Who do you see when you look in the mirror?
Do you see yourself as you really are? Or do you see a version of you that's a collection of other people's opinions and comments?
I remember hearing a message on Joel Osteen about the labels that others put on you and how you should discard them because the only labels you should care about are those God has put on you, like "saved", "favored" and "blessed." I've read plenty of self-help books, watched inspirational movies and TV shows and listened to speakers that all say the same thing... don't let others get you down, focus on the person God made you to be. And up until recently... I thought I did a pretty good job about all that.
But you know what's funny? Apparently, the way you see yourself changes when you're not even paying attention.
I think I was pretty average in high school and college... comfortably riding right down the middle, not too popular, not an outcast. I had plenty of friends and felt pretty good about myself for the most part. My adult life has presented me with a few major mountains to overcome including an abusive relationship, the death of both my father and my mother (who was also my best friend) and health issues of my own. But again, other than the unfortunately "normal" criticisms that we women make about our own physical appearances, I thought I had a pretty decent view of myself.
Then this year happened. Not the calendar year 2014, but the 365-ish days since my mother passed away last September until now. I have never felt more committed to my values and beliefs. I have never felt more loved and moved by God. I have never felt more clear on what is truly important in life and what is not. But as more and more people have actually SEEN this in me and brought it to my attention, I realized that is unfortunately still not what I "see."
Over the years, there have been people in my life that have put negative labels on me. Whether they were accurate at the time or just a reflection of that person's own issues, they rained down over me for a few days here, a few months there... some even lasting for years. Though I didn't take them to heart consciously on a daily basis, they apparently stuck in my subconscious like glue. (Take away: words have power so be careful what you say).
Now, fast forward to the past 6-9 months...
*My roommate (who has only known me since the beginning of this year) has told me on several occasions what a giving/sweet heart I have and how I inspire her to be more passionate about her faith.
*A friend of mine from college (a.k.a. my partying partner) commented recently that she loved how we could talk about God and our faith after I ('cept it was really God) reminded her (through me) that what can sometimes appear as others having undeserved success or happiness is only material and not really what matters in life.
*A friend of mine and her husband told me one night via text after a visit, that they were talking about what a wonderful woman God has shaped me into.
*Someone I met online (that I still haven't even met in person) has told me numerous times how I inspire them in my faith and in the way I live my life.
*A friend I've had for 7 years commented to me the other day that my outlook inspires her after I took a hard hit in my daily life but told her I knew God was going to use it for something great.
*A woman in my life group told me that I inspire her with my constant attitude of gratitude for God throughout the day (even thanking Him for good parking spots!).
Now, before you think, I'm going on and on about how great I am, I'M NOT. I'm going on about how great GOD IS and how great the works are that He's done (and is still doing) in me. I know that it is Him speaking these truths into my friends' lives through me and that it is Him that has continued to mold me over the past 12 months... constantly "pruning" me of things that aren't important, as I continue to rely more and more solely on Him.
What's amazing is that I didn't realize I still held on to that old version of me in the mirror. The one that was forced on me by other people. The one where I was a hot mess, with this problem and that issue, where everything I did, said or thought was wrong. The one where I just couldn't seem to win.
Except that was never really me to begin with.
Sometimes it takes new people in your life, or just old friends to say new things, for you to open your eyes and see the REAL you.
So get yourself a bottle of Windex, blast away all those old labels and tell those old voices to take a hike. Because it's time to get a clean, clear look at the amazing, beautiful, perfect-as-you-are... YOU.