I sat next to a guy who I had a huge crush on in my high school World History class. We often had to do group work together so we would end up talking to each other. I’ll never forget one day when I was wearing a light blue “tennis dress” that had short sleeves and a polo collar. I thought it was so cute! (Side note: I searched for it on Pinterest and it showed up under a “vintage clothing listing.” I feel old now.) Dream Guy leaned over and said:
“What are you wearing? Is that like…a nightgown?”
I sensed some disdain in his voice. I felt instantly self conscious and hated the dress. In five seconds, I’d gone from being happy about what I was wearing to wishing I had something else to change into.
Today I’d shrug it off and say “who cares?”– but when you’re a teenager and your crush says something like that, it feels like a huge deal.
Comments have been made throughout my life about aspects of my appearance (and other things) that were quite hurtful. Today, I’d shrug them off and say “who cares.” But in the past, these opinions lingered for far too long in the back of my mind and caused me to doubt myself because I didn’t know this essential truth:
Words can hurt, but they only have as much power and influence over us as we let them have. Hurtful opinions are just that– opinions. If you don’t believe the insults thrown at you, they have no power over you.
Because of this, someone can say you look too plain, too frumpy, too feminine, or not feminine enough, and it has no power over you. They can look down on you for your hairstyle or the clothing brands you wear, and it has no power over you. They can call you too skinny or too big, too short or too tall, and it has no power over you.
A wise friend reminded me recently that “hurting people hurt other people.” When others are critical and harsh towards us, the words that come out of their mouths often are a reflection of their wounded, bitter, or angry heart. The things that they pick apart in us can be things that they hate about themselves. Recognizing that other people are hurt doesn’t excuse their behavior. But it can help us understand where it’s coming from.
My outlook towards myself changed when I released the negative opinions of others that were stuck in my head. This doesn’t happen overnight. But over time, I became kinder and less critical towards myself. I began to respect myself more by standing up for myself and setting boundaries. I began to see the good things about myself that I had ignored or downplayed. I am not perfect, but I began to see that I was valuable, when for so long I had doubted this just because some other people thought it wasn’t true.
Today, try to let go of the critical voices in your head that say you aren’t pretty enough, stylish enough, smart enough, or ________ enough. Have someone else’s words placed doubt in your heart? Remember that the harsh words spoken to you may very well be coming from a person who is hurting and needs help. When someone else isn’t loving towards you, God still loves you and finds you valuable. (Even when we mess up and say less than loving things ourselves.) Remember the words of 1 Samuel 16:7b– “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Do you doubt yourself because of the opinions of others? Or have you found ways to overcome this? Please share in the comments!
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Verse from the New International Version of the Bible (NIV), accessed from http://www.biblegateway.com