You’re fat. You have stretch marks and you haven’t even had kids yet. Your body is too lumpy. Your hair is too frizzy. You’re not fashionable enough. You would look disgusting in a bikini.
Nobody will ever fall in love with you, because a man will never find you beautiful.
Those were the lies that filled my 20-year-old mind, though they sure seemed like truth to me after years of those fears being affirmed, both by bullies at school (and in the community), and hurtful comments made by trusted family members. I can still hear their words just as clearly as the first day they were spoken, screaming through my mind and searing themselves into my heart.
“Get out of my way, Fatty.”
“Run, Fat***, Run!”
“You’ve never had a boyfriend because you’re ugly.”
“Boys only like girls who are skinny, so you better lose some weight.”
And then, of course, there were the experiences that just solidified their truth.
- When I had a huge crush on a boy in high school and he only had eyes for one of my closest friends. If you were thin like her, he might have given you a second glance.
- During my sophomore year of college, after our church’s college group had seemingly paired nearly everyone off into relationships over the past 2 years, and the one man who had lavished me with his attention told me that he was only interested in friendship. Sure, you make a good friend, but you aren’t attractive enough for anyone to think of you romantically.
- The fact that I had only been in one relationship by the time I was 20, during which he had chosen to kiss another woman. You aren’t pretty enough to keep a man’s attention, even a man who claims to love you.
I tried to stay focused on deepening my faith, studying for school, and enjoying my friendships. I listened to songs like “Beautiful” by Bethany Dillon and wished I could really believe the lyrics, but they just weren’t loud enough to hear over my insecurities. You are never going to get married and have a family. You’re not thin enough. You’re too quiet. No man is ever going to give you a second glance.
I knew there were friends and family that loved me,
but I was desperate for a man’s attention, for a man’s attraction.
And desperation for the wrong things, my friends, leads you straight into a pit of danger, which is exactly what I walked directly into.
I’m sure you can picture me by now. I was an insecure mess, feeling ugly and unworthy, aching for a man to find me beautiful and assure me that I was enough. I had no idea who I was or what I wanted my life to look like, because I just couldn’t see life outside of marriage. I wanted a Nicholas Sparks kind of romance, followed by the house with a white picket fence and the happy & healthy children – you know, the American dream and all. My education/career was fine and all, my friendships were good and all, my family was great and all, but I longed to be a wife.
This is the part where you cringe, because you can see the story is about to take a terrible turn for the worst, but when you’re smack dab in the middle of living it, you just don’t see it coming.
So, along came a man. It was on a Christian message board. If we had been in high school, he would have been one of the cool kids, so I felt positively giddy that he would even take the time of day to speak to me. And, oh, how he said all of the right things. He told me about how he loved Jesus and showered me with compliments. All of my insecurities started fading away as I soaked up every word of affirmation he offered. He told me I was beautiful. He told me how smart I was, how talented I was, and how lucky he was to have me in his life. What?! The cool guy thinks he’s lucky to have me?? In just weeks, he had told me that he loved me and planned a trip out to see me in person.
And, just like that, I was hooked. My loyalty to him was set, and I handed my entire heart over to him, eagerly awaiting a bright and shiny future with him full of cheesily romantic and Facebook-worthy moments of perfection. Sure, there were a few moments of doubt that he was really the right person for me, but he really loved me, so surely that was enough.
A year and a half later, we got married. It was my dream come true and he was my world.
My entire identity was wrapped up in my role as a wife.
I beamed with every word of praise he offered…but very quickly, those words became fewer and farther between and my insecurities rushed back in, filling my mind with doubt and fear. I’m not good enough. I won’t keep his attention. I need to get lose weight. I’m not making him happy enough. And so I decided I would simply need to work harder and his happiness became my mission in life.
I learned to prepare all of his favorite meals. I wore the clothes he complimented most. I exercised to lose weight for him. I learned to play his favorite video games and researched his favorite soccer players and tried really hard to be interested in it all (though secretly, it all bored me to tears). I let him choose all of our TV shows, our pizza toppings, our house decor, and where to spend our money. It’s not that big of a deal. If it makes him happy, it’s worth it. I’m just serving him like a godly wife should, right?
I worked and prayed as hard as I could, but things were not good. I had envisioned that in a marriage, things like kindness, compliments, and affection were a given from the wedding day until death do you part. That’s supposed to be part of the legal contract, right? Except our relationship didn’t exemplify those things at all. And when my marriage wasn’t thriving, my entire identity was shaken. If I’m not a good wife, then what’s left of me? I’m a failure. It’s my fault. I’m not loving him right.
The more desperate I was to love him better, the more distance he put between us, and my fears screamed louder than ever. You are not enough. You can’t make this marriage work. He doesn’t even like spending time with you anymore. For 6 years, as my joy and hope slowly faded, I fought. I fought to look better, to speak better, to do better, to be better, but my greatest fears were realized when I really wasn’t enough to make my marriage successful.
We got divorced in early 2014.
There really is no way to describe the feeling of your heart shattering into a million pieces. And by that time, I had invested so much effort into peacekeeping that I had lost all desire to have any opinions about anything, to the point where I vividly remember standing in the grocery store in the middle of the bread aisle and I could not pick out a kind of bread. I knew exactly which kind he would have wanted, but now that I had the freedom to choose based on my own preferences, I had no idea what my preferences even were!
I’d lost my purpose in life. I felt incredibly small, and completely undesirable. I told you that you weren’t good enough. Even after losing all that weight, you’re still not pretty enough. Good luck trying to find somebody to love you now that you’re almost 30.
And, that could have been the heartbreaking end to my story…but it’s not.
This time, there was a voice that spoke louder than any of my insecurities possibly could.
Now, mind you, I’d read and prayed and pored over Scripture for years. I’d memorized verses and been a part of small groups and Bible studies. I had grown in a lot of ways, but my identity in Christ had never solidified.
I had unintentionally let my desire to be a good wife give my ex-husband’s voice priority over God’s, a responsibility no man should ever bear.
And now, with my deepest fears fully realized, in the middle of darkness, I finally heard His voice. You are enough. You are deeply and dearly loved. At first, it started as the faintest whisper that I could barely discern in the midst of the noise of my breaking heart and roaring thoughts. But every day, the voice grew louder and louder. I created you for a purpose, and I have called you higher. There’s more to your story than this.
My pastor’s wife and dear friend held me up during my worst days, and gently led me out of my comfort zone, stepping into things I never would have tried before. Be patient. I’m working this all out for your good. I started by helping with slides during our church services and eventually joined the worship team, finding my voice a little bit more every week. Sing to me with thankfulness in your heart.
My family, friends, and church enveloped me with warm arms of prayer, phone calls, encouragement, cards, thoughtful gifts, texts, and dinner invitations when I needed them most. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends…and you thought marriage was the answer all this time.
And, slowly, I began to figure out the people, the activities, and the foods that I enjoyed. I fell in love with the endorphins and empowerment of running. I all but stopped eating fast food, and started filling my fridge with things like salmon, goat cheese, and exorbitant amounts of zucchini. I started striking up conversations with people at 5k races, work, church, and the grocery store, which was something I’d never done before.
I dropped pounds and clothing sizes because of my lifestyle changes, but the biggest amount of weight I lost was the weight of the lies I had been carrying on my shoulders.
I started believing in unconditional love, not in a general “God loves everyone” kind of way, but in a heart-piercing, paradigm-shaking, “God loves ME more deeply than any person possibly could, no matter what I look like, no matter how flawed I am, no matter how many times I fail.” There is nothing you could do, weigh, earn, or wear that could make me love you any more. I carefully and lovingly knit you together, dear one, and I don’t make mistakes.
And the realness of that Truth shook my life in the very best kind of way. The more I was convinced those words were solid, real, and dependable, the more I just flourished. I started waking up with a smile on my face, because the joy and gratitude that were bursting to life inside of me were just too powerful to keep inside! I started giving encouragement and affirmation with abandon, because I no longer heard that voice that had convinced me they held no clout coming from me. I stopped regretting the past and instead looked to the future, where I found hope in every corner and felt more satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentment than I ever had before!
Even though I was single.
Even though I was divorced.
Even though my life was far from the dream I had desired it to be.
My life, my soul, was completely transformed, a real life testimony of God bringing beauty from ashes.
And as that kind of love is realized, beauty becomes less and less important. Those attacks against my character and my body come less and less frequently. See, this amazing thing happens in that transformation, as the Voice of Truth takes up residence in my heart, mind, and soul…
my eyes are shifted off of myself and onto His glory.
My insecurities lose their power, because it’s no longer about me. It’s about Him.
I used to think confidence was based in achievement. You can be confident AFTER you’ve earned the good grades, lost the weight, gotten that promotion, married that great guy…but that’s not the source of true confidence.
Beth Moore says, “Courage comes from a heart that is convinced it is loved.”
Not by that great guy you may or may not have married, but by God, the One who created you for a divine purpose, something far greater than you can possibly imagine.
I will not for one second tell you that there aren’t moments that I long for marriage. There are plenty of them, for sure. I still hope that marriage and a family are in His plans for me someday, but the rash desperation is gone.
And I can tell you that my life is still whole without them.
I still have a purpose and I wake up every morning determined to live it. I have a 6-year-old niece who loves on me with hugs and kisses, a loyal dog who keeps my feet warm on chilly evenings, family to make me my favorite meals, friends who offer me consistent encouragement, but most importantly, I have the love of my heavenly Father.
The true love, the unconditional love, acceptance, belonging, and affection I was craving all of those years was being offered to me all along, and it is more beautiful than I ever could have hope for.
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us.”
~1 John 4:18-19~
If you are stuck in a place where you feel small, unworthy, or unloved, then I encourage you to commit this verse to memory. Whatever or whoever is causing you to feel that way is not speaking truth to you. You are valuable and you are so very loved.
What lies in your life are holding you back from experiencing the fullness of God’s love in your life today?