There I stood, looking in the mirror for a little more than an hour with tears running down my face. Why was the reflection in the mirror so troubling to me? Why did she cause me to loathe mostly everything about her? Why did she force me to second guess every decision I made in life? Why did she not know her worth? Why had she made so many dumb mistakes? Why did she continuously engage in self-deprecating behaviors? Why, why, why, why, why???
Pretending keeps you in a cycle of brokenness.
At the age of 24, I had what most people would consider a “perfect” existence. I was married to the then love of my life; I had a job (not a very good paying one, but I loved it), we lived in one of the more affluent apartment complexes in the city, we had two cars and never went without anything. So why on earth was I standing in the mirror crying for over an hour? Simple, I did not like myself at all!!! The reflection in the mirror only made me yearn for everything that I was not. Up until this moment in the mirror, I had successfully pretended to be something I was not. I somehow managed to fabricate a confidence level that had some people believe I was well put together. When in reality, I was a hot mess!
Before meeting my ex-husband, I had a past, and that past caused the accumulation of emotional garbage. I was not aware of this emotional garbage until I got married. Gary Thomas states in his book Sacred Marriage that, “Being married forces you to face some character issues you’d never have to face otherwise.” My first marriage exposed the character flaws I possessed and the junk that came with me.
Where had these issues arisen from in my past? As I stood in that bathroom tearing apart every God-given body part, I wept because deep down inside, I never felt loved or accepted by my father, and I never felt good enough for my mother. When I was a young girl, I would often cry in silence because I longed for the day that my dad would hug me, tell me I was pretty, spend some time with me, or even come to any of my school performances. I wanted my father to be present in my life because he lived under the same roof as me. Was that too much to ask?
The feeling of not being good enough came when I was at times compared to my cousins. I know this comparison was not malicious, but it hurt nevertheless and had a lasting impact upon me. These comparisons drove me to want to study the dictionary for hours on end to be just as smart as my cousins. As a child, my mom told me to go outside to play, but I declined. In my mind, I had to write and memorize a certain amount of words and definitions in my vocabulary notebook before playing. Yes, I was that nerdy kid who studied the dictionary. I thought that if I studied more than usual, I would be good enough for my mom and that the cousin comparisons would cease. They eventually did, but the lingering effects remained.
What goes in will come out.
I recall hearing a story about a coffee mug and its contents. A lady was drinking coffee, and as she held the coffee mug in her hand, someone walked by and bumped her, and her coffee spilled out. The narrator of this story used the example of the coffee to speak about emotions. She stated that whatever the contents were in that mug on that particular day, they would have spilled out. And so are the emotions we carry. If given the right trigger, whatever feelings embedded inside of us will surface and show us exactly who we are.
Year 24 was the year I got bumped, and the contents of my mug came spilling out. The years previous to that, I liken to a bowl of oatmeal that you are carefully watching as it rotates in the microwave. If you are an oatmeal person like myself, you know that if you turn your eyes away from the bowl for a second, it will bubble over, and you have a mess on your hands. My life from the age of 21-23 consisted of me carefully monitoring my emotions like that bowl of oatmeal.
The reflection that doesn’t reflect the truth
Now, don’t think that I didn’t have any blow-ups emotionally, because there were plenty. I have stories for days! Some stories will have you picking your jaw up and closing your mouth. However, from 21-23, I was determined to navigate adulthood, marriage, and self-growth like a champ, so I made sure not to let the real me bubble over and create a mess. Although I never saw a happy person when I looked in the mirror, I was not about to let the outside world know that I wasn’t satisfied with my life and myself. Honey, I had to keep it together at all costs.
Comparison sucks the life out of you.
This constant need to keep it together caused me to develop an unhealthy relationship with comparisonitis. I tried emulating every person I perceived as “having it together.” Emulating others seemed like a good idea, but in retrospect, it worsened my ability to see myself as anything other than broken. I was secretly competing with these individuals, and they were none the wiser.
This constant invisible competition wore me down all because I had no understanding of who I was in Christ. I didn’t know how He felt about me or how much He loved me. I could not wrap my mind around any of those thoughts because I just couldn’t. If I can be honest, I wasn’t as concerned about what He thought about me because I perceived Him as I viewed my earthly father- a big ole meanie! Because I likened God to my father, I honestly felt that God only loved me when I behaved well. My broken view of myself and God played a significant role in many of my decisions later in life.
The world was my standard.
I took my cues from the world as to who and what I should be. The world became the mirror in which I looked to find my value and worth. Looking in a mirror riddled with flaws and ever-changing standards exhausted me to no end.
The world didn’t create me, so why was I taking my cues of what I should be from such a flawed place? Simple, my thinking was defective and not renewed by the Word of God. God was the only one who could show me who and what I was because He created me. But I didn’t go to Him because I felt He was very similar in character to my earthly father. So the next best thing in my eyes was the world. The world would tell me and show me tangibly how to measure my worth, even if it meant placing unrealistic expectations in my mind.
These unrealistic expectations would keep me in the chains of mental bondage for years. I kept myself in this self-imposed prison out of fear of being rejected by God; who I felt didn’t love me. It took me standing in the physical mirror in my apartment, crying for over an hour, dissecting everything about myself to be able to hear God’s thoughts about me. My broken inner man was now malleable enough for God to start the process of restoring my heart.
How often do you look in the world’s mirror and try to live up to the unrealistic beauty and success standards? How often do you find yourself feeling less than because you have not accomplished what the world says you should achieve by a certain age? My dear sister, I am here to tell you that the world’s mirror will never give you an accurate depiction of you because it did not create you, nor can it reflect your real identity. You will only find your identity in Christ. Once you begin to look in His mirror, which is the Word of God, you will know that He Brilliantly Created you like no one else.
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