Before I truly understood who I was in Christ, I was so lost. I cared so much about my outer appearances, spent too much money on clothes and trends and cared way too much about what other people had to say about me. I put too much value on whether people liked me or not; not realizing that at the heart of it all, my soul was longing to be loved. I was always loved ... I just didn't know it. I couldn't see it. I was just so blind to Jesus.
I pursued people in hopes that their approval would build my confidence. I find myself in the gruesome habit of people pleasing and began to assimilate to their criteria for acceptance. It was a difficult life to live.
I soon found that trying to please everyone resulted in pleasing no one, including myself. I was so frustrated and discouraged. I couldn't keep up. I couldn't be the person that the crowd demanded I become. I allowed negativity and disproval from others to feed into my own spirit. Their opinions were masked as advice, and I became captive to the consequences of following unwise suggestions.
I was so caught up with trying to please everyone else, that I put my own self at risk: in dating, in my career, in my self perception.
I didn't give myself the opportunity to be truly loved for who God had created me to be. I wore so many masks to please so many different people, it became hard to recognize myself. Who was I? Where was I? I felt so alone. I felt so empty and so distant from the Lord.
I knew that I couldn't keep living like this. I knew that there was more in God's plan for me. I knew that I wanted to be a light and I wanted to encourage others, but how could I be encouraging when I felt so discouraged all the time? I wanted more than what I had failed to accomplish. I needed Jesus and I finally came to a point where I was humble enough to ask for His help. I was ready to start living for the Lord wholeheartedly. Not that in-between stuff. It was all or nothing. I had to give up some ways, some old habits that were hindering my growth; some people, too. It wasn't easy, but I found that as I got closer to God the people who were hindering me began stepping further away from me. I must admit, I struggled to keep some people close even though I knew it wasn't healthy. I was too afraid to be alone, even if having people meant dealing with gray areas, temptations or struggles with my confidence. It was hard and scary to release what was familiar and comfortable. But, by the grace of Jesus, my new life in Him began to replace the old life that was falling apart.
You see, it's always hard to start over. It's always hard to see people you love go a different way from you. So many of us are too afraid to walk in our newness with the Lord because we don't know what that life looks like. All we sometimes see is what we are used to- what we can relate to. But God has more and His gifts don't cost us our peace of mind, our self love or our well being. Consider your current situation. Are you battling with the lack of any of these things?
Following Jesus isn't always easy, but it's a must if you want to receive the fullness of His love for you. That's truly the first step in loving yourself, because once you being to understand the way God sees you, you can't help but experience the reshaping of your own self-perceptions.
When I started to fall in love with Jesus, I began to fall in love with myself. I started making wiser choices. I started considering my future and not just my moment to moment desires. I started exploring more of my own personality, interests and opinions, instead of always being concerned if my thoughts lined up with the thoughts of others. I started to see a shift in the way I saw myself, carried myself, and how I handled certain situations, like dating, friendships and my goals. I had more confidence because I knew I was dearly loved by Jesus and you know what? He began to bring people my way who were able to love me as me and not for who they wanted me to pretend to be.
9 years with Jesus and now and I'm still learning to love myself the way He loves me. Jesus never speaks negatively to me. He doesn't disapprove of me or belittle me. Sometimes, I struggle with loving myself fully because I am not perfect and truth be told, sometimes I am frustrated with myself or I feel disappointed in my struggles or in my personal development process. But He always loves me. So, I've learned that other people's opinions of me will not effect the way I live my life; nor will it stop me from achieving my goals or listening to the voice of God.
When it comes to relationships, I have learned I must surround myself with others who dream bigger than me, so I can learn from them. Those who do not want part in my story, they are free to go. I don't need to hold offense. I can give grace towards those who can't see me the way Jesus sees me. I can still celebrate my life, even if I'm the only one at the party because, well, I'm never really alone!
Listen, not everyone will be happy for you and we must make peace with that. Not everyone will like you ... not everyone will love you. But, as long as your heart is aligned with Christ's thats all that really matters. Your value is never up for debate; no matter what they say or do.
At the core of our inner most hearts, we desire to be loved. We want to feel connected and be connected and enjoy the thrill of acceptance and intimacy. It's a beautiful thing, but if it comes at the cost of your emotional or spiritual health, it's not love. Love doesn't take. It doesn't lie and it doesn't break promises. Love doesn't ignore you, avoid you or mistreat you. God is love and anything that is not reflecting God will never produce true love in your life. Ladies, the answer to anything your heart desires is Jesus and in your pursuit of Him, I promise, you will find yourself confidence and your self worth and value. People can't provide that for you. Nothing, but Him. And in the process, the beauty of who you were created to be will begin to surface and shine and I promise, she is lovely! She is beautiful and she has value! No one can give you that but Jesus.
So I challenge us all to stop looking around and start looking up and within because our identity isn't in a person and it isn't in the mirror; it's in Christ! Spend more time with Jesus! Make sure your relationship with God is the central focus of your life. Everything else is secondary and will eventually fall into place according to His loving will for you. So let's empower one another to keep Him first in all things. This will most definitely produce more love in your life - love that is eternal and unconditional and certainly something to smile about!
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