Having a baby changed everything about my body. Every single part. I’m gradually losing my hair, breaking out in pimples like I’m back in high school, still dealing with swollen fingers and feet, and don’t even get me started on my jello-like belly and thick thighs.
I like to talk about my postpartum body because it’s real. And for the most part, I like my body, too. I’m still so fascinated by the fact that it housed a tiny human for nine months and is able to produce the only source of nourishment that tiny human needs. When I look in the mirror, I often see a strong woman, a mighty warrior, and a great mom. But when I take the time to really examine my body, I begin to remember the way it used to look and start to notice all of its flaws.
Lately I’ve been noticing the flaws more and more. I’m no longer on that “new mom high” and I’m paying more attention to things outside of my life with a baby, like what other people are wearing or what size they are or how flawless they look on social media. I still want to appreciate my body and feel confident in my own skin, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should be thinner, tighter, and trendier. I don’t like that none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me. I feel frumpy in my seamless nursing bras. It bothers me that I still look like I could be four months pregnant. And if I’m being totally honest here, I feel far from sexy with this saggy, squishy body.
I could spend the rest of this post ranting about how our society has failed us –how it’s difficult to find flattering clothing for curvier women, how we’re surrounded by pressures to get rid of our baby weight, how filters and editing apps create an unrealistic expectation of how women should look, and how Victorias Secret doesn’t even carry plus-sizes (I may or may not have shed tears at the mall after discovering this) — but I know that my problem isn’t just with society. The problem also lies with me.
I’m the one who has a problem with the way I look. Sure, I call myself “beautiful” because that’s what I’m supposed to believe about myself, but I still pick myself apart like most women do. I’m the one doing the analysis. I’m the one who’s deciding I don’t like what I see.
This past Sunday evening at church, I was trying to focus during worship, but all I could think about was what a disaster my shopping trip had been that day. I went to the mall with expectations of finding clothes that would make me feel pretty and I instead left empty-handed. It’s not wrong to want to feel pretty or to want to dress up and look nice. But because I failed at fulfilling this vision for myself, I began to question my beauty as a whole. Am I really beautiful? Because I think my muffin top says otherwise and my greasy hair disagrees. How I would love to be just a few sizes thinner! Or have amazing, long hair or a smaller chest or a nicer wardrobe.
But the Lord had something to say about that.
“You don’t get to pick and choose what parts of you are beautiful. You either are beautiful or you’re not. And my darling, you are beautiful.”
Me? Really? I’m beautiful?
I let this sink in for a moment. And I had to ask myself, is it enough for the Lord, my heavenly Daddy, to say that I’m beautiful? Is that enough for me? If I stopped getting likes and comments on my photos, if I stopped wearing makeup or curling my hair, if I didn’t have anyone around to compliment my looks, would it be enough for me to know that God himself sees me as beautiful?
I don’t like my answer to that question. Because truthfully, it’s a no.
I don’t have that confidence yet. I don’t have that security in myself. I don’t have that positive body image. I want it, but I’m just not there.
Praise the Lord for grace upon grace.
I was created for more than this world, but I still get caught up in it. The Lord formed my body, but I tear it down. I am blessed with life, but I curse the vessel I’ve been given. My Father in heaven calls me beautiful, but I act like he’s a liar.
But I know there is immeasurable grace for me in my moments of weakness. And I know that if I come to him with a desire to change, to see myself as he sees me, he’ll give it to me. It’ll take time to believe the truth he whispers in my ear and it’ll take effort to cast out the lies the enemy whispers in the other, but one day — Lord willing — I’ll get there and it’ll be so worth it. I have hope there will be a day when I will be able to stand in front of the mirror without a made-up face or the pretty, frilly things of this world and fully, completely, irrevocably see myself as beautiful. From the top of my head all the way to my toes.
But for right now, when I am asked to believe that I am beautiful, I at least pray, “I do believe… but help my unbelief.”
Allie Shirley is a twenty-three-year-old, Jesus-loving entrepreneur, chasing after the dream Jesus has now brought to a reality. Marque Modest Apparel is a company set out to proclaim the name of Jesus, to rebrand modesty, and to inspire others to dream again. Aside from being a business owner, Allie is a mom to a Miniature Schnauzer named Emmie, has a passion for adoption, and is obsessed with sweet tea. To check out more from Allie, visit Marque Modest Blog. You can also find her on Facebook and Instagram for updates on her latest posts.
A note from Allie: I pray that something shared in this blog post will encourage you, inspire you, and bring you a little freedom as you continue to walk with our precious Savior.
Take the Pressure Off
As women we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, to have things all together all the time when in reality those are unrealistic expectations for anyone. Yet we put those standards on ourselves daily and it leaves us feeling like we aren’t good enough or even depressed.
I know these feelings all too well because as much as I don’t like to admit it, I’m a perfectionist and an over-thinker. I get upset if my hair and makeup don’t look flawless, I obsess over my company being perfect, and I even try to put on a really good front before God that I have everything all together. Instead of coming before Him with my brokenness, I try to stand before Him like some supernatural human that can handle herself.
I don’t know what battle you are facing, whether it be comparison, materialism, perfectionism, or a slew of other things, but I do know we can take the pressure off. Jesus never meant for it to be there in the first place. He wants us to come as we are, to give ourselves grace for today and to live our lives in a way that is honoring to Him.
The day He went to the Cross He bought us our freedom from any insecurity, any shame, and any self-doubt. We can be confident in knowing that even when things are messy and even when our lives are broken that He is holding it all together. He is making our crooked path straight.
I could go on for days about what we deal with on a daily basis as women, but instead I would rather encourage you with truth. His Word is the only thing that can set you free from whatever is entangling you; I can only encourage you to seek that freedom.
Here are some of my favorite Scriptures that I pray encourage you to take a step toward finding freedom in him.
Come As You Are:
“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Anxiety Be Gone:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the PEACE of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Freedom in Jesus:
“It is for FREEDOM that Christ has set us free. STAND FIRM, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
“I will walk about in FREEDOM, for I have sought out your precepts.”
Peace that Passes Understanding:
“You will keep in PERFECT PEACE those whose minds are steadfast, because they TRUST in You.”
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
If you truly want to take the pressure off and be set free from whatever you are bound by, the Word of God is where you will find that freedom.
Praying that each of you will find your identity, security, self-worth, value, and ultimately your freedom in Jesus alone. The world can’t give you what Jesus can. Run to Him; His arms are wide open.
. . . . .
A note from Jessie: this week, I am part of a guest blog loop with the Bloggish community. Allie is a part of the Bloggish community with her blog at Marque Modest Apparel, where you can read more of her posts and check out her clothing line. To read a guest post written by me, check out To Raise an Ebenezer. Continue to follow the links to read more posts and find bloggers you love! Happy reading!
“You’re not a failure,” he reassures me.
“I know I’m not a failure, but I feel like I’m failing.”
There’s a difference, you know.
I know deep down that there’s a reason I’m here. And it’s not to have a simple career with a simple marriage and a simple life. My purpose is more complex than that (with a sprinkle of passion, too).
But what do you do when you feel like you’re so far from reaching that purpose? When it feels like you’re constantly wandering away from what you thought you cared about, when it seems like everyone has something to say about where your life should go?
The truth is I struggle with feeling good enough for anyone and everything. I want to please them all, I do.
Get the help you need, she says. You don’t need that kind of help, another tells me.
Let him be there for you, I’m told. You’re asking for too much, I hear again.
Focus on what’s right in front of you, they say. Don’t wait to chase down that dream, the others say.
All I can think is, I’m letting them down. I’m letting myself down. I’m letting God down.
I know I’m not a failure because I keep showing up to this thing called life. I know I’m not a failure because I keep putting one foot forward. But I feel like I’m failing, or maybe I’m just constantly falling — constantly falling in and out of love of different ideas thrown at me on how my life should look and what I should try to be.
While people are telling me to do this or that, what I’m hearing is, you have to be perfect. Or at least better than this.
And that word — ‘perfect’ — has been haunting me for many years of my life.
I have often looked to the one who loves me and surely must know me best, and I have said, I don’t feel good enough. But none of his reassurances have really done it for me. They don’t settle the chaos in my gut. They don’t stop me from searching and fumbling and hurtling and screaming. If anything, they just give me ideas in my head of how much better he is for me than I am for him.
So I’ve been learning, slowly but surely, that I have to stop always looking to that one. He’s ‘my everything’, but he’s not my everything. He holds much of my heart, but he’s not the one who can mend it.
Yes, yes, I need Jesus.
Because even though I come to the Cross with a trail of mistakes, all Jesus sees is me. And the way he sees me is unlike what other people see in me.
The world praises me for my performance and gifts and the good things I’m working towards. Meanwhile, he rejoices in me simply because I am his.
And if that doesn’t sound like the most beautiful of romances to you, let me break it down for you.
I am in Christ, and therefore I am no longer just myself. I am a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This new creation isn’t an improved version of myself; it’s a version of myself that is unlike myself. It’s like Jesus (Galatians 2:20).
If the idea of no longer being ‘yourself’ and all of a sudden being like Jesus doesn’t sound too pleasant, let’s take a look at who Jesus is.
Jesus is victorious. The conqueror of death. Blameless. Holy. Pure. Perfect life. Perfect love. Perfect.
Why yes, I would love to be more like Jesus. Because have you met me apart from Jesus?
I myself am a hundred thousand miles from being perfect, but in Jesus’ eyes, I am all I need to be because I am his. I am perfectly his. I am perfect in Christ.
All those things he is — victorious, conqueror of death, blameless, holy, pure — I now have resting in me. He let me in on the mystery of the gospel. And the mystery is this — Jesus came to save the lost and restore the broken. Now that I know, I can’t un-know. Now that I am brought into his kingdom and have been chosen to be his holy and blameless daughter (Ephesians 1:4), I can’t not be that woman.
This is the truth I hold onto when I start to hear those taunting words, you’re not good enough.
They’re right, you know.
I’m not good enough. I’m actually even better than that.
I know that these things I’m saying aren’t particularly profound. They’s actually just foundational truths of Christianity. If you don’t think they are, then maybe you’ve been too picky with your Scripture.
The reason why I’m even sharing these things is because I know that you question if you’re good enough.
And I want to be the voice — no, I want Jesus himself — to tell you, yes, you are.
And for once in your life, I want you to believe it.
Yes, you might feel like you’re failing and falling and every ugly thing in between. But look at WHOSE you are, not just who you are. You might feel overwhelmed and trapped by these varying ideas of how to find that perfect life and be that perfect person, but you can be freed by the knowledge that you are perfect in every way in the heavenly realm already.
It’s a process and a pretty long one at that. I think it’s called sanctification, which I kind of see as a constant, never-ending journey to the dumpster. We always have more to dump. There’s always something to rid ourselves of (and we usually have to rid ourselves of the same things over and over again).
For today, let’s start by dumping these lies that we have to live up to everyone’s expectations and be this perfect person for people just as messy and lost.
If you need help dumping those lies, it might help to imagine you shoving them into Jesus’ scarred hands and screaming, TAKE THIS BECAUSE ONLY YOU CAN. It sounds a little forceful, but I think those lies could use a good shove.
And when you start to make some progress in this whole dumping thing (because I trust that you’re not just going to read this, close your browser, and walk away), take some time to remind yourself that it’s not you making this progress. It’s the Holy Spirit in you. It’s the work that’s already been done on the Cross, the victory that’s already been secured for us.
Don’t dump the pressure to be perfect and then make yourself feel better by thinking that you’re closer to being perfect.
You’re not closer to being perfect, at least not here on earth. You’re closer to being free and you’re closer to looking like Jesus, which are two things infinitely better than getting everyone’s approval (including the approval of your own perfection-seeking self).
And when all of this is said and done, live out the rest of your day and prepare for another fight. It’s okay that there will be another fight because you are a fighter. I know you’re a fighter and not a failure because you keep showing up to this thing called life, as do I.
We need to keep doing this. It might get easier. It might not. But THIS is our purpose, the reason for why we’re here. We are here to live as Jesus calls us to live — free. Free to love. Free to dream. Free to fight. Free to hope. Free to live a godly life. Free to seek the Lord.
We were never meant to be enslaved to approval-seeking. We were always meant to be his.
“Comparison is a trap,” he tells me over the phone as tears stain my pillow and midnight approaches. “Satan wants you to believe these lies about your worth. It’s all bullshit, Jessie.”
Some nights strong words such as these feel needed.
I’ve been letting myself get caught in this trap of comparison, jealousy, and insecurity for far too long. I’ve been letting social media suck me in and make me believe false things about my worth. Who has more followers? Who has better filters? Who gets the most attention, affirmation, and adoration?
Time is wasted in front of the mirror every day in my house. Lord, I was going to spend more time with you. I’m sorry. I let myself care too much.
Isn’t that a miserable realization? You’re letting yourself care too much. And if you could, you’d care less. You’d throw off your worries like a coat instead of the boulders they really are. But alas, you don’t know how to care less because you feel stuck — stuck in this trap, this awful yet irresistible trap.
Let me tell you something about myself: I am a woman dealing with one too many insecurities.
Those are the words my therapist used yesterday afternoon, and I sighed in resignation because I knew she was right. It’s the same sigh I release as my boyfriend and friends try to puncture the lies with the truth, the truth that I’m blind to while it’s clear as day for them. Along with that sigh comes a small chuckle because it’s hilarious really — preaching on confidence and worth and strength when I seem to have none.
I’m going to preach on reality for this one minute. And the reality is that I do feel trapped by comparison.
Jealousy is at my door, begging me to pay mind, and I always do. Insecurity asks for more time, and I always give it.
The reality is that I worked hard on my selfie for Instagram this morning and every bit of attention it receives today will be used to temporarily calm my fears, the fear that I’m not loved enough and the fear that everyone else in the world is more put-together than me. I’ll be brainstorming ways throughout my day on how to become more popular, even subconsciously, and I’ll realize later as I scroll through news feeds that I’m not all that popular and never will be. Not like her. Not like they are.
The reality is that I’m wishing for more followers and likes and shares of any piece of writing I produce because some days it feels like my writing is all I have. I tell myself that at least if people are paying attention to my work, then I know I’m doing something right. And with each thing I post or publish, I send up a prayer. Lord, please don’t let this be about me. I know it’s all supposed to be for you. If it’s not for you, don’t let a single person read it. But people do read and I get confused on who this is really for and what it’s really all about.
I feel so silly for my silly insecurities. I feel so petty for my petty jealousies. But telling myself I’m silly and petty doesn’t do the job of getting me back into the truth, away from that stone-cold trap.
This morning I spent what little time I had, the time between staring at myself in the mirror and heading into work, in prayer. I prayed for relief from the lies. Jesus, I need to see myself the way you see me. Show me my worth.
And then I turned to Ecclesiastes where I found wisdom staring right at me, obbvious wisdom that somehow escapes my grasp.
“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 8-9).
Yes, I think. This life is so wearisome. I try to improve and fix so many things every day of my life and somehow realize the futility of my efforts and collapse exhausted into my bed. That’s where my midnight phone calls come from: this place of restlessness and weariness. Nothing is enough for me. Not me, not my efforts, and sometimes not even the promises or truth God has for me.
And when the sun comes back up and I begin again with my attempts to make good out of my life, something falls apart for every thing that comes together. And what does come together is nothing new, nothing noteworthy. What I speak or do has been spoken or done before and will continue to be spoken or done for years to come. What I write about has been written before and will continue to be written for years to come.
When I’m working on the proposal for my book, I work so hard to convince myself this is something worthwhile. I tell myself that this book will matter because it’s different and special and written by me. But when I finish a chapter or make a revision, I close my laptop and again feel the weight of this life’s futility. This book I’m pouring my heart into may very well never get published. And if it does get published, it may very well not change one thing.
I want to be a world-changer, but the truth is, I probably won’t be. Certainly not if I’m still standing in front of the mirror and critiquing my image, and certainly not if I’m still scanning social media and letting myself be worn down by numbers.
This morning I found an email in my inbox, a perfectly timed email.
Your sense of worth should never boil down to a good Instagram post or a sexy filter though. It should never have anything to do with numbers. Not followers, either. Followers don’t change the fact that you fail people. Or let people down. Or regret people. Followers don’t mean you’re not still the regret of someone else. They wash away quickly. They don’t show up for you at 2am. Don’t get so crazy about them. Don’t think you are so important. Just do something that is follow-worthy. Keep the focus on others. Make people think. Think more on your own actions. Above all, be who you say you are.
Oh, beautiful Hannah Brencher, you reached through the screen and held my hand once again.
I need a hand to hold and a whisper in my ear that says I’m beautiful and worthy. Period. I need a reminder that what people say or don’t say on those two subjects does not matter one bit. They don’t see me when I’m crying out earnestly to my Father. They don’t know the way my heart cringes for injustice. They don’t understand just how precious the words permanently etched on my shoulder are.
The other day, I was wrapped in Grant’s arms in the simple hallway of my dimly lit apartment. And as my head turned to the side to rest against his chest, I happened upon our reflection in that moment: him and I in a warm embrace with mismatched yet fitting bodies. And I thought to myself that this is a lovely sight not many get to see. And if they did see, would they realize just how lovely this is?
Yes, I need reminders that I’m beautiful and worthy, but not the kind of reminders typed with careless fingers and placed beneath filtered photos. I need the kind of reminders that come while catching quick images of myself I know only God could truly see and value.
And I need that challenge, that boldfaced question: Am I who I say I am?
Am I reflecting my identity as a radiant, redeemed daughter of God? Or am I letting the enemy twist my perception of my identity so as to take God out of the picture?
Between the photos and publishes and pretty things, I’ve been forgetting that God has been and always will be on the one pedestal that matters. He is on the one true throne.
Who gives a damn if we squeeze our butts onto makeshift thrones in this world?
News flash: this life and this world as we know it will not last forever. We can’t take social media to heaven. We can’t please God with shiny hair and stick-thin bodies. We can’t insert long-lasting meaning into what is passing away.
Everything in this world is meaningless, the book of Ecclesiastes cries out to me on this difficult morning. Everything in this world is pointless, my soul groans after my foolish body exhausts all possible mediums to gain approval that can’t satisfy.
With our bodies aging and this world dying and our efforts failing, what can we do? We can praise God for the little time we have left to touch hearts and point to Jesus. We can fight lies with God’s Word like we’ve been summoned to do.
Send those lies back to hell and get your hands, your lips, your bodies back to the calling that has been placed upon your life.
This is what I’m doing in this moment: sending lies back to hell on both of our behalves. I know the lies are trying to burn holes into your heart like lasers. Comparison brings heartache. Jealousy brings hate. But my darling, you can let yourself peek at the truth. Look up from your phone and get a glimpse of your Savior. Look up from this world and let yourself wonder at heaven, that eternity we’re moving closer to with each minute. Don’t let that sneaky, villainous snake grab hold of your arm and convince you to stay in that trap.
The truth is, you can step out of the trap. It’ll take many predetermined steps, but every one of those steps will be a victory. You are not in chains as you believe. You are beautiful and radiant and free.
Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).
I want to dispel a lie for you today.
And the lie is that it’s wrong for women to desire affirmation from men. The lie is that because your worth is found in Christ, you shouldn’t be seeking any other person to offer love and affection and truth.
The truth is this: it’s not only okay for women to desire affirmation from men; it’s good to. And when your worth is found in Christ, love and affection and truth from another is all the more valuable.
Women deeply desire beauty. We crave beauty around us, beauty to flow through us, and exterior beauty, too. And satan, knowing full well just how desperate our longing for that beauty is, uses that to his advantage.
The enemy makes us think that we’re NOT beautiful. There is no beauty around us. Or if there is, it’s so far removed from us that we are ugly in comparison. He lets us believe there is no beauty flowing through us nor can beauty ever flow through us. We don’t know how to offer loveliness to others. And we face insecurity day after day, expressed in accusations towards our body. Why do I not fit this? Why does this look good on her and not me? Why do the men in my life look past me?
And here’s what has happened over time: society has decided to wage war on this insecurity and longing with phrases about how “you don’t need a man” and women can feel beautiful and incredible all on their own as an independent woman. And Christians have decided to wage war on this insecurity and longing with phrases about how “your worth is found in Christ alone” and women will only end up feeling empty if they look to men to fulfill them instead of God.
But in this is a whole new insecurity, the insecurity of having insecurity. On top of that insecurity is shame and guilt that women are feeling from desiring attention, affection, and affirmation from people when the Church is screaming that we should only be asking for things from Jesus.
The world says it’s wrong to ask men to help you see your beauty, to rely on their input and wish for them to call out your loveliness.
I believed that lie for a long time.
But now I see that it is necessary for the men in our lives, specifically any godly man you are striving to build a future with, to help us see our beauty. It’s good for us to desire their input and wish for them to call out our loveliness.
Because in this, we give them the opportunity to receive what THEY most long for, which is the affirmation that they are capable.
Men want to know if they have what it takes to woo a girl, to win her heart and make her happy. And if us women take on the “I’m an independent woman who doesn’t need a man” mentality, we are depriving them of the opportunity to romance, pursue, and love us.
A woman feels most loved when she is receiving affection and affirmation of her beauty. A man feels most loved when he is receiving respect and admiration for his strength. We have to let the men in our lives offer their strength. And not letting them be there for us in our weakest moments, the moments where we wonder if we’ll ever fit in those jeans or be model gorgeous or have a charming personality, does nothing to build or uplift them. It only takes away.
Let me be perfectly clear on this, though: the only way this works is if you DO know your worth is found in Christ.
If you don’t know this, a man’s affirmation and adoration will mean diddly-squat. Their words will feel hollow and end up being wasted breath. If we don’t have that foundational knowledge in our heart of whose we truly belong to and how beautiful we are as redeemed daughters of God, we will take advantage of that man. We will expect them to fill the God-sized holes in our hearts, which is another thing that does nothing to build or uplift. It only destroys.
And if we don’t believe that our worth is found in Christ, then the affirmation the men in our lives give us will not be believed, anyway. We’ll end up arguing with them. “You don’t really think I’m beautiful, though.” “Are you sure I’m pretty?” “You can stop pretending I’m so great.” And THIS is damaging, my lovelies. It hurts a man to not trust him or believe him. It hurts a man when you don’t take him for his word. It hurts a man when you’re hurting so much you can’t possibly receive a single compliment or word of affirmation that comes out of his mouth.
So yes, our worth must be found in Christ. And if our worth is found in Christ, love and affection and truth from another becomes valuable. It becomes an opportunity for both parties to bloom in their design, a woman as a beautiful lover and a man as a strong provider.
This is something I’ve been learning and still am having to wrap my mind and heart around.
I have a wonderful man in my life who adores me and takes care of me and reminds me of my value in both his sight and God’s. But the temptation to take it too far, to demand for more and more compliments and approval, is constantly at my back.
It takes romance with God to remember how romance with people should work, too. There is little strenuous demand between God and I because He speaks my worth over me and I have learned how to gladly receive it (some days less gladly than others). Because of this, there should be no strenuous demand between Grant and I either. God has already spoken worth over the BOTH of us and we should already have gladly received it.
What we ought to do for each other now is just echo the divine truth that’s already been said.
I echo the love God has for him and he echoes the love God has for me.
That’s the kind of romance I’ve longed for, and I’m beginning to see it’s not just a possibility; it’s a beautiful obligation that God can make a reality.
Side note: Grant and I went to the beach this week and came back with a little sunburn and some good memories. Vacations, even of the one-day kind, are (as Grant puts it) “good for the soul.” Yes, my soul was refreshed, and I’d say our relationship was a tad refreshed from it, as well.
Please, God, don’t let me forget how to laugh and have fun with the man I love as summer comes to an end and the real work begins.
I’m wrestling with what it means to be authentic.
Because more often than not, I’m giving off a false impression of myself.
I’m not that calm, collected girl who walks into class with her coffee and combat boots, no care in the world. I’m not that wise, oh-so-godly girl who sits in Bible studies and leads worship because Jesus is all she thinks about and lives for 24/7. I’m not that confident, positive girl who just likes to laugh at jokes, meet with friends at coffee shops, and wear yoga pants (because they’re by far the comfiest things in the world).
I might try to look like that girl. And I might even succeed. But she’s not me.
Truthfully, I’m still figuring out what kind of girl I am. I’m still discovering my interests, likes and dislikes, and personality. I’m learning that I’m a lot like my mother, which brings into question how much of me is really me. I also know that I often mold into my friends, putting on a different mask to be around different people. And I know better than anyone that I’m a messy, complex person who is one way today and then a totally different way tomorrow.
Can the real Jessie Nyland please stand up?
In all of my wrestling, I’ve been learning a lot about myself, the world we live in, and God.
And here’s one of the most important things about being authentic that I’ve seen and am now believing: it begins with telling the truth.
You’re not going to destroy all those false images that have been built up around you overnight. You can’t dismantle all those lies just by saying to yourself, “okay, be YOU now.”
Odds are that if you have been pretending long enough, you’ve started to believe that girl is really who you are.
So authenticity has to start somewhere, and I believe it starts with telling just one truth. One scary but necessary truth.
And after that truth gets out there, you tell another one. And another one. Until eventually, when people see you, they don’t just see the girl with the nose ring, combat boots, and cool blog. The one who keeps to herself and seems to have her life together.
They see the truth.
They see the girl who’s insecure, weird, moody, and confused. They see the girl who’s struggled with perfectionism all her life, but is learning how to keep that under control in her relationships and everyday life. They see the girl who loves God, but has nowhere near all the answers to living a faithful, godly life. They see the girl who has no idea what she’s doing.
The art of being authentic is telling the truth so people can stop seeing one thing and start to see another.
And in seeing you in this new light, you are somehow given permission to keep being yourself. After all, once the truth is out there, you can’t really take it back. Might as well keep unraveling.
I think this is why I write the way I do, why I’m becoming more and more honest about who I am. I’m tired of the lies I think people might believe about me, the lies that say I’m fine and I love my life and my faith is on point and I don’t need help.
(and I’m also a little tired of the lies I believe about many of YOU. There’s nothing more crippling than the insecurity that comes from seeing someone in this perfect, Instagram-filtered life and knowing I could never be that)
Authenticity needs to be more common. I’m pretty sure I need it if I’m going to stay sane.
I made an Instagram like four days ago and I’m already considering deleting it because I’m OBSESSING over what filters to use, to hashtag or not to hashtag, and why-oh-why is this girl so drop-dead gorgeous and perfect while I’m…. not?
You see, this is hurting me. The lack of authenticity and vulnerability I see all around me is hurting me.
It’s why I took so long to tell anyone about my loneliness or sadness. It’s why I don’t ask people out for coffee or invite anyone to come over to my house. It’s why I feel awful after watching a movie with beautiful, stick-thin actresses. It’s why I feel like a failure in every aspect of my life.
I believe that everyone else in the world is pretty and perfect while I’m pitiful and pathetic.
And that’s not healthy or even true.
We’re ALL really good liars.
And I’m so tired of being one.
If we’re going to have healthy relationships with others and with ourselves, we have to start telling the truth. Yes, the scary but necessary truth.
And if we’re going to have a healthy relationship with God, we have to start believing the truth about who HE says we are, too.
This is my new philosophy and it’s taken me many years to get here.
Here’s my truth for today: I’m far from feeling secure in who I am. But I so badly want to be. And I’m clawing at these lies as fast as I can, hoping to reach the point where I can look into the mirror and say, “this IS you.”
I don’t think I want to be that perfect, happy girl in my profile picture anymore. I want to be a real girl. An honest one. And even though I know you might be holding onto your own false images, I hope you can feel just a bit more comfortable being yourself after seeing the real, honest me. I want to invite you into realness, too.
Can we please, for (literally) the love of God, start telling the truth? You and I both, hand in hand. Just pushing those truths out there into the blinding public eye so the lies can leave us in peace to be our true, beautiful selves.
All it takes is just telling the truth. One scary but necessary truth at a time.
Being in a relationship is hard, guys.
I’ve known this for years, yet I still feel like I’m punched in the gut with that truth again and again.
I have no idea how to be someone’s girlfriend.
It’s a daunting task: to be the person they run to, the person they want to pour their love into, the person they want to support and appreciate wholeheartedly.
Because when you are that person for someone, there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, But I don’t deserve it. And there’s no way I could be that lovely, loving person for them in return. At least that’s how it is for me.
I’m too selfish, too emotional, too messy, too prideful, too insecure, too bitter… how could I rightfully treat this man with respect and love when I hardly know how to love myself? How can I support and encourage this man when I can hardly support and encourage myself?
And he claims he’s a mess, too. Everyone’s got issues, he says. Baggage. But often times, I can only see my flaws and his strengths (or in my prideful moments, it ends up the other way around). And sometimes that makes a relationship one of bitterness or insecurity.
You have it all together. And I’m just… me. Awful, messy me. You should find another woman to love. Someone who doesn’t cry when things don’t go her way, someone who doesn’t pick fights for no reason other than her stupid insecurities.
Someone who always says the right things and does the right things.
It’s hard to remember that that someone doesn’t exist.
The other night, my boyfriend and I had this realization that we call ourselves a team, but we haven’t been acting like one lately. And my first reaction was, It’s my fault, while his first reaction was, It’s MY fault.
Isn’t that so silly? We both were so quick to take the blame.
And we could’ve just left it there. We both could’ve silently come to the conclusion that we’re messy, stupid people who don’t know how to be a good boyfriend or a good girlfriend. Beat ourselves up further and resolve to be better.
But that’s not what I want for him and that’s not what he wants for me.
So what’s a couple to do? Baby steps, my friends.
I asked how he was doing and he shared– open, honest communication about his week, his fears, his struggles. And I listened. I tried offering advice, but didn’t know if it was what he needed. I do think he appreciated the effort. But our conversation didn’t really last long. He had to be up early for work and I was pretty tired myself, so we said goodnight and went our separate ways.
And despite how I felt at that moment– wanting to storm into every room of mess and misunderstanding to set everything bad on fire and leave only the good, perfect, lovely things– that small, honest conversation was a good start.
I’m realizing you don’t have to hash everything out overnight. Every single issue, weakness, and insecurity doesn’t have to be laid out there on the table from day one. You don’t have to fix, fix, fix until both parties are dead tired and there’s nothing left to say.
There’s always going to be something left to say. We’re always going to have bad days and stress. We’re always going to have secrets we hold onto until someone pries us open. We’re always going to have moments of utter weakness that we beat ourselves up over for days.
You’re not going to make a perfect team overnight. You’re not going to make a perfect team over A LIFETIME.
Relationships are hard for everyone. Even the loveliest, sweetest of seasons in dating/marriage are eventually followed by hardships and messes.
We are messy people.
I’ve heard it said that a perfect relationship is just two imperfect people who don’t give up on each other.
I think that’s only partially true. What should be taken out is the “perfect relationship” part because there’s simply no such thing.
No two people can have a perfect relationship because no two people are perfect. No commitment is perfect. Promises are not always perfectly kept. Support doesn’t always come at the perfect time and in the most perfect way.
There’s no such thing as perfection in relationships because there’s no such thing as perfection in life.
The only perfect thing we have is a perfect God, and He’s the only one who can make our relationships into the beautiful, supportive teams we desire.
And even then, they can only be so good. Never perfect. That’s just the burden we live with until we go home to heaven.
So here’s my take on relationships right now: you do what you can with what you have and rely on God to do the rest.
I can show love to my boyfriend in the ways I understand love– kind words, warm affection, gifts and sacrifices. But when I’m stuck in my pride or my foolishness and I don’t even WANT to be loving or kind, I can ask God to strengthen His love in me so I can see past myself and forego my selfish ways.
I can offer wisdom to him when he needs advice or counseling– wisdom I’ve gained from experience and study. But when I don’t know the answers and I’m just as lost as he is, I can lean on God to show us both the right thing to do and the right thing to say.
I can be a sweet, fun, caring girlfriend– when I’m in a great mood or things are going great in my life. But when I’m angry at God, depressed for no reason, and feeling insecure in every area of my life, I sure as heck know I need the grace of God and I can ask Him for that, too. Lord, help my boyfriend deal with me. Because I’m crazy.
Asking God for help in these areas doesn’t mean He’s going to mold me into the perfect girlfriend. What it means is that I recognize my inability to be that perfect somebody for my ever-so-forgiving boyfriend and his inability to be that perfect somebody for me. And in recognizing that, God has the opportunity to heal me of some of my fears and insecurities, offer grace in areas I so badly fail at, and show me how to love in difficult moments. It reminds me that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay.
All I can do is baby steps.
Particularly because I can only predict my mood at this very moment. I can only guarantee I’ll feel nice and loving for the next hour. I am messy and unpredictable. I don’t think that’ll ever change. So I must take just one baby step after another, and believe that it can be enough.
The other night, my baby step was just listening. His baby step was offering nuggets of his life.
Tomorrow, my baby step might be apologizing first. His baby step may be relying on God through prayer instead of trying to fix things himself.
This is what I think relationships are mostly about. Not who will do the right thing first or who will do the right thing better. Certainly not how to be that perfect partner.
Just simply: when will I take that next step, be it ever so seemingly small?
I still have a long way to go. I’ll never win that trophy for best girlfriend of the year. But I can win the heart of the man I love day after day as I become more of the woman– messy and imperfect as she may be– that God is shaping me into.
Relationships will still be hard, but I think I’m learning.
Oh, here’s a photo of me with my wonderful boyfriend, Grant, right before we went on our first Valentine’s Day date. This stud took me to Waffle House (yes, I shamelessly picked Waffle House over every other restaurant we had to choose from… jealous?). Grant is very sweet and understanding of my strange, crazy oh-my-gosh-is-she-even-sane ways. He calls it part of “my complexity”, which makes it sound rather romantic. Oh, and he loves nerdy things, God, and me. So obviously we’re just right for each other.