My Self-Image Journey

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I am telling this story, because I know there are other girls and women out there who can relate. I am also telling this story to show that we aren’t defined by what we wear or the jewelry that adorns us.

Psalms 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I live by this verse. I repeat this verse every Wednesday during small group to my middle school girls. I am this verse. Every girl, lady, women, mom, grandma, great grandma, and daughter are this verse. There was one point in my life that I didn’t believe these words…

I was in sixth grade and an eighth grade girl, at our very first dance of the year, stopped me in my tracks and told me to stop sticking out my chest and stuffing my bra for guys attention. I will be the first to tell you I wasn’t. I was a very developed sixth grader and very comfortable in her own skin—until that moment. At that moment my great posture, which made it look like I was sticking my chest out, was demolished and what self-esteem I had shrunk back into the shadows of my heart. I started wearing baggy shirts and sweatshirts, only showing my figure when we had a dance, hoping that I could get some satisfaction from a guy, but it never happened—I was ignored.

I wasn’t ignored by the girls who I thought were my best friends, but only one of them ended up deserving that title by the end. I wasn’t ignored by the youth leaders who, unintentionally and without knowledge, made me feel like the slut of the youth group because I had kissed a boy and listened to secular music. I wasn’t ignored by my parents, who had no idea that someone stole my self-esteem. I wasn’t ignored by my teachers, who were better friends to me than some of the people my own age. I wasn’t ignored by the right people, but it didn’t matter, because my head wasn’t in the right place. I went through all of middle and high school looking for gratification from a boy, breaking apart when I was rejected or dumped. The problem was I wasn’t looking for the right attention from the right guy.

Now you are probably reading this and thinking I have parent issues, or my father isn’t in my life. Well, you are wrong. I have an amazing father who loves my mother with all of his heart and we had/have a great relationship!

So it goes to show that even a daughter who has a loving father and knows the love of God can have issues with self-esteem.

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When college started knocking at my door I decided I needed new scenery. I had lived in Busco for so long that it became what Margo Roth Spiegelman calls a paper town (I RECOMMEND Paper Towns by John Green!!!!). I even started to feel like a paper girl walking among the paper teens in the hallways of our paper high school. I needed to get away. What I thought I might need is an environment of the spiritual sort. After the long process of searching and visiting colleges I landed on Southeastern University. A Christian college in Florida gave me two things: 1. a spiritual campus & education. 2. Four states between my past and me.

It did not help. My first year I allowed a boy to string me along as his “friend,” who he acted like he was dating when he didn’t have a girlfriend of his choosing. I thought I finally found the “love” I was so desperately searching for. I was blind. My friends couldn’t even talk sense into me. The last week of school I realized what I was allowing him to do and it wasn’t helping my self-esteem. If anything I buried myself deeper and deeper into despair. I found no healing during the summer, but a miracle was about to enter into my life sophomore year.

There was a girl. She lived next door to my roommates and me, but I would have never guessed the journey I was about to embark on. Her name is Bekah. When I met her I learned she was a cheerleader, popular when she was in high school, she was extremely skinny and pretty (she still is :] ), and my first thought was there was no way she would want to be friends with me. All I can say is it was a God thing, because we started hanging out frequently. She was so full of life that I didn’t know what she saw in me as a friend, but she saw a tiny common bond that could flourish. I don’t know if she saw my brokenness as we continued to hang out, but something happened that year. She cracked open my issues, like an egg, spilling out my insecurities, my fears, my hatred toward my appearance–everything.

As we grew as friend through the years little by little I started to love myself again. Little by little I saw what God saw when he looked at me. Little by little I started to become the woman God intended me to be, because I never really saw my calling until I saw myself. My calling? To help young girls see the beauty and importance of who they are. I never could have been the youth group leader I am today without Bekah. I could never have the confidence to be a Jewelry Lady if sophomore year didn’t happen.

How could we have known?

I am thankful for my experiences–good & bad–and I am thankful for a God who is always for me and never against me. If you have a story you want to share about self-image and want me to share, message me or comment. I can always change or take out names, but God gives us these stories for a reason–to share.

God Bless!

Ashley Danielle

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