
10. Change this one word and the world opens up.
Listen to your words. Do you often speak in the negative or the positive? Here’s what I mean. When you approach a situation or challenge, are the first words out of your mouth, “I can’t <blank>”? If so, here’s your one-word change: “Can.” Yes, you can. Can’t is victim language. Are you a victim or a victor? Everyone faces challenges in life. It’s how you approach that challenge that sets you apart from the crowd.
If checking the mirror multiple times a day reveals you need to shore up your self-esteem, maybe you need a mirror break.
The mirror never helps build your self-image. It only reflects it. As you and I spend less time looking at our reflection, we notice the world around us.
We connect better with others.
We appreciate beauty in small things.
We learn that the world isn’t centered in us.
We think more about others than we do about ourselves.
And in these daily adjustments, we discover our genuine being.
And our reflection mirrors our reality.
What one of the ten items will you implement today? Leave a comment.
If you need help, please reach out. I promise to listen without judgment and help you take the next step.