I was scrolling through Instagram a few weeks ago when I saw that a friend of mine had just gotten engaged. I was so happy for her! This young man has been a huge blessing in her life, and now they’re going to get married. Yes, I was happy for her. But the truth is, a part of me felt a little more than a twinge of jealousy. She was now on her way to lifelong commitment, while I hadn’t dated anyone since my mutual breakup with the last guy I dated. That was over two years ago.
As I reflected on my response to my friend’s engagement, I realized that I see engagement as a status symbol. A prize. A “level-up.” In fact, I’ve established a mental hierarchy based on relationship status. In some part of my mind, I believe that, the deeper I go in a relationship, the more valuable I become. Like value is being incrementally poured into me when I find out someone likes me, wants to date me or be my boyfriend. Conversely, if I’m not dating anyone, it is because I am less valuable—less valuable than others who are dating people. Less valuable than I myself would be, if only I were in a relationship.
The lie that I’ve bought (and taught myself) is that I become more and more valuable based on how interested a guy is. If no one is interested in me, then I’m just on the sidelines. Worthless. Oh, sure, I can try to make up for the loss in other areas of my life. Succeed in school. Get a great job. Publish an article or two. But, at least in the area of relationships and physical attraction, I get a goose egg. (And, for the record, I do not like eggs.)
When I base my self-worth on how guys feel about me, what I’m actually doing is objectifying them. I’m not talking about pornography, here. I’m talking about using guys to make myself feel more valuable… deriving my worth from them and operating under the all-too-common (but crazy) belief that I increase and decrease in value based on how guys feel about me. When I use another person as a means to feeling more valuable, I am treating the other person as nothing more than an object—something I use to meet my own needs.
I have to admit, I did a ton of objectifying in my relationship with my first boyfriend. Let’s call him Lance. Lance was the first boy I dated and he was also the first guy to tell me he liked me. And when he did, I was ecstatic. Not only did someone actually like me, but I on my way to having my first real date! I was excited to date Lance, but the embarrassing truth is that I was also really excited to date anyone, at all.
I felt like I was finally on my way to being normal. (Take that, Goose Egg!) After sitting on the sidelines throughout most of my teenage years, I was so excited when Lance asked me out, during my sophomore year of college. After years of doubting myself, it turned out that I could be likable, after all. Someone was attracted to me!
Boom. Level up. For the first time, I was in the game and climbing the ladder of value. Lance and I had our first date on February 7th and date number two was Valentine’s Day—how romantic is that? By March 4th, we were boyfriend and girlfriend, or, as Lance called it, “going steady.” In May, he told me he loved me. Wow! Onto Level 4!
Lance and I continued to date throughout the next two years, riding a roller coaster of ups and downs in our relationship. As he stopped trying so hard to impress me, he also began to hint that I wasn’t attractive enough for him. He started dropping hints about my weight, hair color and clothing choices. It was weird because even though Lance had asked me out, he was now making it clear that I was not his ideal girl. And it hurt. A lot. So I tried to become what he wanted. Changed up my style. Exercised more than ever before. I looked fantastic, but I felt like I wasn’t measuring up.
Lance wasn’t measuring up to my expectations, either. And I had some pretty weird (and harmful) expectations. I had objectified him from the start of our relationship and I had it in my head that he was going to make me feel valuable. That meant he needed to prove his love for me by doing things like staying up late to talk, even if he was exhausted. Or let me win at board games. Or go along with my “joke” that I was always right.
As it turned out, Lance struggled with objectification in a different way.
I found out about Lance’s pornography addiction after almost two years of dating. We had been discussing the possibility of marriage for some time, but the Lord put it on my heart that, before I officially agreed, I needed to ask Lance whether he struggled with pornography. I asked as a formality—one last thing to check off the list before officially committing to the idea of marriage. I was confident that Lance would say no.
Instead, he confessed.
I was hurt. I was angry. And I was completely devastated.
Everything I had believed about our relationship was a lie, which meant that I wasn’t nearly as valuable as I had hoped. I wasn’t so special to Lance, after all. I was one of many women and—apparently, not pretty enough to stave off his desire for others.
Part of me knew that was a lie—Lance’s habit had nothing to do with me or my physical appearance– but I also kept feeding myself that lie, anyway. And with it, the conclusions followed. Even when you tried your very hardest, you weren’t enough. There’s no point in trying. You were right all along. Other girls are likable and attractive. But you are not enough. That’s why he wanted to change you.
Not only had I lost the value I thought I gained at the beginning of our relationship. I was worse off than before. At least, back then, I knew where I stood. Now, I had been deceived into believing that I was worth more.
But the truth is—I was. I was worth much more than I had hoped at the highest pinnacle of my relationship. My value was—is—so much more than what a guy thinks of me. It doesn’t fluctuate based on the whims or preferences of the guys in my life.
My value is a value I didn’t acquire for myself and can’t change, regardless of what others thought of me.
It’s the value God placed in me, simply by making me.
I belong to Jesus and He gazes at me with such strong, beautiful desire. He knows the very best of me so much more than I am able to acknowledge, and knows the worst things about me that I can’t bring myself to admit.
The truth is, Jesus considers me to be His valuable treasure, His beloved one worth fighting for and waiting for. I am His treasure.
The truth is, my value is not subjective. I do not become more valuable when someone likes me or approves of me. My value doesn’t magically float away when I disappoint someone, fail to meet their standards, or earn their approval.
Does that diminish my value? Nope.
What about my zits? NO.
What about the fact that NO ONE ever tags me on those fun little Instagram bingos? (Okay, I know this sounds ridiculous, but it gets to me.) But still, no, this does NOT change the value that God has already placed in me.
What about my very own sin? Maybe just a little?
No. Here’s the kicker. Romans 8 says that even our own sin cannot separate us from the love of God. (And that’s also where our value comes from.)
Isn’t that amazing? The love of God has nothing to do with what we’re doing right and everything to do with what Jesus Christ already did right. We can no more diminish our value than we can increase it.
I think, for me, the question isn’t whether my value is variable. The question is whether I am going to choose to continue believing the lies that I’ve taught myself.
One of these lies is that I am not worth taking care of. Basic tasks—showering, washing my face, brushing my teeth, often feel like hurdles to me. Wastes of time. Meaningless.
Part of that is because I chose not to prioritize these tasks, from a young age. Part of it has been because my efforts have felt meaningless. I tried, when I was dating Lance. I wasn’t good enough.
So, do I value myself enough to take care of myself? Whether I do or do not absolutely doesn’t change my real and inherent value, but it certainly can help to cloud my vision.
Do I consider myself important enough to take ten minutes away from my “busy” schedule (which involves a lot of wasted time, anyway) to wash my face a couple times a day? Brush and floss my teeth? Put on chapstick?
Clean my room?
I have neglected myself in so many ways. But, the Lord is teaching me to say no to the lie that I do not matter.
Yes, I do.
Yes, I am valuable.
Today, I prioritized brushing and flossing—twice. Oil pulling. Twice. Washing my face, twice. Getting in a full workout. Cleaning my room (including making my bed). Doing a load of laundry. Drying my hands after washing them. Putting on deodorant. Changing my clothes. Putting on chapstick. Rubbing on some lotion.
And the Lord is showing me how. He’s showing me to reward myself for doing these “small” things. Even if it seems silly. I’ve found that the rewards really help give me the incentive to keep doing the things I need to do to take care of myself. They help me to reframe my attitude so that, rather than being angry with myself when I “fail” to perform (because even here, expectation creeps in), I can applaud myself and celebrate when I do the things the Lord is calling me to.
Because, simple as these tasks are, I know the Lord is calling me to them. And as He leads me to obedience, I am learning to value myself, to believe the truth that He has made me valuable.
He has made you valuable. You are worth so much to Him, not because you reached your target weight. Not because you are in a relationship. Not because you are single, but because of who He is. As Creator and Savior, He has the credentials to determine just how much we mean to Him. We meant enough for Him to come down and beat death on our behalf.
Sounds pretty valuable to me.
Why not spend some time with the Lord and ask Him about your identity?