For a people who are “created in the image of God,” we devote a good chunk of time and energy to becoming someone we are not.
As we begin to grow into the personality that makes us us, we begin to recognize the things that make other people them. Most of the time, we find as many differences we can fit onto a magnifying glass and we fixate on these differences which stand between us and them. Then, these differences begin to deter us from any chance at knowing self-love. We envy who someone else is or how they appear to us on the surface and, from there, we fall into a cycle of not feeling confident or comfortable in our own skin; a discomfort and a lack of confidence that are usually fed by inaccurate assumptions and misconceptions. This cycle is not our friend, nor is it a place to which Jesus calls us.
When I was young I never ate very much. Not in an unhealthy, self-conscious sort of way; I simply had a small appetite and therefore was a very petite girl, which I wasn’t the most proud of or happy with. I never put too much thought into my eating habits or my appearance in general, but I was bothered by even the most innocent of comments that pointed out me being petite. I spent most of my days battling lava monsters and mastering team sports in the park across the street from my childhood home. One day, when not participating in aforementioned activities, and instead accompanied by a close friend of mine, I roamed an area of the park historically frequented by the neighborhood boys of my age. When minding our own business, said friend (who I will deem “Julie” for the purpose of anonymity) and I were approached by a few of the boys, and without any context at all, bluntly yelled in our faces.
“You’re a SQUASH, Julie. And you, Sarah… You’re a STRING BEAN.”
This is the first time I can remember having to deal with the foreign feeling of desperately wanting to be someone else–of wanting to be different. It doesn’t sound like much of a “headbanger,” if you will, but it was enough to introduce the idea of comparison into my young conscious.
We often cross the line between self-growth and comparison as we attempt to fashion ourselves into our neighbor. We attach ourselves to the idea of a better version of who we are that has been deeply influenced by our peers, by media and famous figures, and by third-party characters (such as movie roles and literary personalities). There is a great difference between healthy growth and comparison to the point of change.
Maria Goff writes in her book Love Lies Here, “Wanting to be a better version of you is worthwhile. Desiring to change is maturity. Hoping to be someone else is just wasting your time.” Change and growth and the desire of both are never detrimental to ourselves so long as comparison to others is missing from the equation. I’ve learned through a lot of experience, intentional time and reading that, sure enough, hoping to be someone you are not is a big, fat waste of time. It will never happen in the way we hope for, it will never truly lead us to self love, nor will it ever make sense out of the maze of a concept that is worth. Yet, this truth is quite a bit to swallow, and another dilemma to believe it. I would never expect anyone to instantly quit comparing themselves to others simply because I said they should. When we leave comparison out of the equation, however, we make room for something else: becoming like Jesus.
Goff continues to say that “We don’t need to look like each other, act like each other, or be like each other. We need to become more like Jesus.”
Not only is desiring to be someone else a self-destructive journey with no unattainable destination, but it is entirely beyond what we are called to do. We’re missing the point. Regardless of whether we love who we are or not, we’re called to become more like Jesus. We are made in his image, not as copies of our neighbors. It matters little, really, who we are or aren’t, so long as we are striving to become more like our Creator. This isn’t to disregard the importance of self love, confidence, and care. These things matter. We matter, so they matter. These are the things that first help us get rid of any desire to become someone else. Once we have come to terms with who we are and even begin to love this version of us, we spend less and less wasted time comparing ourselves to others.
Still, this is a step. Once we remove the magnifying glass off of ourselves, it will no longer be our goal to love ourselves for the purpose of confidence but to find our worth in Jesus, pushing us evermore to become more and more like him.
We learn self-acceptance fully when we’ve experienced total acceptance.
1 Peter 2:21 tells us “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.”
As a people, let’s make it less of a goal to become more like others, but rather more of a goal to become more like Jesus.
Sarah Bailey – Photographer
Photo by Nate Cheney, featuring Jocelyn Griffin