On my way back from London last weekend I took an early morning tube to Paddington and sat alongside a family with two teenage daughters. During the tube journey the two daughters giggled and laughed together as they poured over their phones, taking photos of each other and selfies. When I was their age I didn’t have a mobile phone (no I am not that old, mobile phones are just newer than you’d think!) but I cast my mind back to my school girl days and could imagine that had my friends and I owned phones we would have been doing the exact same thing. The girls laughter made me smile to myself, but it also got my mind thinking about how we view ourselves in this new, Instagram-ready world we live in.
I, too, have taken many a selfie over the years and what I know about selfie taking is that rarely is the first picture deemed acceptable. In fact, more often than not the next ten images don’t feel acceptable. I click and check, click and check, until I am satisfied with the outcome. Not satisfied enough though to upload it as is. Here is the process I go through and which I have a feeling many of you will be able to relate to:
- Find a filter that works
- Adjust the brightness (just enough to smooth out those ever appearing wrinkles)
- Fade it to allow any uneven skin tones or blemishes to disappear
- Increase warmth to add a rosy glow (or if you prefer a porcelain look then reduce warmth)
- Saturation levels should be just enough to add a hint of pink to the lips but not enough to turn my skin orange!
The list goes on and once I’ve started it’s hard to stop and so I finish off with a little “tilt shift”, “vignette” and a possible “sharpen” (but not too much, be careful of those wrinkles!).
Phew! It’s a lot to go through for one snapshot but so many of us (particularly us girls) go through this lengthy process time after time. The result? An Instagram worthy photo, i.e how I would like to be seen by others and how I’d like to look back and remember ourselves in years to come. Maybe even the perfect version of myself (or so I think). Here’s my digital medical procedure for today!
So here is my million dollar question! Am I enough? Just me. Amy Dyas. Bad lighting, no filter, no make up, no digital surgery. Sometimes I find it hard to believe it. Even the picture you see of me today was taken a few times just to avoid the sleepy eye I had! When I look at myself each day I don’t often think I am enough. When I look at a photo of myself (unfiltered) then I almost never think it. I think a lot of us find it hard to imagine that we are enough. In a world where social media constantly shows us not only filtered images of beautiful people, but actual doctored images of beautiful people, then we feel that 1, we cannot compete with that kind of beauty and 2, that self worth comes from a filter and how many likes a pretty picture can accrue. It can be a harsh culture that we live in and sadly we are often the harshest critics of ourselves.
However, if we stop looking and listening to those “perfect” photos for a second and instead look and listen to what God’s truth says, then we may find a different answer. This week I have made myself a list of “I am….” statements based on who God is, who God says I am and what His word says about the people He has created. I have also written a list of bible verses that speak of God’s great love for us. Here they are:
So if I read those and lean into what the bible says about how God created me and His love for me, then I can say that I think I know that deep down the answer is “yes”, and if its “yes” for me, then its “yes” for you too!
This “yes” isn’t easy to find though. I don’t have feelings of worthiness bubbling near the surface. No, on the contrary, I have to dig deep to find this answer and when I say that I would like to be clear that I don’t believe in digging deep to find the answer within myself. I don’t have the answers. I need to dig deep into God, into His word, into prayer and into relationship with Him. That is where the truth for each and everyone of us lies.
The person who stares back at you each morning is the person God planned you to be. The bible tells us that He has counted every hair on our head. Psalm 39 says he “knitted us together” in our mother’s womb. Yet so often we doubt ourselves and who we are. We believe a lie that somehow we need to change ourselves to be socially acceptable. C.S Lewis writes about how when we don’t forgive ourselves then we are putting ourselves above God, because God promises that we are forgiven when we come to Him in submission and I think that logic can apply here. The reality of believing this lie and by investing in it, is that by doing so we are putting ourselves above God because we are saying we know better than Him. What is true is that not only did God plan you and make you, but He accepts you just as you are. Yes, as we walk with Christ and commit ourselves to Him, the hope is that we will become more like Him, but this isn’t part of a deal. We don’t need to sign up to become more like Christ in order to be part of God’s club. You, right now, just as you are, are enough for God. In the film Bridget Jones, Mark Darcy tells Bridget that he likes her just as she is and in that moment I think all women around the world swooned big time! More incredible though, more wonderful on a whole other level, is that God LOVES you just as you are. Not likes you, loves you.
Turning back to my tube journey that morning though, another problem that I was struck by as I sat watching those young girls taking their selfies, is that this constant process of selfie, filter, upload, is forcing us to constantly look at ourselves rather than at others. This sadly goes with a big cultural shift towards the notion that we are enough in ourselves alone. I have seen countless social media memes and accounts that encourage people to only focus on themselves and to rely on themselves, as if we need nothing external to be complete. This is far from true. What we need more than anything else in this world is to accept the love of God into our hearts. It is the one true thing that will make us complete and whole and we cannot find that kind of love anywhere else. We certainly can’t provide it for ourselves and we definitely won’t find it in a doctored photo of ourselves.
Sadly, as we filter ourselves into someone else, we find ourselves seeking self validation and ultimately inner peace from a picture of ourselves. A picture that doesn’t even show our true selves because by the time we have photoshopped our wrinkles and skin tone away, we no longer look like ourselves, i.e we base that validation on a lie.
The one and only thing that will bring us validation and inner peace is God. A Father so loving that He knows each and every hair upon our head. A God who sees every achievement and cheers us on with the angels in heaven. A God who sees every moment of hard work and takes the time to restore our souls. A God who witnesses every moment of pain and sheds great tears alongside us. A God who gave up His son so that we could have eternal life. A God who sees you and sees beauty. A God who planned you and designed you and has a purpose for you. This is who we should look to for validation and confirmation. We are told in the Old Testament that God’s name is “Yahweh” which means “I am who I am”. If God is so confident in who He is, then surely we should have the utmost confidence in who He says we are?
By looking to the face of God you will find the inner peace you are looking for and you will learn to see yourself as God sees you. Just as importantly you will start to really see the people around you as well. What their life looks like, what help they need, what support you can offer them and what relationship you can have with them. When you find God you don’t just find yourself, you find His heart both for you and for the person standing next to you and what a warm and loving world we would live in if thats what we were seeing every day.
You are enough, no filter needed, because He is enough.