“Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Such famous words. There have been many stories and movies dedicated to trying to understand the Evil Queen and giving her a reason for her obsession with beauty. But, at the end of the day, the Evil Queen cared about what the mirror told her and so, ultimately, she died.
Recently, I found myself looking in the mirror often and couldn’t help but wonder if I was the fairest of them all or not. Growing up, Snow White used to be my favorite princess, and I always wanted to be just like her, the most beautiful of all. As I’ve grown older and thought more deeply about what beauty means, I’ve heard a lot about loving myself and how I look on the outside.
Self-love and self-esteem are often prominent topics especially during this age of social media where so many students struggle with these ideas. As Christians, should we love ourselves? Should we be looking in the mirror? Should we care about beauty?
What do we value?
Looking-Glass Self and Social Mirror Theory, two prominent theories in psychology, describe how we define ourselves based on societally-imparted modifiers that we assign to ourselves. In other words, the way others define us is the way we define ourselves too.
We really care about the opinions of those around us, for better or for worse. So, often we look in the mirror in hopes of finding someone that others like.
We also care about the idea of “beauty”. Although there is no straightforward definition of this elusive term, since society’s definition of it is always shifting, we value it and allow it to have a tremendous impact on our identity. If the mirror calls us “fair”, we believe we are important and worthy people. If not, well, I don’t think we’d be far less bitter than the Evil Queen.
Beauty standards and others’ opinions combine in the form of social media. When others around us seem to have “happier” lives based on their posts and stories, we think our lives are poor. The mirror of Instagram determines the kind of lifestyle we want to lead that could result in the kind of stories and posts we want to share.
How can we love ourselves?
I bet you found yourself somewhere in those values. I know I did. We have to wonder though if that is right; if we should value others, beauty, and social media.
How you feel when you look at your life will be determined by whether you see it as a true reflection of your values. – John Piper
If we look in the mirror for someone who could be called beautiful and don’t see that person, we start to hate ourselves. If we look in the mirror for someone worthy of being liked by others and don’t see that person, we start to hate ourselves.
How can we love ourselves when the one in the mirror is so imperfect; not “beautiful”, not well-liked, not successful? How can we love ourselves when we see what everyone else has and what we do not? How can we love ourselves with unfulfilled dreams and goals?
The self-love movement doesn’t ask us to change our values. Rather, it says we should just “love ourselves”. It says that we need to change the way we feel about ourselves by calling ourselves beautiful regardless of what the mirror says, by feeling successful regardless of what others call us. However, the mirror continues to condemn us, so how can we love ourselves?
What if, instead, we confronted our values to evaluate if we have the right viewpoint, to begin with? The wrong mirror, the wrong view, and we direct ourselves on the wrong path. If we value beauty, we can hate ourselves and hate those who are considered beautiful. If we value social media, we can hate our lives and envy those with better lives than us. So, we cannot truly stop hating ourselves until we change our values and what we look for in the mirror.
What should we value?
Instead of focusing on ourselves, what if we started focusing on God? We cannot love ourselves because the mirror condemns us. However, we can start to love God who is perfect and beautiful and powerful and who loves us so greatly, no matter what. Instead of focusing on trying to love ourselves, we can love the One who truly loves us!
When we love God and use His Word as our mirror, we can see His image more clearly. We can find valuable areas to change. We were made in the image of God. We live in the fallen image of God. We will be glorified in the perfect image of God. To go towards that image, we need a mirror that shows us where we truly are and where we truly need to go.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:26-28
Is Instagram our mirror? Are others’ posts directing our lives? Are filters showing us what we look like? Or, is the Bible the one thing that directs our lives and diagnoses our hearts to take us to God?
There is a God who does not only see our whole image, but also our whole selves, deeply. He loves despite our broken images because we are made in His. He has a purpose for our lives. He redeems our shame and failures to remake us into beautiful versions of who we are meant to be. So, instead of hating ourselves or attempting to love ourselves, we can love Him and find ourselves loved.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. – 1 John 4:16
At the end of the day, the people around us do play a large part in how we view ourselves. But, I think there is a beauty in that as well. Others can see our blind spots. Sometimes, this can result in criticism and hate; but, as we all grow, it can result in growth for us and for them. Our identities are already secure in Christ and His Word, but our growth can be fostered by others speaking God’s words to us as well.
The mirror will no longer condemn us as it did for the Evil Queen but instead, we can find ourselves loved without having to ask the mirror if we are “the fairest in the land”.
So, instead of relying on our broken values to be reflected in the mirror, we can rely on God and the people He places in our lives to love Him and love others as we can be people who are already loved as God’s beloved.