As a shy, awkward twelve-year-old, I took the brunt of jeers and insults from my peers nearly every day of the week. I dreaded the bus ride to school far more than getting shots at the doctor or having my braces tightened. Every day I was reminded that I didn't have the right clothes, hair, or lingo. My peers noticed everything that wasn't right about me and were constantly telling me how worthless I was. I was not attractive or confident like the popular girls. And every put-down that was hurled my direction only made me more withdrawn and insecure.
When we make feeling good about ourselves a focal point, we take our eyes off Christ and become wrapped up in self.
I often came home from school crying and miserable, convinced that my life was of very little value. My parents tried to comfort me and remind me of my value to God and my family, but my self-image was so low that I wasn't able to receive their words of encouragement. I was riddled with self-doubt and insecurity.
Over the next few years, things began to change. Instead of being awkward and unpopular, I learned how to transform myself into the picture of female allure that the culture applauded. I observed the girls at school who seemed to get all the positive attention from boys, and I began to imitate them. I dressed and carried myself in a provocative way and gradually became skilled at flirting and sensuality.
But despite my veneer of confidence, I was no less insecure and miserable than I'd been during my younger years. My outward charm was merely a cover-up for my inner self-doubt. And no matter how much male attention or popularity I achieved, inwardly I never felt like I truly measured up. All I had to do was glance at the magazine covers in the grocery store check-out line to realize how far from the world's standard for beauty I was.
Inner Beauty—a False Solution
It was around this time that I began to hear a message that promised to solve all my insecurity woes and finally give me the sense of confidence and purpose I craved—finding my own "inner beauty." Teachers, Christian leaders, and commercials all exhorted me to "look inside and discover all the beauty you possess within!"
When we let self fade into the background and become consumed with Jesus Christ, our insecurities will melt away.
Yet no matter how hard I tried to "find my own inner beauty," it just didn't seem to work. When I looked at my life, I only saw my mistakes and shortcomings. Eventually I began to realize that if I was ever going to gain freedom over the compromise and insecurity that had been controlling my life, I needed something far more powerful than anything I possessed inside myself. Finding my own "inner beauty" wasn't enough. I needed to look beyond myself for answers.
Then I discovered what it meant to completely surrender my life to Jesus Christ and let Him take over every aspect. And that was when I finally gained the freedom, hope, and confidence I had been desperately seeking. True freedom didn't come through self-realization but through self-denial. Confidence and joy flowed into my life not when I learned to appreciate my own unique qualities but when I encountered the cross of Jesus Christ and let it transform every part of my existence.
Exchanging Self-Confidence for Christ-Confidence
Insecurity is a struggle that countless women today can relate to. Whether you were ridiculed in childhood by peers or family members, used and abused by men, or simply influenced by the impossible standards of Hollywood, you've probably been affected by the "you're-not-good-enough" message in one way or another.
But contrary to what we often believe, learning how to feel good about ourselves is not the solution to overcoming insecurity.
Yes, it is important to understand how precious we are in God's sight—so valuable, in fact, that He gave His only Son to rescue us. We should value our lives because we are made in the image of God; we are His creation. His love for us is truly unfathomable. And as Christian women, we are daughters of the King, redeemed and made into royalty through the work of the cross. Yet when we make feeling good about ourselves a focal point, we take our eyes off Christ and become wrapped up in self.
Jesus said, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me" (Luke 9:23), and "he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:38).
To "deny ourselves" according to the biblical pattern literally means to lose sight of ourselves and our own interests. We will only gain lasting security when we look away from ourselves and toward Jesus Christ. The question "who am I?" is not nearly as important as the question "who is He?"
The only real beauty or merit we can ever have is Jesus Christ's.
It may seem hard to believe that self-denial, rather than self-esteem, could be the solution to insecurity. But when we let self fade into the background and become consumed with Jesus Christ, our insecurities will melt away. We no longer look to ourselves—our own merit, talent, beauty, or uniqueness—to find confidence. Instead, we learn to find our confidence in who He is rather than in who we are.
Charles Spurgeon said, "If a soul has any beauty, it is because Christ has endowed that soul with His own, for in ourselves we are deformed and defiled! There is no beauty in any of us but what our Lord has worked in us."
Many of us have been told that we all have beauty within us and that if we could only discover our own beauty we would be confident and happy. But the reality is, as Spurgeon so straightforwardly put it, we do not possess any beauty or goodness of our own accord (see Ps. 14:3; 16:2; 53:3). The only real beauty or merit we can ever have is Jesus Christ's.
Do you struggle with insecurity? Don't become distracted with trying to build up your own self-confidence. Instead turn your life wholly and completely over to the only Author of all that is lovely and pure, and let His divine radiance come cascading through you. Then you will glow with a heavenly beauty that will never fade away and gain a Christ-centered confidence that cannot be shaken.