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A Picture May Be Worth a Thousand Words…But They Don’t Have To Be Insults!
a guest post by Varina Denman
In first grade, when my class squeezed onto a set of rickety risers for a group photo, I was told to stand on the back row with the boys. We were sorted by height, of course, and I was always the tallest in my class. A few weeks later, I studied that photo, longing to be short and petite, on the front row with Lisa and Wendy, the tiny girls.
In high school, I was still on the back row, but there were a few other girls there with me, and … low and behold … there were a few boys on the front. By then I was feeling better about my height, but not about my hair. Or my wardrobe. Or my lack of curves. When I studied yearbook photos, I compared my lanky limbs and uncontrollable curls to my peers in cheerleader skirts who had perfectly styled hair.
Pictures haven’t been good to me over the years, and now that we have social media, my friends’ photographic history has become an entirely new level of self-torture. Facebook and Instagram show me hundreds of pictures, and of course, I compare myself. I’m not as pretty has her. My family isn’t as happy as hers. My career hasn’t been as successful.
Compare. Compare. Compare.
If the pictures weren’t on a computer, I would rip them up and toss them in the garbage.
Not that I don’t love my friends, but I don’t love the way I react to social media, and I don’t like the self-inflicted comparison game. But haven’t we been trained to compare ourselves? Just a little? In childhood we watch princess movies, and later we watch actresses who convince us we need to buy a certain product so that we can look like them.
But this is not God’s will.
He would never sit around comparing me to other people in photographs, and you know why? He knows exactly what I look like. He has every molecule of my body memorized. He created me just like I am, and He’s happy with me. (Seems a little arrogant for me to disagree with the creator of the universe, doesn’t it?) But it’s oh, so tempting.
Instead of fretting over pictures, I should spend more time dwelling on the Psalmist’s words: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” But even though I absolutely believe these words (because scripture don’t lie), I still have trouble FEELING God’s truth, and that’s why I’m working to overcoming those old habits I learned years ago.
I’m currently in the process of retraining my mind to talk nicely to myself. (Ain’t got time for negativity!) When I look at pictures on Facebook, I avoid telling myself I ought to work out more, shop more, floss more, eat less; and I force my mind toward positive thoughts instead. I’m already in the habit of thinking nice things about my friends, but now it’s time for me to choose to think complimentary thoughts toward myself as well, and when possible … I leave myself out of the conversation entirely. (Not everything has to be about me, right?)
On my blog, Shame on Shanty, I’ve published a BE YOU Challenge made-up of ten journal-type tasks that help me focus my thoughts on positives instead of negatives. Recently, ten of my blogger-friends shared their experiences with the challenge, and it was a great time to see how others reacted to the process. If your self-esteem is at an all-time low, the BE YOU Challenge may seem trivial, but those little mind shifts can make a huge difference in the end.
Varina Denman writes books about the unique struggles women face. Her latest novel, Looking Glass Lies, tells the story of Cecily Ross, a young woman struggling with self-image following her divorce from an emotionally abusive husband. It is being called “the book every woman should read.” Varina lives in North Texas where she and her husband volunteer as marriage mentors. Connect with her on her website or one of the social media hangouts.