My friend Erin and I have been throwing around the idea of starting a non profit for the past year or so. We want to start said non profit to help impact the lives of middle school and high school girls who struggle with self esteem. We're nowhere near being able to launch anything, but we're trying to research the situation. And from my own experience (both with my own personal story, with the stories of my female friends, women I run across, and young girls I happen to know currently), low self esteem is crippling. At times it certainly has been true in my own life.
As Erin and I have talked about what we feel called to do, we've started asking the question, "So what's the problem?" What's the REAL problem here? Is it that young women aren't empowered or don't have enough role models? Is it that most grown women still aren't able to walk with healthy amounts of self esteem? Is it pressure from society to just be too many things? Is it that we have an inability to truly believe that the God of the universe loves us and believes in us? I certainly have my thoughts, but they're still jumbled. I just know that I hate how I sometimes see myself, and the struggles I see most girls and women battling in this area.
And what is it that self-esteem does to us? I believe that it cripples us, and it keeps us from being the best versions of ourselves. It keeps us from being who God truly desires us to be. God is not honored when we deprecate His creation...whether that be a towering redwood, a brilliant flower, the elderly woman next door, or myself. By honoring God's creation...ALL of His creation, I am able to praise the God who so lovingly created me.
I often wonder if part of the problem is in really, really messed up standards. I have been reading through the book of 1 John recently, and today's passage hit me hard, especially as I think about how I often enter into the practice of self-loathing:
"Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever." (1 John 1: 15-17)
The standards we see on TV, in the media, from peers shares a standard that tells individuals that in order to be loved and accepted we must look a certain way, have a specific body type, and present a certain image of ourselves. I have been reminded all day of the power of refusing to give in to this... to seek the things of God's Kingdom, and not of this world. As I think about how to respond to my own areas of feeling insufficient, and in turn, of how to best love others struggling with honoring the beauty of their own creation, I am reminded that God has standards, beauty, and desires that are completely contrary to what this fallen world offers.
So often the "easy" thing is to find our identity in the people around us, our immediate community, or the culture at large. Those things tell us right away if we are beautiful or not, if we are right or wrong, if what we present is acceptable. However, this passage tells us that we simply cannot trust the things of this world (even if that might be the easy thing to do). We are called, instead, to identify with God and His values... very different from what the culture around us has to offer.