A Creative Word

Practical, occasionally funny, faith-focused thoughts.

Category: self image

>Self Image and Princess Perspective

>Did you just roll your eyes? Listen, “Princess Perspective” has nothing to do with girly-ness. But I know from personal experience that we can sometimes have really skewed self images. So I titled this “Princess Perspective” to remind you of who you really are.

Because here’s the deal: No matter what has been done to you or by you, you are who you are NOT because of you, but because of your Father.

Let me explain… a King is a King, until and unless someone can dethrone and replace Him. Therefore, His daughter is a princess because she is the child of the King; and no matter what happens, she remains a princess until someone can dethrone and replace her Father.

So the question is, who or what can dethrone and replace your Father in Heaven? Is anything powerful enough? If your answer is No (ding ding ding!!!!) then you remain a princess, no matter what is done to you or by you. The end. (I soooo love happy endings! And this, dear friend, is the happiest!)

One of my favorite ways to get a Princess Perspective is to “personalize” scriptures. You know how God says He is no “respector of persons,” (Acts 10:34) what He’ll do for one He’ll do for another? Well, when I started “personalizing” scriptures, my perspective on who I am as His daughter totally changed!

I actually go so far as to write these personalized scriptures on note cards or sticky notes, and say them outloud to myself everyday. Sounds goofy, but what have I got to lose?

Here’s an example of one:

I will trust my Father God at all times.

It’s safe for me to pour out my heart to Him,

because He protects me!

This Princess Perspective actually comes from Ps 62:8, which says: Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah. KJV

Try it, the next time you need a reality check—that is, the next time you need a Princess Perspective!

For more on self image, click here.

Mary DID Know… You Can, Too (Self Image pt 1)

Have you EVER thought about what great self images Mary, Joseph and the shepherds must have had? Yeah. Me neither. But it’s true!

The second chapter of Luke begins with Caesar Augustus requiring a census, and Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem.As I read the chapter, what I noticed again and again was the excellent self image of Mary, Joseph and the shepherds to whom the angels appeared.

Today, society is more concerned with self esteem than self image.Esteem is how highly (or lowly) we regard and value ourselves.This regard can be manifested in a healthy way (I will not remain in abusive relationships) or negatively (I am my top priority, attaining what I desire is my foremost concern.)The actual definition of self-esteem is “a feeling of pride in oneself.”

 Self image is how we see ourselves. (I am a nice person, or, I can’t possibly achieve that goal, I’m not good enough.) Image focuses more on our view or perspective. The difference is subtle, and the similarities are many but I hope you detect the difference. The definition of self-image is the concept one has of oneself, including an assessment of qualifications and personal worth.

I believe that God’s will for us is to have an excellent self-image.I also believe that the definition of an excellent self-image is agreeing with what God says about us, nothing more and nothing less.

Mary’s self image was certainly built upon confidence that what God said about her was true.He told her she was righteous and blessed—and she believed Him!Now I am convinced that this was NOT what all Mary’s neighbors were saying about her.There is not much doubt Mary participated in a community that valued the outward appearance of righteousness.Human nature being what it is, some in her community just went through the motions of a relationship with God, others passionately sought Him and others tried make sure that they were better by comparison with their neighbors so He would accept them.

In a community like that, the moral code is much stricter than the world we live in today; where couples frequently live together outside of marriage and have children with no regard to marriage, but let’s not forget that divorce and adultery were probably very much a part of the area in which she lived. And as Mary came of age during the reign of the most famous Caesar, abortions, orgies and demon worship weren’t unknown. But it is true that the penalty for adultery and children out of wedlock within a small, practicing Jewish village was much stricter than it is today!

Imagine clinging to the knowledge that you are truly righteous and favored of God—because He says so!– while engaged and becoming more and more obviously pregnant. Yet she faced down those who would declare her an adulteress or fornicator and gave birth to the Messiah. She had options. She could decide that this path was just too tough, the consequences too harsh, and abort. (Abortion is not a recent invention.) She could begin to doubt what she’d heard from the angel (too many figs, a bad batch of wine) or she could simply have hidden from Joseph and not faced what he had to say, living as an outcast. Her self image was based on what God said, and she behaved accordingly.

Joseph quietly and firmly believed what God said about him, rather than what he himself originally thought or those around him said.It was his first thought to “divorce” (end the formal engagement to) Mary.Then, when God sent word that she was pregnant with the Messiah, he ignored what others said about him and his fiancée, and carried out God’s plan despite the criticism he surely faced.What must God have thought of this man’s character, that He would trust Joseph to endure the mockery this birth would surely bring him and then raise Jesus with a kind and loving heart?

Joseph believed what God said about this situation, “It is not a dishonor, but an honor!”If he hadn’t, he would have simply gone on with his own thought, to divorce/break the engagement with Mary.

The shepherds, too, believed what God has said about them! “To YOU a Savior is born!” And they told the story far and wide. Don’t you imagine they heard comments like “Why would God’s angels appear to YOU, you’re just shepherds? Wouldn’t the King of the Universe appear to important people? You surely don’t expect us to believe that God announced the birth of our long awaited Messiah to you first, do you? He would certainly tell the Priests or prophets before He’d bother to mention it to a bunch of shepherds!”

But these men clung to what God thought: they were worthy to hear the news first, competent to find the baby, and qualified to spread the joy!

To have such excellent self images! It will affect everything: what we achieve, how we raise our children, how we respond to our enemies; I can’t think of anything it WON’T affect. So deciding to build an excellent self image is an easy decision. Read part 2 of Self Image, a 3 part series. Click here for part 3.

>Building Your Self Image (Self Image pt 2)

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Now for the hard part. Choosing HOW to build our self images. There are three possible foundation materials we can use to form our self images.

The first is the best: the rock of the Messiah Jesus, who is Truth. We must believe and trust that what God says about us is True. He says I am fearfully and wonderfully made! That means he designed my quick sense of humor and my observant nature because they would be a delight to Him.

I can use my quick wit to slash others’ self confidence and I can choose to nit pick every little thing I hear; but that is me allowing God’s creation to be bent and twisted with sin. Mind renewal, submission to authority and allowing myself to be transparent to close and God-seeking friends is required to keep me walking upright, rather than bent by sins that I don’t want to acknowledge, that need to be put out of my life!

But to have an excellent self image that is TRUE, I MUST believe myself to be what God says I am. I must believe what He says about sex and marriage despite the message TV shows and women’s magazines give me (or, gulp! The hopefully-airbrushed pictures in men’s magazines.) I must believe what He says about modesty rather than what the fashion critics say about the hot new look. I must believe what He says about my talents, attitudes and actions rather than what my office or neighborhood rival says.

If that in ANY way sounds easy, don’t be misled! In our society, messages about who we are and what we have to do and be so we can be considered valuable, are surrounding us daily.

Recently a friend of mine confided how hurt she had been, when she gave a home jewelry show presentation. A guest of the show was seated to her right, and this guest kept turning to the woman on her own right, and criticizing my friend’s demonstration. Her remarks were cutting, and just loud enough that my friend endured them through the entire show; carrying on with her presentation; but all the while wondering if she was really doing as badly as the guest was saying. Imagine the difficulty in continuing her demonstration with that constant negative feedback. That is an extreme, although effective, example of the assault the world can wage on our self images.

How hard it is sometimes to believe what God says about us, and to let His truth over-rule what we hear everyday! Some of us—like me– were not raised to respond to the continual direction & redirection of God’s Word. Hearing that we have to believe what God says and reject whatever disagrees with His Word can be a totally new concept! To understand that this is a daily and sometimes hourly task is a really difficult idea to grasp!

The second foundation material we can use to build our self-image is compliments and criticism of those we come in contact with. It seems obvious that we shouldn’t base our view of ourselves on every criticism we receive. Not so obvious is how unhealthy it can be to place our image in the hands of the compliments we get. I don’t mean that we should disregard compliments—those can encourage us when we’re ready to give up. And we can’t disregard all criticism—it can be quite constructive when verified and prayerfully evaluated. But we are in a very weak position if we base how we see ourselves on the feedback we get from humans.

Compliments are given based on what the speaker values. The danger lies in enjoying the appreciation enough to begin basing our values (what we hold dear) on that compliment.

Think we would never do that? If one constantly praises a little girl for her appearance (Oh! Aren’t you cute!) she can begin to value/place importance on her attractiveness. Of course, I’m not advocating we never tell the young girls in our lives that we think they are beautiful—but it’s very important to demonstrate by our comments that we also place a high importance on how beautiful her heart is, how proud we are that she is improving her mind and learning to serve God.

When I first learned how damaging it could be to constantly emphasize how pretty a little girl was, I developed a habit of catching her doing something kind or thoughtful, and telling her that she was as pretty inside as she was outside. (I tried to make sure she understood what I meant, but who knows, there could be dozens of little girls out there whom I convinced that their small intestines are quite attractive!)

Of course, I don’t’ think we need to spend much time on how unhealthy and unhappy we’ll be if we base our image of ourselves on the criticism of those we come in contact with. People are human, and their view of us is naturally limited. They can’t see our hearts, as God can. And even those who dearly treasure us and know us well can mistake our motives and comments frequently! Their moods and pasts can also influence what they say to us, too, of course.

On to the third self-image foundation material. We can build our self image by tearing others down, verbally, and building ourselves up with the rubble. This one is the most dangerous to us and to others. Not only does it leave a swath of destruction in our wake, but the material has invisible stress cracks, and must constantly be shored up with more rubble.

Have you ever been guilty of turning to a friend and making a snide remark about someone’s appearance, intelligence or comments? I have. It made me feel clever, or more stylish or better informed and I usually did it with a seemingly appreciative audience (well, they were laughing or agreeing, anyway.) And the “victim” rarely heard my comments. That’s building myself with the rubble of someone I just tore down. And it never really hit home until my friend described her jewelry demonstration experience. Of course, we all know people who make such remarks out loud, within the victim’s hearing. But keep in mind, this is destructive to the speaker (not just the victim) whether the comments are made quietly or publicly.

Do you know what God says about you? Is that how you view yourself? Frankly, you’re NOT ALONE if you don’t really look at yourself the way He sees you. BUT—you CAN begin to see yourself that way. And there’s no “magic” or “hocus pocus” involved.

Start at the very beginning. “God created…” First, spend a little time thinking about the creation PROCESS. It begins with DESIGN, doesn’t it? Now, when you decide to create something (lets say, a cake) you immediately begin to decide to put things into the batter that YOU LIKE, right? Well, there you go. Before God created YOU, He decided to PUT THINGS HE LIKES into His design of you!!!!

That alone may not do all the work of helping you have an excellent self image, but it’s one of the very best beginnings! Read on for part 3 of Self Image.Click here to read part 1.

>My Self Image Journey (Self Image pt 3)

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Welcome to part 3 of this series—the final entry. And actually, if you haven’t read the first two parts, there may be a few things that are confusing… but not too much!

God has spent the past several years carefully walking me through rebuilding my self image. Frankly, parts of the process have been painful, and when faced with a choice, I might well have turned away, and remained as I was. Fortunately, He would rather have me whole, healthy and truly joyful and happy, than have me sitting on my rump in my comfort zone—where I’m not much use to Him, myself or others!

And each time I thought I was finally done, He’d give me a little recovery time, and begin to work on another area. I don’t dare say that I have finally achieved a complete victory, but I know He is faithful to complete the work He has begun in me!

Truthfully, I don’t remember praying for God to give me an excellent self image. Oh. As I typed that, the Holy Spirit began to tickle my memory.

He reminded me of late 2002. My husband and I had just left staff ministry positions at a church we’d been associated with for half of our Christian walk. As can happen, the circumstances we left under were very hurtful.

I remember sobbing in a private corner of our new church, begging God to show me what I’d done wrong, because if I wasn’t the youth pastor’s wife, if I wasn’t a young adult group leader, if I wasn’t a Sunday school teacher, then WHO was I?

Music was playing, and all through the sanctuary people were worshipping. A kindly man I recognized as the pastor came and knelt beside me, telling me he didn’t know me, but that the Lord had a word for me.

What He said to me isn’t significant here, but I have just now realized that my prayer WAS. My prayer was about my self image. “Who am I?”

Well, the Lord spent fully the next year healing me of some wounds I’d received at the former congregation, but sure enough, that following December He began dealing with my self image.

As many works of the Lord do, it started strangely! At least, the works He does in me seem to start that way. The “small group” we had just begun leading was having a Christmas party at our house. As I completely expected, one guest admired my Christmas tree. If that sounds strange, it must be because you haven’t seen how I obsessively decorate that tree. After several years of collecting oversize, shimmering gold ornaments, the only thing more prominent on this tree is the crimson and purple glass balls that are clustered on every available space. (Yes! Touching each other!)

So the conversation turned to Christmas trees, and I commented on how painstakingly I decorated it, squelching my children’s pleas for different colors, and insisting on every ornament conforming to my picture of the perfect tree. (Sounds like a warm and fuzzy Christmas tradition, doesn’t it?)

Then a woman who later became a mentor to me asked why I decorated my tree like that.

I looked at her slightly stunned. Couldn’t she see how beautiful it was? Why in the world would she ask a question like that? I finally replied that I liked the way it looked, and the conversation continued, with others commenting on the colors they had chosen, or decorating traditions in their families.

That night, around 3 am, after having slept for several hours, I woke up out of a sound sleep. God then told me that I decorated my tree like that because I wanted to cultivate an image of excellent and artistic taste. I was performing to achieve compliments and admiration of people, to bolster my self image.

Oh. Yeah, Lord, I guess You’re right. Yay! I can now relax and not base my image on people’s response to how they perceive me! What a great deliverance! Glad you took care of that “image thing” in me, Lord!

The following Spring I attended a women’s retreat my church sponsored. During this retreat, God brought me face to face with my constant obsession with creating a “pulled together” look (image) by planning every outfit and coordinating accessories. Now don’t get me wrong. There is no sin in wearing cute clothes or having great fashion sense.

But FYI, you can know you have a problem when you carefully accessorize your jogging suits and would never, ever jog in them!

My problem lay in being focused on how other people viewed me, and catering to the focus by planning each and every outfit worn in front of any person who wasn’t in my immediate family. That way, I could use other people’s compliments to create my self image. I dressed to achieve an image I admired, to receive other people’s admiration. Look, sometimes we’re not really strong on logic when we’re trying to create a self image!!!

In fact, God showed me that this image obsession was actually what is commonly known as a generational curse: something one of your parents or grandparents had, and one of their parents before them. He clearly showed me I had received this problem and I immediately prayed for deliverance! And He was faithful to do that.

You know, I had never realized how much of my time I spent planning outfits and accessories. It probably sounds silly to you, but it truly was a delicious freedom to not spend time analyzing what outfit would be best, and trying to remember whether I had worn it in front of that particular group within the past few weeks.

Wow! Thanks, Lord. I don’t have to slave over every outfit to create an image of who I am! Glad you’re finally done with that “image thing” in me, Lord! Now I don’t spend more time thinking about what others think of me, than what You think of me!

No, as you suspected, the journey isn’t done yet. A few months later I discovered that something I’d said regarding ministry had been misconstrued by one of my spiritual leaders, and that person’s family. Their anger and disdain was palpable, and truly crushing to me. I was heartbroken, and desperate to win back their approval. I was even willing to consider a critical “word from God” that actually contradicted what God had specifically told me; if my acceptance of that “word” would restore me to their good graces.

Sad, huh?

Again, I was basing my self image on who THEY said I was, rather than who God said I was.

When they were happy with me and praising me, I was satisfied. When they were disappointed, I was struggling to reestablish their satisfaction with me and their affection toward me.

God walked me through that painful episode, showing me when I had first learned to desperately seek approval whenever I was rejected. Do you know that the basis of it was so deeply ingrained in who I was that I had a hard time sharing it with my husband?

God next allowed me to take a brief 3 part course called Designed for Destiny. It consisted of some personality, interest and spiritual gift evaluations. And as strange as it sounds, I felt like the results of those evaluations (gifted in guiding people –through creativity– into deeper relationships with the Lord) gave me “permission” to declare myself to be what God had actually designed me to be. Interestingly, it turned out to be exactly what I had always dreamed of being!

What a journey—all to undo the self image I built through compliments and criticism, and frankly, a little bit of rubble from other people. And you know what? I may not be done yet, but God has declared that He is faithful to finish the good work He began in me!

So let’s hear what you think.

What have you been building your self image with, mostly?

Have you struggled with seeing yourself as the things God has declared you to be?

Do you know much about what God has declared you to be?

What facets of your self image do you struggle with most often, and why?

With whom do you identify most—Mary, Joseph or the shepherds?
Read Part 1.
Read Part 2.

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