Saturday, November 5, 2011

On The Myopia Of Low Self Esteem – Coming To Accept Ourselves As God Has Made Us

Most of us have certain things about our physical appearance that we hate, and can even obsess about. When I was in high school I was extremely skinny (130 lbs at 6 feet tall). My knees and elbows protruded, and I was embarrassed to be seen in shorts, or even short sleeved shirts. Generally I stayed covered up even when I ran or played sports. I used to wear tall socks to hide my boney legs and protruding knees.

Today I have the opposite problem, and it is my belly that protrudes, and I’m always looking for over sized shirts to hide the excess. The cassock also helps to hide a lot.

Another obsession, that I have largely been freed from, is the gap between my two front teeth. I used to be so embarrassed by it that I would tie them together with floss and try to get them to move together. But once I removed the floss they’d always move apart again.

I got both of these things from my father. He was stocky also had a gap between his teeth. He too was always trying to get the gap to go away and always trying to lose weight. But the fact is, he looked just like his father, as I look like just like my father; almost an exact replica. I can even wear the last set of eyeglasses my father wore before he died.

Pardon my personal reminiscences but it’s just a way of saying we all have things about our appearances that we wish we’re different.

I know that women generally have a lot more crosses in this area since there are so many expectations about what a woman should look like. The video at the bottom of the page says a lot about that. I have often been surprised how unhappy about their appearance some women I know are. These are women who I consider quite attractive.

But even as I puzzle over them feeling that way, I remember me and my obsession about the gap in my teeth. I remember a girl once told me she thought it was cute. And though I heard the words she said, they had no impact on me. I was just absolutely sure I looked goofy, and that everyone laughed at me behind my back. One friend told me he’d never really noticed the gap before, until I mentioned it. But still it remained my obsession for many years. It seemed no amount of contrary data would sway me from my conviction that the gap between my two front teeth, not even that big, really, made be look like a total goof.

Somewhere we lose touch with the fact that God knows us, loves us and has made us a certain way. Apparently God likes tall people, because he made a lot of them. He also likes short people, thin and fat people, Black, white brown, and everything in between, he’s made a lot of them all.

People talk today about self-esteem and the phrase, while not wrong, misses a step. For as the old saying reminds, “No one can give what he does not have. Hence self esteem requires that we have first experience esteem from others, and most ideally from God. Until and unless we have learned to experience God’s appreciation for us, and appreciation from others, it is pretty hard to to esteem ourselves properly. Either we go to the one extreme of obsessing on certain aspects, or we go to the other extreme of puffing our self up with phony pride and silly ostentation.

In a sense low self esteem about our physical appearance is usually a form of myopia, i.e. being “near” or “shortsighted.” For in it, we obsess on a few details but miss the whole picture. A false cure for low self esteem tries over look our flaws or insist they are not there. But the fact is, we all do have flaws, both physical, moral, spiritual and intellectual. But the key is to see something bigger.

Consider the painting at the upper right. It hangs in my rectory, and is of the Blessed Mother. Looking at the painting, many have said, she is beautiful. And so she is. But on closer inspection many of the details are amiss. The hands are out of proportion, almost grotesquely large. The eyes are “bugged out” and the ear is misplaced and underdeveloped by the painter. Yet, these details cannot spoil the fact that this is a beautiful painting of a beautiful woman, Mary, the Mother of God. When I point to the “flaws” most people tell me they didn’t notice.

Exactly! It is the near sightedness, the myopia of low self esteem to magnify the flaws we all have and miss the big picture which is most often quite acceptable, even beautiful. Truth be told, we’re all a mixed bag and there are flaws in us all.

Of course Satan would prefer us to sweat the small stuff of our physical appearance, and our flesh, cooperates quite nicely. And Satan gets double payment. For, in focusing on our physical, in a myopic way, we are not thinking as much of spiritual matters. And secondly, because we feel so lousy when comparing ourselves to the perfect standards of the usually computer enhanced, if not surgically altered, models and actors, we don’t feel as capable of any physical value, worth or excellence, let alone spiritual excellence.

Somewhere God is saying, I like you the way I made you. Become the man or woman I made you to be. Watch your health but don’t obsess with physical perfection. I didn’t make any two of you exactly alike and there’s a reason for that.

And to me I can hear God saying, You’ve become rotund alright, but it’s a sign that you have become more spiritually “well rounded.” Besides it keeps you humble, and pride is your worst enemy. And as for that gap in your teeth? I put it there. It is a sign of intelligence. You’re smart like your father was.

So, be of good cheer and don’t sweat the small stuff. Look to the bigger picture, count your gifts and blessings.

Here is a remarkable video of a young lady singing both parts of the same song in split screen. The words are a poignant expression of the pressure many women face to look beautiful and perfect. Consider some of the words:

I wish I could tie you up in my shoes, Make you feel unpretty too. I was told I was beautiful, but what does that mean to you…. My outsides are cool, my insides are blue. Every time I think I’m through, it’s because of you…

You can buy your hair if it won’t grow, You can fix your nose if he says so. You can buy all the make-up that mac can make, but if you can’t look inside you, find out who am I to be, in a position to make me feel so damn unpretty…

At the end of the day, I have myself to blame, Keep on trippin….

I feel pretty….but unpretty

Source: Archdiocese Of Washington

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