She is Choosing Real – Ruth’s Story
I remember a time when I didn’t choose real. Like countless girls my age, I desperately wanted to fit in. But I couldn’t. I was trying to be what I thought others wanted, but I was always left feeling confused and empty. In my mind I was not enough and never would be.
I didn’t look like I was “supposed” to (or what I was brain washed into believing was real beauty). I was too tall, too skinny and at the same time not skinny enough, my hair wasn’t smooth and shiny, my face would go beetroot when I did any form of exercise, I was flat chested, my skin was fair with freckles everywhere.
I remember catching a glimpse of my profile one day in the angled fitting room mirrors while shopping and being shocked, thinking that is not how I “should” look. I then tried to avoid those mirrors, as I didn’t want to be reminded that I didn’t have the “perfect” nose/side view.
I found myself trapped in a cycle of comparison and disappointment that was crippling. I would think, if only I looked like her or had that, or didn’t have this, then my life would be great. I didn’t have the latest gadgets, know the latest songs, and wear brands and labels. I was smart, but not like my sister. I was trapped in the impossible strive for perfectionism.
I compared my personality with others, thinking my gentle nature was weak and boring. Wishing I wasn’t so thoughtful… I cared so deeply for others it hurt, I’d naturally think of how to encourage and uplift them, I’d feel their pain, and I’d go out of my way to be there… But at the time, I felt isolated and disappointed that no one could support me like I supported them. I was left empty.
Worst of all, I took on the damaging words and labels people spoke over me (intentional or not) and believed I wasn’t enough! I lived my life hoping something would change and then; then I’ll be happy with myself. I waited and waited. Not realizing that what I was waiting for was already within me. I just didn’t know it yet.
I had been so focused on comparing, on proving myself, on thinking I needed to fix something, that I was blinded to the worth and value I had always had. In focusing on what I thought was wrong with me I had failed to see all the great things about me!
Those who look to God are radiant.
Those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Psalm 34: 5, 10
As I read the word of God I realized that I had infinite worth and value because of who He had made me to be. I began repeating His truth over my life. I started listening to podcasts of sermons to keep my mind filled with God’s truth, to break the cycle of comparison and criticism that I had been trapped in. I am a visual thinker and so I started creating things that brought God’s truth to life for me – verse cards, wall prints, paintings and promise books. They are all tools and reminders that have helped reshape my thinking.
It’s been a journey and a process. None of the things that I used to wish away have changed but my perspective and understanding has. I am learning to embrace and celebrate my real identity, who God says I am. I now choose to see the beauty in who I am, not obsessing over who I wish I could be. Embracing all of who we are, our weakness, faults and imperfections, is empowering.
I am learning that I matter. You matter of course, but so do I. I need to treat myself the way I treat those I care for deeply. Forgive myself, not expect so much of myself, allow myself to rest in God, celebrate the small steps, feed my soul, and talk to myself the way I talk to those I love.
The more time I spent with younger girls and women as a part of my work in the community sector, the more I realised that there were so many women facing the same battles of value and identity that I had struggled with. In 2012 I developed Esteem Designz, a uniquely creative program and Bible Study building self-esteem, identity and confidence in girls, used in schools, churches and community and welfare organisations across Australia.
In 2014 I had a conversation with a Year 6 girl named Erin who shared that the popular girls told her she had to change her hair, her clothes and her personality if she wanted to fit in.
Erin had no idea how valuable and unique she was and was willing to trade in her real identity for what she thought she had to be. She was about to become a clone to please others, throwing away all her own beautiful interests, values, desires, dreams and goals. I discovered that like Erin, 70% of young girls believe that they are not good enough or don’t measure up in some way.
This made me heartbroken and fired up at the same time. I knew that I had to do more. In 2015 I launched the ChooseREAL campaign on social media. It is an instant, real time, readily accessible digital platform that provides encouragement and support for young women. Through the sharing of stories, ‘selfies’, insights and encouragement young women are able to engage in a conversation about what ChooseREAL looks like for them. We have recently expanded into online resources, DIY events, and merchandise that all serve as a reminder of our intrinsic worth and value.
I am passionate about helping girls/women not feel the need to hustle for their approval and acceptance but to claim their intrinsic worth, and be unashamedly authentic and REAL, not molded by others’ expectations, but FREE… Free to be all that God has called and created them to be.
I’d love you to ChooseReal with me!