In 2005 many of us were singing the hook to rapper T Pain’s hit song, “I’m In Love With A Stripper.” Ha! Now, you’ve got that tune in your head. Although it’s a pretty catchy tune and some of us won’t admit to bobbing out heads to it because it glorifies strippers (exotic dancers), for me, the song signifies a celebration of freedom and confidence. I’m celebrating the fact that I can look at myself naked. Yup! That’s what she said, naked!
A few years ago, I was walking past a storefront window and I caught a glimpse of my reflection. I stopped and turned toward the glass and stared at myself for a few moments. I’d just left the salon so naturally, I was feelin myself. I stood there swinging my hair and smiling. Afterward, I skipped to my car. I know it sounds silly and a little vein, but standing there with the wind blowing through my hair I felt an overwhelming peace sweep through my spirit. It had been years since I’d been able to look at myself in the mirror without finding a million flaws.
At the age of twelve, I learned to hate my body. I was thin with a hundred pounds of hair, rabbit teeth, and any other negative characteristic cruel children and adults could think of. I remember being compared to starving children in Africa, being told I was pretty but too skinny, and finally, two male classmates tried to pull me through an iron gate to see if I’d fit. After being stretched through a gate in the middle of winter on a frigid Michigan playground, I became convinced the little girl I saw each day in the mirror wasn’t enough.
Most of my life I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t stand to look at myself naked. I would run to the shower like a scared little waif afraid to catch a glimpse of my bare body. I always saw flaws; my legs were too skinny, my hips weren’t wide enough, my breast was too small, my lips were shaped funny, and my hair was too much. The imperfections I obsessed over stuck to the lobes of my brain like mortar. I saw myself as ugly and I never felt like I was enough. So, I wore makeup, beautiful clothes, pounds of extensions, booty pads, push-up bras and other artificial enhancements I thought would make me more physically attractive. I looked good, but I was extremely insecure. What I didn’t know was people admired the confidence they thought I possessed.
I was oblivious the fake role I was playing each day was inspiring other people. One day before I wrote, “Change the Way You See Yourself”, my cousin Karin and I were having a conversation about fear and insecurity. I hadn’t quite revealed my insecurities to the world yet and Karin was the first person I confessed the paralyzing anxiety I felt about virtually every area of my life. Astonished, she grabbed her chest, she couldn’t believe how low my self-esteem was. I’ll never forget, she said: “Kiffany are you serious when I was a little girl I wanted to be you when I grew up.” There I was walking around feeling like the Bride of Frankenstein and someone was wishing they had my life. I learned a valuable lesson that day. I learned the power of both negative and positive thoughts and words.
My conversation with Karin made me reexamine the way I saw myself. I felt like I’d been stripped bare, I was learning to love myself all over again. I asked God to reveal who I was at my core, who he created me to be. I literally stripped naked stared in the mirror and told God I needed to love everything about myself. Then it happened, I discovered Psalm 139 and realized I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I was the bomb, I had it going on, I’m a dime; you get the point. Once I stopped defining myself by my physical image and realized I am beautiful from my soul straight through my skin my life changed. The truth is beauty can be skin deep; not all beautiful people are extraordinary, but all extraordinary people are beautiful. After reading Psalm 139 I experienced an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I was purposely knitted together and created by God. There is beauty in gratitude. When you see yourself through the lens of gratitude, kindness, love and being an overall good human being you can begin to change the way you see yourself.
4 ways to change the way you see yourself:
Change your language: Proverbs 15:4 The wholesome tongue is the tree of life. The perverse tongue crushes the spirit. When you speak or think negatively about yourself you crush your spirit. When your spirit is breached or crushed you begin to lose confidence and feel worthless. Start speaking to yourself as though you are worthy and capable of soaring higher. Begin each day by telling yourself how wonderful you are. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations.
Don’t allow other people to determine your worth: At some point in your life you may have been dropped by someone and left broken and lame, but your story should never end there. Although you may not be able to get over what happened to you, you can learn to get through it. Stop using your circumstance as a crutch. At some point, your narrative should change from what “they did to me” to “what am I doing to myself?” We have all experienced things in our lives that have crushed us and changed the way we see ourselves, but at some point in our lives, we become responsible for how we allow setbacks, tragedy, abuse, and/or failure dictate how we live our lives. Think about this; the person who hurt you has moved on and don’t even care that you’re hurting. That person is living off the power they took from you. Take your power back, start living your life without fear.
Understand the power of gratitude: You are made in God’s own image. Because you are made in his image you are fearfully and wonderfully made. When you understand the intricate intentionality in which you were created, you begin to understand the power of gratitude. When I began to understand Psalm 139, I became overwhelmingly grateful for a God who took the time to knit me together and breath life into my body just so I could accomplish extraordinary things. Gratitude fosters an awareness of being and an appreciation of who you were created to be.
Strip Yourself Bare: You are more than what you see in the mirror. Beauty is so much deeper than what you look like on the outside. Every single person in the world has their perception of what beauty is. Set aside thirty minutes a day for five days and ask yourself: who am I? What do I like? What do I dislike? If I could do anything in the world what would it be? As you explore those questions list opportunities for you to begin to walk in your purpose and live your authentic truth. Take this time to strip those layers of uncertainty, fear, and insecurity away and rediscover the extraordinary person you were created to be.