Take a look at these two pictures. They are pictures from two of the biggest and happiest occasions of my life. One, you can probably tell, is from my wedding, and the other was taken just minutes before my husband proposed to me. Both are great memories of mine, but as I look at these two particular pictures, I don’t feel happy. In fact, I roll my eyes and silently scold myself. Why? Well, as you’ll notice, in my proposal picture, I am wearing a pair of Adidas shorts and a Texas Longhorns t-shirt. I had just gotten back from a run and, as my proposal was a surprise, I had no idea that I needed to take a shower and change my clothes afterward. You may also notice in the wedding picture that instead of my beautiful, pale blue, rhinestone studded wedding shoes, I am wearing dirty, clunky Chaco sandals for our first dance. These would be beautiful pictures, I think, if only I looked right. Why does this always happen to me?
I haven’t always been like this. In fact, for most of my high school and college years (when self-consciousness is usually at its peak), my problem may have been that I had too much confidence. I kind of had the mindset that if someone didn’t like something about me, they had a problem that needed to be fixed. I would have thought back then that getting proposed to in my favorite Longhorns t-shirt and having my first dance in my favorite pair of Chacos was awesome.
But something changed.
Within three months of graduating college I got engaged, moved to Memphis on my own, and got my first full-time job. I started realizing that I was an adult, and adults dress nice, look nice, behave a certain way, and are just classy people. Maybe not all adults are like that, but that’s the kind of adult I wanted to be. I started actually blow drying my hair in the mornings, wearing nicer clothes, getting better makeup, and critiquing myself on the way I looked. I chided myself every time I got a cut or a bruise on my leg from doing some outdoorsy activity. I became more interested in looking in the mirror, and looked at myself in disdain when my makeup was not quite right or when my clothes seemed to be unflattering.
All of this unfortunately fell within the period of planning my wedding. I became obsessed with being the most beautiful bride I could be. There was nothing terribly wrong with my appearance, but I knew I could have been better. My face could have been clearer, my skin tanner, my teeth whiter and my triceps a little less flabby. Not huge problems, but still unsightly flaws that I didn’t want showing up in my wedding pictures that everyone was going to look at for the next 60 years.
I started beauty regimens and found a good self tanner. I started an intense muscle toning workout. And yet the more I improved my appearance, the more my other flaws seemed to jump out. I could not keep up with my self-created beauty regimen. I didn’t have the time, and quite honestly, my own negativity was not enough to keep me motivated.
So, back to those pictures.
I have shaken my head at them so many times, wondering why I’m always dressed wrong for the occasion, wondering why the photographer had to snap a picture of my feet at the reception, wondering why I can’t seem to get my act together and look like a cute and put together woman. I was lamenting over that ruined wedding picture the other day and wondering if I could Photoshop other feet in there so it would look like a normal and beautiful wedding picture. Then it hit me.
That is so me.
It was as though I were looking at myself from the outside. Like when your friend does or says something that is so uniquely them. That is so her. For the first time, I actually saw myself like that. I actually thought my little mishaps were cute. They were unique to me. It is so me to want to get into comfy shoes as soon after my wedding ceremony as possible. It is so me to have sweated off my make up, to wear plain Henleys to work instead of nice blouses, to have a huge scrape on my leg from trying to jump, flat-footed, onto a stone wall (not that I’ve ever done that …). Some girls have this talent for always looking cute and perfectly put together, and they are awesome. I am just not one of them.
“Love your neighbor as yourself,” is one of Jesus’ teaching that is hardest to swallow. It demands unconditional love and care for others. But as I think about this teaching, I realize that if most of us loved our neighbor the way we truly love ourselves, we would actually treat them worse than we do now. We would be constantly critical of them, not letting any small mistake, annoyance or flaw go unnoticed. We would pick them apart, trying to make them more like everyone else. Then every once in a while we’d tell them there was no point in trying, so we’d give them all the cookie dough they could eat, since they were never going to be good enough anyway.
The thought of treating my friends like this makes me sick. I love my friends, and when I think of them, I think of the things I love about them. When I see minor flaws, things that annoy me, weird quirks, I say, That is so her. I just have to love the package deal. Why? Because I love them unconditionally, because I don’t want perfect friends, I want real friends.
After beginning to appreciate that my quirks were so me, I now realize I was the only one ever telling myself to get my act together; to be perfect. Everyone else in my life – my family, friends and husband — had loved my package deal all along, and they laughed with me about my little quirks and imperfections.
If you hear nothing else from this post, hear this: You are the only person in the world who wants you to look and act perfect all the time. The Lord wants you to be the woman He created you to be. Everyone important in your life wants you to be you. The world not only needs, but wants a real example of a woman who cares more about who she is than how she looks. So do yourself a favor, look at yourself from an outside perspective every once in a while. Look at all the good things about yourself and all the things you’d rather change and say, “That is so me. I’ve just got to love the package deal.”