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Laura Prosapio: Identity

 

Laura Prosapio

Ever since I can remember, I tied my worth into how well I could accomplish the tasks that lay before me. Whether it was getting good grades, winning a spelling bee, or being in control of my every word and action—I needed to be working my hardest or best, or else it wasn’t good enough for me. And if it wasn’t good enough for me, then I reasoned it definitely wasn’t good enough for God.

I measured my achievement based on whether or not I got a compliment. If I worked especially hard to present my best, and then I didn’t get the amount of praise from others I thought I deserved, I would feel completely devalued. Even when I did receive praise, it never seemed to be good enough because it never satisfied my heart. As soon as I felt approved by those around me, I felt I needed to take it to the next level and be even more perfect, more pristine, and more worthy of love. Sure, improvement is usually something healthy to strive for. We always should try to be our best. But people cannot meet our deepest desires for approval—even our closest friends cannot make us feel completely secure. Only God can make us secure in Him, providing us with an identity that nobody can take away.

 I learned this lesson during the beginning of last semester at Evangel University when I was about ready to explode out of not being able to meet my own expectations and garner all the approval I was after. Of course I wanted to live to bless others, but deep in my heart, one of my motivations for blessing others was so that I could receive approval from them, and in turn, feel loved. I recognized the harm of this way of thinking, because without fail, I felt totally insecure in what I had to offer others—regardless of whether or not they were noticeably touched by my actions. If I could not make somebody happy or make sure they smiled after being around me, I felt I had failed them in some way. Thus, I failed myself. If I could make somebody’s day (or at least convince myself that I did), I would feel like I accomplished something great. Being in between these two extremes of shame and pride not only weighed on my heart, but it weighed on my relationship with God. Instead of allowing His grace to flood my heart and my identity to be found in Him alone, I worked to pursue perfection apart from Him. I didn’t even ponder that His love made me complete.

It wasn’t until a close friend invited me to a Bible study at Central Assembly in Springfield that I had a life-altering realization that has transformed the way I live today. The study was based upon the book Chase by Jennie Allen, and in reading the first chapter, my world was turned upside down.

I read from this book with a convicted heart, “Our value comes from God; it can never be found in how we measure up. So whether you feel worthy or ashamed, this news should probably undo you. It is the character of God that gives us worth, not anything we have done or will do. There is freedom in accepting our unworthiness and receiving God’s worth. But self-esteem dies hard, especially for those of us who stand on a great performance. The work of Christ steals all shame but it also steals all of our pride.”

 Wow. This one paragraph has truly humbled my heart and made me realize how selfish and prideful I had been. I had been living to give myself glory because I felt my identity was rooted in what I made of myself. However, the “undo”-ing truth that God gave me my identity and it is secure—despite my best and worst efforts—made me a whole new person. I am a whole new person because I am in securely with God’s love. Nothing I do can take that away. Nothing I don’t do can take that away. Now, my delight is to give glory to God, and in doing so, I find my identity and security.

If you’re struggling with having to be perfect and approved by others to feel like you have a secure identity, I’m here to tell you that you can stop finding your identity in others’ approval.

 

“She didn’t have to be perfect because she was perfectly loved.” ~Holley Gerth

 

Allow this truth to go deep into your heart. Know that you don’t have to do anything or put on any false appearance to be loved. You are already loved by a Father whose love can fill every recess of your heart. What a life-transforming truth.  

Satisfied in His Love,

Laura Ashley

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Annie Torr: Brutal Honesty & a Side of French Fries

ANNIE This is a sensitive subject for me as I’m sure it is for many women and even men out there. I grew up in a Christian home and was affirmed from a young age that I was a beautiful girl. I never really struggled with body image until one trip to California. I went to visit some family friends and at the young of 10 I saw 2 beautiful college girls talk about how mad they were that their thighs touch when they stand up.

From then on my eyes were opened to thigh gaps (or lack there of), muffin tops, arm flaps, and back fat. I was kind of a chubby kid growing up and it took a while to grow into my skin. My insecurities really began to form in junior high and high school when I realized the boys I liked, liked my friends and not me. Never having had a boyfriend still to this day has continued to grow some of those underlying insecurities. “Am I not good enough?”, “Am I not beautiful enough?” “Am I not thin enough?” It is so unfortunate that these are the lies that so easily are fed into our thoughts.

Going off to college opened my eyes to a world I never knew before; a world of eating disorders. I began my freshman year at a college in Costa Mesa, California. I had always thought eating disorders were something that celebrities and famous people dealt with. Little did I know, it was everywhere I looked. The closer I got to the girls I was living with, the more I found out about the lies that consumed their mind constantly. When going to lunch I came back with a full plate (if not multiple plates) of food. For those of you that know me, I love food, especially French fries. They are kind of my weakness. My friends however, would put about 7 pieces of lettuce, vegetables, and a sprinkle of olive oil in a bowl and call that a meal. I have battled thoughts of not eating/throwing up but I can’t do it. The Lord blessed me (yes I say blessed) with some health problems in high school that restrict me from even being able to do those things.

Physical insecurities are the devil’s playground. He loves to toy with our hearts in thinking we are anything but beautiful daughters of Christ. My journey with my insecurities has not been easy and it’s unfortunately not over. I wish I could write here on this blog proudly and say I am completely and wholly confident in the woman God made me!......But I am struggling. With God’s grace and mercy I am working daily toward this. We have all heard Psalm 139:14, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”, but do we believe? Truly, deeply, in our souls believe this? It says I know this FULL WELL. I pray that if we don’t right now, that we learn to know this full and completely.

I could probably talk a lot more about this but for now I will stop. If you ever want to talk more about my story or about yours I would love to listen. I believe strongly in this movement. God is the ultimate creator. Who are we to say His creations are wrong, ugly, and flawed? . I hope as a community we can begin to accept our flaws as beautiful.

You are loved. You are valued. You are beautiful.

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Emily Taylor: Beauty is ________

Emily Taylor
B-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. Beautiful. A word every girl wants to hear, yet no one seems to really know what beauty is. There is not a set of guidelines written out for us to say, "beauty is_____." Although, every girl has a cultural ideal burned into her mind telling her what is not beautiful about herself and she is most likely willing to do what it takes to try to change that. Our culture tells us from the time we are born how to get prettier--or it at least tells us that we are not pretty enough. Our culture tells us that beauty is found in the physical. I would like to take a stand and say that true beauty is a spiritual. matter.
Jewelry, hair, makeup, and of course a cute pair of shoes are all things I like. Call me a total girl, but I actually really enjoy dressing up!  I like feeling trendy and when someone compliments me on a new pair of shoes, but for years I fell into the lie that those items were what MADE me beautiful and I was not beautiful without them. Culture has always told me the physical is where beauty comes from. Since the time I could crawl I have been playing dress-up. When I got a bit older I started playing with that little girl makeup--you know, the kind that is basically colored putty that can leave your face stained bright pink for a couple of days…yeah, that kind. When I was in seventh grade I started using the real stuff; one time I mixed several different colors of eyeshadow together and wore it to school. A boy in my class asked me if I had black eyes; needless to say, I never wore that eyeshadow again! By my freshman year of high school, makeup was a part of my everyday routine. To be honest, I don't know if I can remember a single day I left the house without makeup from the time I was a freshman in high school until my freshman year of college. I so easily fell into the snare that culture throws at us; I thought my beauty was found in the physical.
A couple of weeks before the Insecurely Movement started, God began to repetitively remind me of a saying I once heard, "Don't let a day go by where you spend more time looking into a mirror than into your Bible." Those words cut me deep, because I knew I was not doing so. I was trying to keep my appearance up to the world's standard and meanwhile neglecting the inner beauty of God's standard. Several different occurrences happened in the weeks leading to the Insecurely Movement that led me to believe that I really needed a heart change. God was redefining the meaning of beauty in my mind. I began to pray that God would give me confidence in myself no matter how I look on the outside, because true beauty is found from the inside. I memorized Proverbs 31:30, "Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." I said this to myself everyday until it was instilled within my brain so that I was constantly reminded that my beauty must be found in my character, not my clothes or makeup.
Don't get me wrong. There is nothing bad about doing your hair and makeup and dressing with your own unique style! The breaking point is this: when impressing the world with your image is more important to you than transforming your heart to the image of God.
The Insecurely Movement has truly challenged and changed my heart. Since the Insecurely Movement I have left my room a countless amount of times without makeup. My outward appearance no longer defines me; my God defines me. I now can leave the house without makeup and still feel beautiful, because no matter how I may look on the outside to others, my true beauty shines from within!
God has redefined the meaning of beauty in my life, let Him do so in yours.
I am Emily Taylor and I am secure.

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Katie Stanford: Secure in Christ

As a child, I always wanted to be the center of attention. If there were people near me, I wanted them to be my audience. I would put my favorite music on and pretend that they were at my concert. Everyday I would run around outside pretending to be Pocahontas with my hair blowing in the wind while singing all of the songs from the movie. Needless to say, I was one weird kid! I grew up in a very athletic family. My younger sister was the type of person who could excel at any sport she tried. My mother was always the one to coach her, and they made an excellent team. I, of course, tried my hand at sports but was never able to live up to par with Brooke. As I grew up, my Kid’s Church pastor saw some potential in me and started teaching me human videos. I had found the place where I belonged. I started to do more and more human videos, and I fell in love with acting.

Summer in between my freshman and sophomore year, my world fell apart. My Kid’s Pastor resigned after dealing with a scandal in her personal life, and my older sister stopped talking to any of my family members. I didn’t understand. I didn’t know why everything was going wrong. I then started to get the terrible “what if” thoughts. “What if I would’ve encouraged Tisha more?” “What if I let Danielle know how much her family loved her and wanted her home?” “What if I told Tisha that I wanted to grow up to be like her one day?” “What if I let Danielle know that I longed to have a great sister relationship with her?”

These questions haunted me. With each day that passed, I started to feel worthless and forgettable. On the outside, I was acting like nothing was wrong. I became so numb to anything and everything, and I finally resorted to self-harm to allow myself to feel again. With every blow of pain I felt, I could escape into a world where I could control that pain. It was easy to take care of. In the end, all I needed was a band-aid. A lot easier to mend than any mental pain, eh?

As high school went on, the wounds slowly started to heal. I had accepted what I could not change. God and His amazing redemptive power healed my mind and restored my thinking. I started to not care what people thought of me, and I found myself a much happier and carefree person.

Of course I still struggle with self-harm and self-image, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s a constant reminder of what God has brought me out of. Through His power alone, I can write this story, and I can honestly tell you that there is hope.

 

“What you say about yourself means nothing in God’s work. It’s what God says about you that makes the difference.” 2 Corinthians 10:18 MSG

 

I am Katie Claire Stanford, and I am secure in Christ. 

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Nicole Finnell: Healing Process

Nicole Finnell

 

These are the words of the very things that shaped who I am. I have to dig deep to bring my insecurities to the surface. I’ve dealt with a lack of confidence due to both my appearance and personal experiences. Growing up, I was the slightly more than chubby girl with the slicked back hair and the face covered in acne. I spent a great deal of my time in books. I was a “nerd” who found her security in school. My brains were what gave me value. I found comfort in being the class clown because that seemed to be the only way I fit in contentedly with my peers. I found security in my humor. Until the summer before my junior year when the weight came off, the acne cleared up, and I learned that I didn’t have to wear a ponytail every day of my life. I became confident in my looks, I became okay with who I was and my personality stayed the same.

I enter into my junior year thinking this was it. “I’m finally free of the burden of worrying every day whether I was presentable and acceptable to the world.” Little did I know that I would soon meet my biggest insecurity. His name holds no significance. It was his actions that made all the difference. His words made me feel beautiful and his actions made me feel worthy. For the first time in my life I was being noticed by a guy. Within no time I fell head over heels for this boy, and with that, my self-worth would start to grow attached to the opinions and thoughts of this guy. Everything he wanted I did. Everything he disapproved of, I stopped. I wasn’t Nicole anymore. Instead of being an original, like I had been my entire life, I was a carbon copy of the person he wanted and created. As time went by, he got tired of me. A crushed little girl, I tried to move on pretending he didn’t destroy a little piece of me.

This same guy will be seen in and out of my life for the next four years. I was his fall back girl and I had a low enough self-esteem to be exactly that. Even if for the moment I wanted to be wanted and I longed to feel beautiful… So I let him use me. Eventually, I would become the secret; a hidden aspect of his life. I would feel as though I were not good enough, not pretty enough, not perfect enough to be a part of his reality, so I did my best to fit into his fantasy. I gave what was most precious to me so easily to this guy only to be left alone. Again. And hurt. Again. And feeling worthless. Again. It’s easy to see that I let my insecurities in my worth take control of me, leading to the insecurities I would struggle with (and still struggle with) because of these experiences. It has taken time, and still more time is needed, for me to fully recover from such a long period of being used as I was. Through the fasting and praying of dear ones, and the time spent seeking God through it all, I have come to terms within myself and about myself. I have learned to be content with me. I know I have worth, I know I deserve more, I know I deserve to be treated better, and I am fighting with all the newly found strength I possess to keep what purity, integrity, and honor I have left, knowing that my God is gracious enough to restore all that I had given away.

Today, I’m still in love with learning, I enjoy making people laugh, and I struggle with who I am on occasion. I wear the scars of my insecurities as proof of healing. God did more than put a band-aid over my wounds. He completely healed them. He is the God of restoration, and He fixed what satan was bent on destroying: my self-worth and my relationships. These scars are my testimony, my evidence of a great God who has done wonders within me. I can now face this guy saying I know I am worth more, I know I deserve better. I can honestly forgive him, and I can know he forgives me. I can look in a mirror with confidence and say I am beautiful. If this journey has taught me anything it is that I am more than meets the eye. I am not defined by the mirror I stare in each morning. My confidence and security comes from a God who says the world’s standards of beauty are severely screwed up. I am declared beautiful and valuable by the creator of the universe. No other source can tell me any different for their opinions are negated and considered void by a greater truth. I am Nicole Lynn Finnell and I am secure in Christ.

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