Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What is True Self-Esteem?

I have thought a great deal about this question over the past few months as we battle with people over Harper’s size. Harper was born full term (to a mother who abused her body with alcohol and sex) weighing 3 pounds 8 ounces. She lived with her biological family for 15 months in a garbage dump. They basically ate whatever they could find in the trash. She was then placed in the orphanage (at 15 months only weighing around 8 pounds) where she received food, but still it was limited. She lived there until we adopted her at 3 ½ years old. At her 4 year check-up the other day she now weighs 18 pounds 3 ounces. We were very aware of her extreme mal-nutritment when we decided to adopt her, and knew that she would be very tiny and probably would always be very small. We knew that we were the perfect family for her since I am a very small person too! Since we have been home we get constantly asked how much she weighs or how much weight she has gained. Yes, we want her to be healthy and get the proper nutrition. Yes, we want her to reach her full potential and be a happy child. But we are more concerned that she is getting good nutrition than she is gaining weight. If she gains weight in the process then praise the Lord, if she does not then praise the Lord anyway (because she is a little miracle that brings us joy everyday!). The idea of giving her growth hormones to make her grow has been brought to our attention, which we are against. Everyone seems so concerned that she reaches a “normal” size for her own self-esteem. Which is what caused me to consider what true self-esteem is?
Many of you that know me know that I am a very small person. Like Harper, people were always trying to MAKE me gain weight when I was a child. I remember being told to eat this or that to gain weight, or take this medicine or that to grow. Thankfully my parents never went along with the medication either!! I always felt as a child that there was something wrong with me because I was different than other kids my age (this is only an idea that I was taught). Why is it that people think that all people should be the same size, have the same abilities, and like to do the same things? I weighed less than 60 pounds when I started high school, 85 pounds when I started college and 90 pounds when I got married. I turn 30 years old this year and I have never broken 100 pounds!!! Most people think that is a blessing, and I think that now. But most of my life I considered it a curse, because I could never look like other people my age and was never able to wear the clothes most people my age wore. I have struggled my whole life with “self-esteem” because I never accepted myself the way that I was. I began to search for some confirmation that the way I looked was OK. I took modeling classes for a couple of years, participated in beauty pageants (won over 20 titles in 7 years), and tried to seek attention from boys. I searched and never found this so called self-esteem that I was supposed to have in my life!! All I really needed was for someone to tell me that I was made just right, because God created me perfect for His purposes. It was not until Jesus Christ became Lord of my life did I ever feel that I was created “just right”. Today I want to be more concerned that people see Christ in my everyday life than I am concerned about how they think I look. Now believe me I love clothes, shoes, accessories, etc.; but I want to live out 1 Peter 3:3-4 “Do not let your adornment be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” I have been blessed with a wonderful husband who tells me every day that he loves me and that he thinks I am beautiful (he does have bad eyesight!). I have also been blessed with 3 little ones that think Mommy can do anything!! Just the other day Harrison came in the bathroom where I was getting ready (wearing an old robe, towel on my head, and no make-up) and said, “Mommy, you look like a princess!” More joy came over me at that moment than any of those crownings at the beauty pageants. I think this applies to many issues in our lives, other than just size, where society makes us feel like we have to look a certain way to be accepted.
Yes, Jason and I want Harper (all 3 of our kids really) to be healthy, happy, and have confidence. But most important we want them to know that we love them just the way God created them, and they are “fearfully and wonderfully made” Psalm 139:14. Confidence will only come if you place your life (completely) in God’s hands. Because then and only then will you know that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 Anyone that is around our children long, know that they DO NOT have a confidence problem!! Every time we go out they always receive complements and attention, and they are very outgoing. Also, anyone that is around Jason and me long knows that we think that our children are the most beautiful children in the world (proof: they get everything they want!). Jason always teases that we had to special order our kids because we could have never made any this pretty!!!
So to answer the question, what is true self-esteem? I would say that it is when you can say that you were “created in God’s image” so therefore you look just the way He wanted you too. Then you go live your life in a way that brings glory to the Lord Jesus Christ!


Kate said...

Marsha, I'm amazed people want (you in the past or now) Harper to take medicine to help gain weight. Things of this nature never would have occurred to me because I'd been given the opposite problem of being overweight and at times obese. It's a scary word to write-- obese. I am very much touched by what you wrote your thoughts on self-esteem SHOULD be. Why MUST we instruct our children to think the same way, act the same way and accept only those who are the same way? How sad a society we live in. The few times I've seen Harper she has been FULL of life and full of herself (she and Matthew hugging each other at thanksgiving!) all of your children-- I would have never thought: oh she must do something about their weight. For I can SEE what you ARE doing about their spirits!

I love Harrison for his comment about you in the bathroom. The eyes of the children tell it like it is.

Praise God for giving these children SUCH a beautiful mother, inwardly and out!

MonRusl said...

Marsha, I know you remember how small Chloe always was, because we used to compare her to how small you were as a child. She will be 5 in a few weeks and still hasn't broken 30 pounds. She can still fit in some of her 12-18 month clothes!! The doctors were always driving me crazy, so I finally let them run a million tests on her and they all came back fine. Can you believe the pediatrician actually suggested holding her back in school a year because of her size?? It's crazy. She does ask me sometimes if she is small because some of the kids in her preschool class say that or try to pick her up, but I assure her that she is just the way God wants her to be. People make comments on how small she is almost every time I take her out somewhere (especially because her little sister weighs more than her). But, just don't let it bother you. People will say so many ignorant things because they just don't know better. You just tell Harper that she is beautiful because God made her that way!