I spent the entirety of my teen years and twenties wishing I looked like someone else—or at least a thinner, more fashionable version of myself. I was an awkward, nerdy, bookish kid all through school who was picked on and picked last for sports. I also perceived myself as unattractive and chubby (though I really wasn’t) and dreamt about being 20lbs lighter, having all the money I wanted to spend on all the latest fashions, having a boyfriend, being successful in business, and getting married to a man that told me I was beautiful every day.
If I had all these things, I was certain I would be happy, confident, and content.
I was sure of it.
So life moved forward, and I had my first real boyfriend. At first I felt like that increased my value. But, while I was with him I lost a lot of weight (basically by starving myself and exercising a heap), and he kept telling me I had to lose more. My rib bones became visible and I realized that no matter how small I was I would never be enough for him.
…and so I found that I did not find any lasting confidence in having a boyfriend.
So I got a job at a popular clothing store. I was surrounded daily by gorgeous clothes that I could buy at a heavy employee’s discount. I studied fashion magazines, spent basically all my salary every week on cute clothes, learnt how to do my make-up, dyed my hair blonde, and kept myself skinny. Yet, I still I found I could never have enough clothes, be thin enough, or get enough attention to be satisfied.
…and so I found that I did not find any lasting confidence in having expensive clothes in all the latest fashions.
So I studied and started working as a personal trainer. I got a lot of compliments and attention, was successful, ate “clean,” worked out 5 times a week, and was lean and strong. Yet, still I was unable to shake off the feeling that I wanted more. I wanted to be even leaner, eat cleaner, become stronger, and more successful.
…and so I found that I did not find any lasting confidence in being successful in business, losing weight, and being strong.
So I found myself an amazing man who loved me so much that he married me. Every day he tells me I’m beautiful. Through sickness, pregnancy, weight gain, and bad moods, he has stayed by my side and continues to look at me with love and shower me with affection. Yet, there have been many times when I have failed to see what he sees in me. There are still times that I feel inadequate and unattractive.
…and so I found that I did not find any lasting confidence in having a loving, accepting husband.
I feel like my search for confidence and contentment has been like that of Solomon’s search for happiness. Like that wise man, there have been many times where I have wanted to shout, “Vanity of vanities, […] vanity of vanities; all is vanity!” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).
But, as I have come to realize (and as Solomon came to realize), it’s not a hopeless search. Solomon said this because he was searching for happiness and fulfilment in the wrong places. He eventually found that there was no value in any pursuit that didn’t have God at its core. The Book of Ecclesiastes, written by Solomon himself, describes this journey—and as Solomon closes out the book he ends with:
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil”
(Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14 KJV)
You see, whenever anything other than God is the object of our desire, we are going to find ourselves unhappy. Nothing will ever be enough. We will always want more. There will always be someone better than you—and then even if you are the best, you are going to get old and/or die, or tragedy may befall you and take away your physical health, so it is not going to last (Ecclesiastes 2:15; 3:18-20; 9:11, 12). I often ask myself, when I find my contentment slipping, “What would be your attitude if you lost even what you had in this area? What if your entire face were burnt and scarred? What if you lost your ability to walk? Is your confidence so tied up in this one thing?” This self-questioning often helps me put myself back on track.
“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all.”
(Ecclesiastes 9:11 ESV)
The only way to have confidence is to spend time cultivating the beauty that is everlasting, imperishable, incorruptible (1 Peter 1:3, 4). I know you’ve heard that before, but please believe me when I say that all the things you think will make you satisfied with yourself and your life will definitely not. Nothing in this world satisfies. Nothing in this world lasts.
Realize this: When you start to focus on your current situation and you find it depresses you, it’s not really your current situation that is the problem. You think that it is the problem—you think that’s what’s making you unhappy—but it’s not. Those negative thoughts are a symptom of a much bigger problem: you have taken your eyes off of Christ. Your focus has shifted from Christ to yourself.
When you fall in love with Christ and realize that He has nothing but love and grace for all that you are, you will start to be able to give yourself love and grace. He gives only confidence. He leaves no room for hatred of anyone, even yourself.
Turn your eyes away from the mirror, stop ever grasping for the unattainable in this world, and turn your eyes to Jesus. Then—slowly, surely—you will learn to see yourself the way He sees you. You will find that in falling in love with Christ, you will begin to love and appreciate exactly what you have — the life he has given you, the body He gave you to live it in, and all the strength, contentment, and peace you find in Him.
Shift your focus away from the things of this world and onto Christ, because it is in Christ alone that you will find a beauty that doesn’t fade, a contentment that surpasses your circumstances, and a confidence that is everlasting.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”(Hebrews 12:1-2)
Look to Him, you beautiful woman, struggling with the weight of this world.
He is always, always the answer.