Self-esteem, self-worth, and the ‘selfie’

There was a time in high school when I had very little of the aforementioned topics. I did a very good job at disguising it (or so I thought) but my self-esteem and self-worth were very low, and I wasn’t ever fond of my picture. When I was in eighth grade, I moved across town which meant that I was going to be going to an unfamiliar high school with unfamiliar people. Going into ninth grade, I knew about five students at this new school. Not everyone who was going to be there was fond of this new change. Some students at the other middle school in town which fed into it found out that I was going there and confronted me about it. I will never forget that night. I went to see a friend perform in his band concert and was met with unexpected and unkind words in the hallway…

“You aren’t welcome. We don’t want you”
“You’ll have no friends there”
“You’re too fat”
“You’re too ugly”
“No one will like you”

I fought back tears as their words cut deeper and deeper.
I fought back tears as my mom picked me up and we drove home.
I fought back tears as my friend asked how I liked the concert.
But later, in the solace of my room, the floodgates opened.
And boy, did they open. I cried for hours, angry at God for moving me to a school where I was going to be hated; a school filled with students who called me fat, ugly. Their words echoing, loudly.

And then a strange thing happened. Peace. An overwhelming sense of peace came over me as God wrapped me in His arms. His words began to drown out theirs.
“Daughter”
“Beautiful”
“Precious”
“Loved”

I wish I could say from that point on, I’ve walked daily with my head held high and only listened to my Father’s words and not the worlds, but that isn’t so. It was, a process. It is a process. I am at battle. And so are you. But I am on the side of the Victor, the King. And I hope that if you’re reading this that you are too. Since then, there are days where the world trips me up, but thankfully my Father happens to be known as the ‘Wonderful Counselor’ and brings me peace and wisdom in my time spent with Him.

So how does this deal with the selfie?
Anyone who knows me now, and who knows me well knows that I have a deep love for pictures. I love to take pictures, and I enjoy having my picture taken. This leaves me on the front lines taking verbal shots fired over the issue of selfies. These verbal bullets come from all sides, but especially from my Christian friends. This has always come as a bit of a shock to me, and I’m trying to figure out my way around this maze and balancing act of self-esteem, self-worth, and the selfie.

The complaint I hear most often (and most commonly directed at women) is that those who take selfies are vain, self-centered, or attention seeking. Now, I’m not saying I’m naive enough to think that isn’t the case sometimes, but it’s certainly not always the case. Like anything, a lot of it comes down to the motive behind it. If someone is obsessing over their appearance, or how many ‘likes’ they can get, or how many followers they have, there is a way to lovingly confront that issue. But some may post a lot of pictures because they truly feel beautiful that day. Maybe they were having an awesome hair day to share, or they felt good about their makeup – or felt good about not wearing makeup. It could be an outfit on point, or they maybe just feel like it, or they could be seeking that attention that many assume. But unless they state it flat out, it’s hard to tell. And since we can’t discern another’s heart, maybe we shouldn’t try to sometimes. Because even if that girl is posting selfies to attract attention, or posts out of vanity, or because she is self centered, she is no less deserving of God’s love – my love, your love – than anyone else. Our intimidation or annoyance with someone who seemingly has a high level of self-esteem in a culture that has a deficiency in that area should not equal a desire to put her down until she shrinks back into herself. God not only designed each of us with an inward beauty to be appreciated, but also outer beauty which the Church often pushes aside. He designed all facets of us – including our physical being. We should not shame anyone to make someone else feel better. And if that young woman, that daughter of the King is suffering with low self-esteem and is crying out for attention, breaking her down further isn’t going to help her find the love she needs, it’s only going to push her away. How we respond to situations can either bring someone closer to Heaven and God’s love than they’ve ever been, or it can drive them further into Hell.

Words are powerful.
Words are a gift from God.
But it is a gift that needs to be used with the grace and love of Christ.

I take selfies. I like myself.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I like other people’s selfies.
They are fearfully and wonderfully made.
I like people who don’t take selfies.
They are fearfully and wonderfully made.

My worth is not the number of likes I receive.
My worth is not the number of followers I have.
My worth is not in the acceptance or lack thereof of my selfies.
My worth is in Christ. And that is all that matters.

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