For the Women Who Know How to Hate Themselves

Is there anything more insidious than insecurity? It cripples us, it changes us. It makes us hate each other, it makes us hate ourselves. It’s what drives the girl to do the thing she said she’d never do with the guy she only kind of likes. It’s what drives the girl to take the drink she said she’d never take to impress people she doesn’t really know. It’s what draws us to judge both of those girls and draws them to judge us right back.

It’s what teaches us to despise parts of ourselves and then fear when those very qualities show up in our daughters, provoking us to talk to them the way we talk to ourselves: “You’ll never fit into your Homecoming dress if you keep eating like that.”

Dear God, teach us to be gentle!

But, even if we train our mouths to be gentle, this is still true: Insults don’t have to be verbal, and they don’t have to be external. Sometimes your own brain or the fitting room mirror or the unreturned phone call shouts, “You’re unworthy,” as loud as a megaphone. 

And so while God’s Word esteems stillness and “gentle and quiet” beauty, dark, internal roars shake us and shake our daughters with soul-deep tremors. Sometimes the tremors are startling enough to awaken us from the striving to sudden clarity. We realize that all of it—clothes, products, gym visits, relationships, perfectionism, talent, work ethic—is not enough to quiet the internal quake. So we try to talk louder than our noisy insides, affirming ourselves and affirming our daughters, hoping Post-It Note words of worthiness are weapon enough. But here’s the thing: “You’re beautiful” doesn’t stick. “You’re worthy” slides off after a minute, like a slab of butter atop a hot pile of pancakes we’re not supposed to eat.

We arm ourselves with affirmations in hopes that they kill the insecurity, that they pierce deep, but insecurity is bullet proof. We can tell our daughters every day that they are beautiful, worthy, and enough, but ultimately these words are not the solution for which our souls long, because even beautiful girls with kind and intentional parents know how to hate themselves.

A verse often prescribed for insecurity is Psalm 139:14: “I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We scribble it on birth announcements and cards of encouragement, and Christian high schoolers are notorious for proclaiming it beneath a carefully edited selfie on Instagram. But sometimes in favor of its Twitter-friendly succinctness, I think we overlook the weightiness of the statement; a statement that begins with three powerhouse words: “I praise you.”

Our “fearfully-and-wonderfully-made”-ness is cause for praise, certainly, but praise for whom exactly? Ourselves? Of course not. We made Bs in high school biology, but God invented the whole thing. We can barely cook without a recipe, and yet God created us from scratch with zero ingredients. When we look in the mirror, our reflection is cause enough for us to hit our knees in genuine, grateful praise to the Creator. An opportunity to shout, “Look what God has done!” Praise that The Great High King who measures the oceans in the hollow of his hand (Isaiah 40:12) would form us with those same careful hands, attentive to every detail. 

How sinister then that our enemy would wage war on our details, and that we in our own selfishness would stare at God’s creation, fixating on body shape and skin tone and hair texture rather than the God who took dust and made it walk and talk and breathe.

We are wonderfully made—created by the Artist who created all other artists. An Artist who certainly only creates masterpieces, and yet how absurd for the Mona Lisa to pat herself on the back for her masterpiece-ness when it was Leonardo da Vinci that wielded the brush and granted life to a blank canvas.

We are fearfully made—created with such intricacy that upon realizing it, we find ourselves captivated with holy fear, in awe of the Creator. An awe we see just a few verses ahead in the very same chapter: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6).

Or consider God’s response as Moses insecurely worried about his ability to speak to Pharaoh on behalf of the enslaved Jews. God didn’t respond with a pep talk, accolades, or affirmations of Moses’ worthiness. He didn’t say, “You can do it!” He said, “I can do it.” As Jen Wilkin so wisely points out in her book Women of the Word, God responded with himself. And that was enough.

“Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” (Exodus 4:11-12)

Dear mothers and daughters, here is the salve for the soul struggling to find worth:

Our God is the Artist of all artists, and our insides and outsides are evidence of His skilled hand. He is beautiful beyond description, and He loves us beyond explanation. These truths are weapon enough. May our mirrors point us to Him.

“I praise YOU, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are YOUR works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14, emphasis added).

Originally posted as "Insecurity: Our Daughters' Greatest Enemy" at MissionalMotherhood.com in May 2016. Reposted with permission.