The culture of the twenty-first century has set a multitude of standards men and women are pressured to abide by. It seems as though everywhere you turn, you are faced with the world’s definitions of what is ideal. If you don’t conform to these standards, your life isn’t as perfect as it should be:
“You aren’t pretty enough if you’re bigger than a size 2.”
“You aren’t smart enough if you’re IQ is lower than 120.”
“You aren’t successful enough if you don’t make a six-figure income.”
“You aren’t important enough if your face isn’t plastered to People magazine.”
“You aren’t strong enough if you have struggles in your life.”
“You simply aren’t good enough if your life isn’t like the one the culture dictates as the ideal.”
The pressures placed on men and women, particularly those who are young, can have a devastating affect as people lose sight of everything else in their desire to get ahead in life. Women starve themselves; men neglect their families in focusing on their own aspirations; teenagers live in artificial worlds of social media, completely absorbed in the lives of celebrities.
In reaction to these cultural norms, there has been a movement to restore self-esteem and confidence to those who struggle with feelings of inadequacy. Recent trends in social media show that there are many who want to overcome these cultural standards. Instead of telling people how they should be, they emphasize the importance of “loving yourself:”
“You don’t have to be super skinny, and you don’t have to cover your imperfections. You are beautiful the way you are, and you need to shut your ears to the call to conform to everyone’s standards. Instead, focus on how amazing you already are. What the world tells you to do doesn’t matter. You alone are responsible for making your lifestyle choices. You are enough, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”
Social media is flooded with inspirational quotes, empowering people to work on being comfortable with themselves and putting their emotional and physical needs first.
At first glance, this movement seems great. After all, who doesn’t want to learn to be happy with himself and the world around him? However, this attitude of “empowerment” is even more dangerous than the one it supposedly reacts against. In an attempt to help men and women overcome their struggles to be content, everyone has fallen into the same trap they were trying to free themselves from. This attitude is not one that fosters true happiness and contentment, but instead, one that encourages, at its root, the same issue we have faced all along.
The real issue we are dealing with as a culture doesn’t start with how skinny you are or how perfect your skin is. Instead, at its heart, it is an obsession with oneself. All the focus is turned on the individual. On one side, there is the pressure to look or be a certain way because that will make you happy. On the other side, we are told to forget all of that and focus on loving who we are apart from today’s standards.
It all boils down to the same thing: me, me, me.
That is all our society focuses on. Each person asking himself or herself: “What makes me happy? What makes me fulfilled? What makes me feel loved?
Far be it from me to suggest that we follow the dictates of the celebrity culture, but it does have a point:
You aren’t pretty enough. You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t strong enough, successful enough, or important enough. Plain and simple, you aren’t good enough. No matter how many pep talks or empowering speeches you hear, you shouldn’t buy into the lies you’re constantly being fed because it will only add to your misery. It may sound appealing and inviting to simply learn to be happy and comfortable with yourself, but it will only lead you down a path that is worse than the one it reacts against.
Thinking about yourself is what made you miserable in the first place. Do you really think it’s going to make you feel better to just focus on loving yourself? When did it become the ultimate success when you finally learn to accept and love yourself? What happened to, “Love your neighbor as yourself”?
God doesn’t tell you to love yourself because you already figured that out years ago, as an infant who was incapable of thinking past your immediate needs. You’re an adult now, and it’s time you stopped trying to please the culture or please yourself, and start pleasing God instead. God knows that you struggle with anxiety and concerns for your life, and that is why He gives us great encouragement in His Word: “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:31-33). That is the secret to happiness and contentment. Forget yourself and your problems and put God first in your life.
You may not be as naturally pretty as you would wish, but when you are clothed in the righteous robes of Jesus Christ, you are “altogether beautiful…And there is no flaw in you” (SS 4:7).
You aren’t smart enough on your own, but in Christ are “hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3).
You aren’t successful enough, but when you have “fought the good fight…in the future there is laid up for [you] a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge will award [you] on that day” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
You aren’t strong enough, but in your weakness, Jesus tells you, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
You aren’t important enough, but when you fear the Lord, your worth is “far above rubies” (Prov. 31:10).
You aren’t good enough, but thanks be to God that Jesus Christ is good enough, for “having been made perfect, He became to all those that obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9).