This is a two part post containing real-life accounts of women (who I’m so glad to call friends) and I, based on insecurities and struggles we have faced growing up and even today. It’s honest, heartfelt and resonates with so many of us young women. The bravery and sincerity of this really gives me the feels!
Su’s story: “I’m understanding more and more that I need to reach out to people for help and I might be surprised where my help may lay in. All these insecurities are still present in my life. Some are more dominant than others.”
Not feeling good enough – feeling unworthy/ Low self-esteem
I completed the Freedom in Christ curriculum at church which made me understand that I am never unworthy in Christ’s eyes; the Lord sacrificed His one and only son for me/us. We received cards showing passages in the Bible with statements such as “I am significant”, “I am secure” and “I am accepted”. John 15:16 shows how significant and worthy I am because I have been chosen to bear fruit in Christ. Also, understanding and realising that God created me for a purpose shows even more that I am worthy and I am also part of Christ’s body. If something is not working well in our body, we recognise it so how significant and worthy must I be to be part of Christ’s body?
Not feeling perfect
I have been battling this since my childhood with having this ideology that as a woman and as a wife, I need to be perfect. But Christ accepted me for who I am. I am perfect in His eyes and constantly reminding myself about it and Colossians 2:10 has helped me accept me for who I am and be content with who I am in Christ.
I couldn’t live on my own or be in a house on my own till about a year ago. I would run from one relationship to another and live in shared households no matter how awful it was only because I feared being alone anywhere. This started to diminish by accepting who I am in Christ and power I carry within myself because of Jesus. Understanding the power of prayer and that the Lord is my shepherd helped me through times where I would be alone in the house overnight. I would start off by listening to worship songs till I fell asleep and surround myself in the Lord’s presence as much I could to overcome that fear because it is only Him who can set me free. By making deliberate choices of not listening to secular music and TV programmes made me re-focus. It was hard but the end results were so worth it! I would watch horror movies under pressure and started to say “no” confidently. Slowly, my fear of being alone anywhere started to fade away as I allowed Christ to fill the void I had for years by remembering that Christ is with me everywhere.
I always feel like when people around me start to laugh, it is related to me or if someone has a stern facial expression, I feel like I have done something wrong even though I did not have any interactions with that person. This insecurity only recently started so I am struggling to know how to overcome it.
Not fitting in anywhere
I still feel this way but listening to sermons and studying the Bible more and more, I am understanding that God never chooses the “regular” person to convey his message and work in His ministry. Knowing this has given me more confidence and comfort knowing that I won’t fit in most situations i.e. society and even within my family. It gives me reassurance that God has a great mission planned for me and as long as I follow His voice and His commands, I will be able to create a space where I fit into God’s purpose and may even create a wider space for other people who felt the same way as I did to join me.
Kel’s Story: “Writing this made me feel relieved. I don’t see many people rating those who are slightly quiet, it’s always a negative…well, that’s what I’ve seen in my own experience”
I don’t really like labels but if you were to ask me to define my personality type, I wouldn’t be slow to identify myself as an introverted introvert (it’s that deep!) Fun fact: I’ve never truly enjoyed social gatherings – a part of me always feels either out of place, awkward or terrified. I used to force myself to tag along with my school and university pals on nights outs, birthday parties or even just to other people’s houses, knowing fully well that as I got ready to go, I’d be secretly trying to find an excuse to stay far far away. I’ve also had trouble “feeling heard” – I have a quiet voice and it frustrates me when whenever I say something that others either ignore me completely, disregard my comment or ask me to “speak up/say it a little louder”. It’s soul-crushing; it makes me feel invisible, that my opinions or my input isn’t valid or needed or interesting. To fix it, I used to decide to just say nothing at all…of course that doesn’t resolve anything at all.
I hate feeling so unable to talk or be myself in large crowds, I always imagine that nobody else has this much of an issue and I’m just some how a freak of nature. Yes, it’s a bit extreme, but when my social anxiety/awkwardness gets to me, it really gets to me. Over the years, I’ve desperately tried asking God to make me someone else – a life-of-the-party, warm, hospitable, chatty soul, who has no trouble hosting, meeting and speaking up in front of new people. Of course, God hasn’t done this. But he has reminded me (repeatedly) that he makes no mistakes, and I am wonderfully made; shyness and all.
God has helped/is helping me to recognise that being introverted isn’t a negative. One day I was so miserable about my personality, almost on the verge of tears when I flicked through my bible and found Isaiah 30:15 “in quietness and confidence shall be your strength!” I highlighted it there and then – when I feel low, I remember that verse and its helped me so much.
I feel that society shuns quietness and makes fun of those like me who linger in the background and who don’t find loud music + overcrowded parties + small talk thrilling – I must choose to see my introverted nature, my quietness as Isaiah 30:15 says as a strength and not a weakness, as a desirable and not a flaw. I get to see the world in a whole different way from an extrovert and I’m slowly learning to appreciate that, knowing that the world really does need variety and God can use someone like me even if I don’t like being centre of attention. If we were all the same, how boring and predictable would life be, right?
My Body Image: Ill proportions
My body proportions have always been “off” and I’ve been mindful of it ever since my school days. How can I have such a tiny chest and yet such a heavy bottom half? It’s like God cut my body features from different people and stuck them together in a haphazard way!
My curvy thighs and butt don’t match my slender waist, my ankles and wrists are too delicate for my size 7 feet and man-sized hands and my forehead… just takes over my face. (Okay, so I can laugh at all of this now.)
I’ve tried to eat “healthy” and workout to lose the chunk in my trunk but I’ve now come to realise that I can’t totally change the way my body decides where to shove the fat – I guess its just hereditary, its just the way I’ve been wired. And once again, God loves what he has made, and so should I.
I’ve never been in a relationship. Like ever. Not even one of those cute ones at playschool or something. In this day and age, I think most 24-year olds have had some experience of love and bliss…but then again many have also experienced the pains of breakup, feeling unworthy or cheated, of which I cannot relate and have been perhaps blessed to avoid.
Looks wise, I don’t think I have much going on, and I was sure during my younger days that guys didn’t like me or want me because of it. Sometimes, I felt like the ugly friend (or twin) at school when I was with my girls, and other times when I hoped for some guy attention I told myself it would just be “drama, drama, drama” and I’d do or something unattractive to put anyone off even approaching me!
At university, I started to care more about my appearance and delved into using makeup and buying clothes – which did increasingly attract attention from guys. I pretended I was like everyone else, I pretended to know how to deal with guys trying to chat me up or hook up with me, but of course I didn’t. One incident saw me almost doing something that the world around me would say was normal, but I knew in my heart wasn’t – I thankfully didn’t compromise who I was, and God’s grace helped me to escape. That incident helped me to wise up – my faith, self-worth and self-respect is too important to give away so easily, especially to someone I barely know.
As I’ve stepped into my 20’s and seen friends and associates find partners and plan long time commitment or get married, I’ve noticed how, though happy for them, easily aware and sometimes jealous I’ve become – wanting what they have without expecting to do the work that I can only imagine comes with being in a relationship such as compromise, disagreement, honesty and loyalty. I also now realise that being in a relationship just for the sake of it will never be good enough, and I need to remember that none of this is even man’s idea, it’s God’s, so He should know exactly what a real relationship looks like. I haven’t even asked God about starting a relationship and his plans for me in it, so why should I get angry that I’m still single?
I’m still learning how to enjoy my single life. It’s liberating; I can go on trips to see the world alone, I can spend time with God without martial responsibility and I can start taking mental notes on what I see in existing relationships so that when I finally find the right partner for me, I’ll already be prepared for some of the unexpected perks and pitfalls of relationship.
Bea’s Story: “This task is so emotional but so rewarding. [coming from a girl who never, ever likes to talk about herself]”
From my teen years, I followed the trend and started using make up. In the beginning I definitely had no idea what I was doing but as time went on, make-up became more of a comfort for me. I started to like the way my face looked more with make-up. From uni and onwards make-up became my necessity, I wouldn’t let housemates see me with a naked face and although sleepovers were fun, I would hate the idea of having to take my make-up off before bed so would just keep half of it on, never willing to be bare. I never really felt like my make-up struggles impacted me, or how it would ever impact my future. However, now I see how it affects the way I interact with people; having friends compliment my face or tell me I’m pretty or even beautiful really never meant anything to me, because they hadn’t seen me bare. And I didn’t feel it. How can you accept that someone finds you beautiful if you don’t find yourself beautiful? It makes it difficult. Recently in attempt to overcome this insecurity I’ve been looking at my face in the mirror after I’ve showered so I know there’s no make-up on my face. I know over the past decade I’ve gotten used to always seeing my face with make-up and despising the few seconds a day I’ve seen myself without. But looking longer at my make-up-less face in the mirror has made a change. I’ve been getting used to all my natural features and acknowledging and starting to like my natural beauty that is God-given and not man-made. I still have a journey ahead to go without make-up, though through this I’ve really been able to accept a little bit more the little compliments here and there that others have given me.
My hair has always been natural but has never quite had that much growth to it. I’ve been through periods of neglecting my hair, over-treating my hair and just cutting my hair off completely to try again. Over the past year I have learnt to accept my hair for what it is. Women always tend to compare the way their hair is to each-other, everyone searching to have a natural 80’s afro that’s thick and long, that’s easy to comb and doesn’t shed. But we’re all made so differently in our bodies how can we expect our hair to all grow in the same way? For the time-being my hair is not long, but it is healthy and that leaves me content. #IAmNotMyHair
In previous years I used to struggle with my chest size. The awareness began in secondary school where boys would call me flat chested and would derogatorily compare my chest size to fruits. But funnily enough even in my mid-20’s a woman has repeatedly used my chest-size as an insult and as a way to remind me that my body is imperfect. I’ve always stuck to push-up bra’s as I prefer my shape in clothing with them. Thankfully, regardless of the fact that my chest is small, I am comfortable with my body. So the way my chest size used to get to me in a very negative way when I was younger does not anymore, this is a journey I’ll still be continuing, but I feel like I’ve just learnt to accept my body the way it is.
I was born and raised in the UK, but my parents are both Ghanaian. My dad moved from Ghana in his 20’s but my mum was born in the UK and raised here (it was her parents that moved from Ghana). This meant that as a teen I felt at times that I had a bit of an identity war between Ghanaian culture and British. My British friends did not understand some of the things of my household structure that reflected Ghana and my friends that were more ‘African’ than me saw me as totally out of touch with African culture. I used to find it difficult to accept the way African people saw me (as in too British, well-spoken, unable to speak an African language) and even to today some people refer to me as ‘fake-Ghanaian’ amongst other things. But I’ve learnt to love the way I’ve been raised and lower the priority of having a Ghanaian identity into making sure my identity reflects Christ who doesn’t care how African I am, but cares about my heart and the characteristics the reflect Him that I share. Some of my Black British friends go on about the war of how African they are, but I always tell myself that as long as I am Godly first I can accept the world cultures that I may or may not be lacking in. This is where my identity in Christ has really helped me. Also, I recognised that I am not ashamed of my mother. Generally people ‘blame’ the way I am on my mum and to some extent so would I, but my mum has had to deal with a very similar conflict growing up in a predominantly white area and I and so grateful for the way she raised me. I will always love my Ghanaian heritage and will continue to try and learn more about it, but don’t see my lack of Ghanaian-ness as a reason to be ashamed of who I am.
I find it hard on my heart when I disappoint people. I dislike when people tell me my flaws and find it frustrating when I fall short of things. It seems obvious, no ones perfect…. but I’ve still lead my life trying to be. Even thinking about who I will be in the future, it’s hard to imagine your future self not being able to do everything, please everyone and having no flaws. But that is the truth, one person can’t do everything, one person should not please everyone and people will have flaws…. people aren’t God. This is something I’m still continuing to understand and accept. I also ask the question why do I seek perfection? And I think it’s because if I do everything correctly then I won’t disappoint and could be loved by everyone. So maybe it’s seeking other people’s love and approval that drives me to want perfection in myself. But I am so grateful that God loves me as I am, this seems cliché but it takes a massive weight off my shoulders knowing that His love is always there regardless.
Purity! My insecurities with purity are opposite to most. I’ve struggled with accepting myself as a virgin. It seems crazy right! As a Christian I’ve surrounded myself with many Christian friends and many people that have strived for purity. But knowing that the many… dare I say the majority of Christian people have had sex made me dislike the fact that I hadn’t. I felt like I was missing something. It felt massively like something to be embarrassed about, something uncool, something that even though was supposed to be good was still not the norm. And I realise that it’s so sad that I spent my life comparing my relationships to that of my friends and striving to be like people rather than be firm, confident and head-strong in chasing the will of God. Seek the will of God first and foremost, know that my affirmation in life is from Him and trust that I will build a life that’s part of God’s kingdoms even if that means I’m different from the world… that’s a good thing.
Fi’ Story: “I think how women perceive themselves and how the world perceives us plays a huge part of the cause of our insecurities. I know what the Bible says, I am God’s masterpiece, I am unique and the apple of His eye, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and He calls me beautiful. I’ve learned this from a young age, it’s one thing reciting it and another believing it, and I truly believe it!”
Recently, I received a pay rise at work. While grateful, I couldn’t help think “Why me Lord?” I just didn’t feel deserving of it, although it’s what I prayed for. I struggle to really believe and thank God for His provision, while doubting opportunities that present itself to me and just simply recognise that GOD IS GOOD! He loves me unconditionally and the very fact I’m His child, means I’m prone to reap the blessings, not by works, but just by faith and obedience.
Every now and again, I will give the announcements at youth church and all of a sudden, a big feeling of anxiety will kick in. I have, like most people a huge fear of public speaking. My voice will go all squeaky. my throat will get dry and then I just feel really useless. I’ve learned that God qualifies us for the job He’s given us and if it’s from God, it’ll cost us something. So move over Satan, and good riddance fear and anxiety!
I have great friends within church and outside of church. But most times I wonder, where do I fit in? I feel at times as if I’m the convenient friend or the “extra” friend, and sometimes I wonder if I’m good enough to befriend as a real, deep meaningful friend that is used for more than just social activities and gatherings. It leaves me wondering again and again, where do I stand? Is this a girl thing?! I’m pretty sure men don’t struggle with this! I’m working through it at the moment, but at times I don’t think it helps that I’m the ‘quiet one’ and I don’t feel like I always contribute to conversations.
This one relates to thinking about the future and the desire to settle down and looking good all the time. I always feel the need to put my “face” on, and I wouldn’t dare vlog or step out the house without two things: my hair and my eyebrows! More so my eyebrows! I recently went on a trip with my church and I promise you, I refused to leave my tent until I found my eyebrow pencil, and I didn’t! However, knowing I am God’s masterpiece, I am unique and the apple of His eye, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and He calls me beautiful. I’ve learned this from a young age, it’s one thing reciting it and another believing it, and I truly believe it!
Nat’s Story: Okay, so I wouldn’t say I’ve completely overcome these but I’m getting there by God’s grace!”
I continue to have ‘forever alone’ moments from time to time, but three things have helped me gain perspective on my single status:
1. Understand that it’s okay to desire relationship – God himself said that it is not right for man to be alone! Plus marriage is a biblical institution and a good gift from God. There is nothing wrong with admitting it is something we would like to have, and I think people often feel like saying that makes them sound ‘desperate’ or ‘thirsty’. It’s just not right to have that mentality.
2. The Christian life is amazing, single or married – when I think of all the things that I’ve been able to do for the Lord whilst single, I can really appreciate the blessing of singleness so much more. God has taken me on such a journey and I haven’t had to think about anyone else beforehand; I just get to do it!
3. God’s plan is the best plan – God’s timing in these things are key. When Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s timing and tried to work things out on their own, it was catastrophic. Even though it’s tough to wait, it’s worth the wait. It’s also comforting to know that it’s not about the way I look, or the job I have, or my social standing with others that will bring that person along. It’s God’s orchestrated plan that will bring things forward.