It is amazing how easy it is for a person to create a false image of themselves and believe in that image.
What goes into this image?
From our early childhood onward, we develop an idea of who we are and who we should be.
Our parents and other family members influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Friends and acquaintances influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
The media influences who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Religion influences who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Politics influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
Social pressures influence who we think we are and who we think we should be.
What would happen if we stripped all of that away?
What would happen if we got to the roots of who we really are? What would happen if we got to the roots of who we really should be?
What if we could look at the unique person God created and really see that person, flaws and all? What if we could lay aside all of the world’s ideas of who we should be and looked to who God says we should be through Jesus?
Growing up, I was told that I was unlovable, unattractive, unlikable, selfish, cold-hearted, lazy, stupid, a liar, boring, weird, and so on. I could do one thing and it was wrong, then I could do the opposite and that was wrong too. Nothing was ever good enough. I caught the blame and punishment for the actions of others, I was singled out and compared to everyone else as lesser-than, I was falsely accused constantly, and I was made to question my reality and severely attacked any time I spoke up against the lies I was being told or that were being told about me.
When paired with all the unrealistic ideals about body image and relationships perpetuated in movies, television, and other forms of media, I was very confused. Pair this with a superficial Christianity that was mingled with other faiths and I was totally lost. I was dead inside. I did not even exist. I knew it, and I wanted death to be my reality. Jesus saved me from this and drew me to Him.
I carried this false image of myself for most of my life. I had no idea who I really was, other than a terrible person who was not worth any amount of kind treatment. I had little sense of self-accountability and no confidence in my ability to make good choices, causing me to question every move I made and over-rely on the opinions and feelings of others. Jesus taught me to rely on Him.
I felt like I had to fix the problems of others, even if it meant enduring abuse because that was normal. I was used to believing words including professions of love, even if actions did not match up, so I had no idea what real love looked like and I constantly questioned my better judgment. Jesus showed me what real love looked like and taught me His judgment.
I tried to gain ground and stability by over-planning and controlling every aspect of my life, yet my plans always changed according to what someone else thought. Eventually that transitioned into controlling others. Eventually my critical eye was not only inward, but outward as I saw the worst in everyone around me, fully expecting every single person to hurt me, betray me, or otherwise let me down. Eventually I became overly distant and overly self-reliant, unable to let people get close to me—or a very, very, select few. I was hyper critical, cynical, and cold. Jesus softened my heart.
After doing a few months of research regarding the cycles of what the world of psychology calls “narcissistic relationships” and after a lot of prayer, something snapped in me. I began sorting through all the things I had always been told about myself—the same things that I eventually began to see in everyone else—and I realized something. Most of these things are lies—or at least they were. Overtime, I became most of those things to one degree or another. I believed the lies and I became the lies.
When I look back over the course of my life, I can see a pattern. Every good thing about me was hated and destroyed, only to be replaced with an equal and opposite lie. I then believed the lie. I then became the lie. I then projected that lie onto others and they became the lie.
This had to stop.
I knew that Jesus would help and that He would use all this hardship for my good and the good of others. Jesus had been at work in my life but certain sins clung so tightly to the core of my character.
For me, a lot of the sin struggles I had were given to me through living in a world of lies. As I looked back and considered these things prayerfully, I found relief. There is still much work to do, because very often the lies we live have lasting effects on us—even changing our brain chemistry and affecting our physical health. However, in Jesus we have the truth—and the truth will make us free.
About the same time that I began to see who I really am—who God created me to be instead of the lies that the world told me and therewith corrupted me—I felt a strange conviction. This might seem like vanity, but there is a lesson in it and I feel compelled to share. I started caring for my hair.
My hair has always been a fluffy and unruly mess that was easily tangled and hard to deal with. I had awful cowlicks and I was never happy with it. I went through cycles of cutting it short then letting it grow, just to wear it in a ponytail or bun. I have always hated fixing hair.
In May of this year, I got the conviction to cut part of my hair, to start wearing my hair down, and to let it grow, which I though strange because Christianity is not about outer observances. Even so, I obeyed and wondered at the meaning. I later realized that this was a kind of symbol to me for an inner work that He was doing. We were getting to the root of who I really was (pun intended).
Shortly after I started paying attention to my hair, I realized something about my hair that I kind of knew, but not fully. My straight yet frizzy hair is actually curly. I saw this somewhat when my hair was short, but I always let it grow out because I hated spending money on haircuts, then it was soon tied back because my hair grows fast. So, I never really knew what my hair was like. My whole life I thought it was something it was not.
When cared for properly, I had totally new hair. I had my real hair that God created me to have, and now I actually enjoy wearing it down—except on those very hot days! There is a lot of symbolism in this, and I’m still learning what it means.
Yes, this is strange. I get that and I understand false accusations that might result, and it feels weird to do this. However, I want to—and think I should—share this with others and encourage others to get to the roots of who they really are, lay it all bare before Jesus, and throw out false self-images in favor of who Jesus says you are.
Idolatry takes many forms, but few are as harmful as a false self-image.
Let’s lay aside our false images. Let’s approach Jesus truthfully and repentantly. In so doing, we will learn who we really are.
Of course, none of us are perfect. We are all sinners. We all have flaws. Yet, how much of who we have become is the result of living a lie?
As children of God, though we sin and struggle against sin, we are created in His image and we all have a place and purpose for good. Who did God create you to be? What lies are getting in the way of that? Tear that image down because what God has in store for you is so much better.
In this series, I want to further explore the problem of false self-image. Some of this might be difficult to hear. We have to let go of self-affirming culture of “you’re enough” and the like. We have to let go of racial pride and national pride. We have to let go of gender pride.
We have to let go of all of the parts of our self-image that are contrary to the ways of Jesus and the person God uniquely created us to be. I have a lot of work yet to do, but Jesus is my way. He can be your way too, and I’m excited to share this journey of finding our true selves together.
With love, Amanda