BY ALEXIS EILS
Walk into almost any women’s public restroom and you’ll witness a very similar chain of events. Women will wait patiently in line for the next available stall and, after emerging, head over to the sinks to wash and dry their hands. Instead of then walking out the door, however, they unfailingly make a beeline to the mirror. Almost subconsciously, women shoot fleeting looks at each other, assessing and comparing each other’s hair, makeup, and dress in just a few seconds. We look to find out what we like and don’t like, what we seek to emulate and what we’d rather disregard, in both appearance and composure. And it’s not particular to women. Though I’ve never been inside a men’s public restroom (and frankly, I don’t think I want to), I imagine similar comparisons take place. It may not be overt, it may not even be conscious, but I think we all check each other out in one way or another.
We are a culture of comparison. We define ourselves in terms of other people, whether we’re following the crowd or making our own path. You’re trendy because you dress like them, you’re beautiful because you look like her, or you’re unique because you don’t talk like them, you’re cool because you don’t act like him. And inevitably, we end up feeling bad about ourselves because we can’t live up to the standard we have in our heads of our “ideal selves.”
Some people are less concerned with who wins and who loses, but the fact remains that all of us are affected by confidence issues, and there are times when even the best of us just want to be accepted. But this issue of comparison touches on a bigger concept than just poor self-image and shallow confidence. Our innate tendency to judge ourselves based on the template of others stems from, in my opinion, a lack of complete trust in God. We look to others’ opinions for acceptance, for encouragement, yet even if we do receive that reinforcement, we’re still left wanting more. There’s always someone else to impress, always someone else we want to be like. We place so much importance on how we perceive ourselves in relation to others that we lose sight of the ultimate importance of how we perceive ourselves in relation to God. We are made in His image, freed from our sins because He allowed His one and only Son to die on the cross for us, and still we criticize ourselves for not living up to our individual earthly ideals.
What does it matter? Why do we place so much emphasis on what others think of us? What really matters is God’s incredible love for us. That is what makes us beautiful. He loves us as a father loves a child: He made us, and despite our imperfections, He wants what’s best for us. Now, we have a long way to go if we are going to fulfill His expectations of us. We are not perfect because God loves us. It is because of our failures that Jesus laid down His life to forgive our sins. God cares about us so much that He was able to make this sacrifice for our sake. He loves me despite the fact that I often place more importance on what others think of me than on what He thinks of me. He loves me despite the fact that I feel I don’t deserve love, least of all His. I know “that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:15). He will provide what I need from Him, whether I know what that is or not. And no one else can do that for me.
It’s not an easy life we live as Christians. God never said it would be. He expects a lot of us. And we should expect a lot of ourselves. But we also need to know that He is with us always, whether or not we’re feeling beautiful, whether or not we think ourselves worthy of His love or anyone else’s. We can have confidence in Him. And that kind of confidence is better than anything that can come from a good hair day.