Everything you’re about to read makes me uncomfortable to think- let alone write in the form of a blog that I’ll soon publish and allow the whole world to see.
First off, disclaimer. This blog isn’t to throw myself a pity party or to make every reader feel sorry for me. It’s to prove a point. It’s to tear down the walls I’ve built up and be vulnerable in ways that the Lord is calling me to be. It’s to walk in freedom from insecurities and fully in the love of the Father. Also, I included pictures so that you can follow along more accurately.
So here goes.
What is beauty? What makes a woman beautiful or a man attractive? My whole life I’ve struggled with these questions.
When I was younger, I was fine. Heck- I fought with my sister daily about what color gaucho pants or which of our Speedo brand one-piece bathing suits I could wear that day. Clearly, I cared a lot about my image. But why should I have? I was a gymnast, so I had a great body and six pack abs. I didn’t even know what comparison was, to be honest. I was raised fangirling over Giada DeLaurentis on the Food Network instead of Zac Effron or the Disney Channel, and my attempt at gourmet food was crunchy peanut butter instead of smooth on my daily pb&j. I had nothing to compare myself with.
In middle school I began to struggle with my self image. Sure I still had the great abs and no real reason to be insecure, but I was. Slowly, I never felt good enough, or pretty enough, and I surely didn’t see myself as beautiful.
These thoughts only got worse in high school. I’d somehow managed to convince myself that I was the ugliest person in every room. I began hiding my insecurities with my actions. I had some sick mindset that if I could prove to everyone that I was perfect, they’d see me as beautiful, and in turn, I’d believe it myself.
That’s how it works- right?
So I was a cheerleader. I wore a short skirt and makeup and hair bows and danced in front of a crowd. I studied fashion and hid beneath the latest styles and clothing. I even modeled clothing in fashion shows. I did pageants, dressed up in gorgeous designer dresses and heels.
And it worked. All of it. People told me I was beautiful, and I believed every ounce of it. I believed as long as I wore the makeup, I was beautiful. As long as I did the things that were pleasing, I was good enough. But if that in one instance I slipped up, instantly everyone would leave. They wouldn’t want me anymore.
So I kept it going. I kept up the facade of fake self confidence that internally was tearing me to shreds. The more I tried to hide my insecurities, the more insecure I felt.
The worst part of it all was the confusion I had- that somehow beauty and self worth were so deeply intertwined. That because I didn’t get hundreds of likes on Instagram, I was this horrible person. (???@!?!@???!?!?)
It wasn’t until extremely recently that I heard the Lord convicting me of these things. In July, I spent seven days in the mountains of Rio Blanco, Nicaragua on a missions trip. It still kills me every time I think back to that trip and the nearly uncountable ways the Father changed my heart in a week that I wouldn’t have even been a part of if not for his perfect timing. It wasn’t until after a long day of ministry that I sat on my bed in our hotel, covered in mud and sweat and filled to the brim with joy that it actually clicked in my head for the first time in my life.
Somehow in those brief moments, scrolling through pictures from the day, the Lord gave me His eyes of grace and love to see myself the way He sees me.
I was wearing no makeup and an old t-shirt. What?!
Then it hit me. Finally, my HEART felt beautiful.
I was on a high. I got home, I felt great. I loved this new version on me- a truly confident version. I even cut all my hair off y’all. (Okay, not all, but seventeen inches was pretty close).
But the reality is, even chopping all my hair or tattooing reminders of God’s undying love for me on my body, the enemy is quick to bring up the insecurities that cause me to doubt myself and the Father’s affections for me.
This month in Cambodia was especially hard. I struggled every waking moment with thoughts of self doubt and comparison. I trapped myself in this confusion where I knew that the Father’s love for me is never ending, but I didn’t believe it. I was back at square one, frustrated with myself and with God. I found myself locked in the office at the Shelter, having been volun-told to speak in church later that day, when the Lord revealed to me what I was going to talk about.
After 18 years of life trying to hide it, I was going to be vulnerable.
He told me that I needed to tell my own story. Stand up in front of the whopping 30 members of the Cambodian church and be open, raw and, most painful of all, weak.
So I did.
After church, and eighteen-year-old girl named Sopoan came up to me. Sopoan and I had been working on her own insecurities prior to this. I’d tell her she was beautiful, and no longer was she allowed to tell me “No, I’m not”. She said to me, “Hayden, the entire time you’ve been here I’ve seen you as this pretty girl. And you know, I thought that all pretty girls just knew that they were pretty”.
Oh sweet girl. The sad thing is that we are all those pretty girls, (and you boys too!!) but how many of us know that truthfully in our hearts? How many of us can say that we know without a shadow of a doubt that we were created in the very image of God, in the perfect will of the creator of the universe, and comprehend that to look at ourselves with anything besides His eyes of grace, thereby insulting the creation, is to insult the creator Himself by default? How many of us can look in the mirror and realize that since we are the full and direct center of God’s attention 24 hours per day 7 days per week, that we can stop trying to be the full and direct center of everyone else’s attention?
Today I was finally able to sit down with a squad leader and talk to Jesus one on one. I was able to repent the fact that I was willingly gripping to the lies of the enemy instead of running to Him. I was able to confess that I was frustrated in the hate and insecurities that I had for myself, instead of being thankful that because of them I had the ability to call on the Lord for His strength and His truth. Today I could tell Jesus the things He already knows but wanted to hear from my own voice- that I am just as terrified of being loved Him as I am of being loved by anyone else, because if I tripped up, maybe I’d lose that love.
And I let it all go. All of it. (featuring tears. lots of tears.)
Today the Father told me He was proud of me. That I am worthy of His love. That there is no reason for me to fear His perfect love for me, because it NEVER runs out. (go ahead, give me an award for most cliche sentence of all time, but I truly can’t stress it enough.)
So there you have it. My biggest fears, secrets and insecurities in one beautiful blog post.
That was an uncomfortable step into freedom.
I’d love to hear from y’all or talk to anybody about finding their freedom from insecurities and walking with the Father in joy and love! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment below or email me (contact section)!
Much love from Bangkok,
Taken from my original blog haydenschwarting.theworldrace.org