There I stood in front of the mirror at 16 years of age, and I could not see what everyone else seemed to be seeing. I stood there in only my gym shorts noticing every imperfection. I can picture that moment in my mind as if it happened yesterday. Everyone around me called me thin and handsome, and that is not what I was looking at in the mirror.
Even at the weight of 130 lbs I still saw the chubby little kid with braces, and glasses. I had started the year very overweight, but I went on a very strict diet and began running daily. I even developed an eating disorder that I carried for more years than I’d like to admit. It is rare for young men to be bulimic, but yours truly was an outlier. A college Division 1 track coach who told me I needed to lose weight when I was 145 lbs and 5’ 10” didn’t help much. And to be fully honest, I still struggle today with what I see when I look in the mirror, but it is no longer my weight that is the issue.
When I became a therapist and then pastor I would often ask people, “Who and what do you see when you look in the mirror?” And that is the question I would like to ask you, because you are why I am over sharing nearly every single day on this TMI blog. And many of you have written to share that your biggest struggle is loving yourself. I think it should be obvious by now that I can identify!
Now, this is where you are expecting me to tell you that God calls you a masterpiece, He loves you, and has a purpose for your life. And while all of that is true let’s be honest with each other…it doesn’t make us feel better. It should but it doesn’t, because we don’t see what God sees when we look in the mirror. Why? Because we think we know more about ourselves than God!
When you look at your reflection in the mirror, or simply reflect on your life you may have a tendency to zoom in on your hurts, habits, and hang ups. Your mind goes directly to highlighting your mistakes. Unlike the narcissist who is constantly broadcasting their highlight reel…you do the exact opposite. I believe that part of the problem is we now live in a world where we are inundated with positive highlight reels.
Several years ago I watched “Gertrude” post pictures on Instagram of she and her husband’s incredible vacations. They looked so in love, wealthy, and appeared to be living the dream. I later found out they were miserable, they filed for bankruptcy, and they are now divorced. I’ve watched friends post Valentine’s Day, Birthday, and Anniversary posts of endearing love for a spouse that I know neglects them and makes them miserable. I am not judging them, I am simply saying we live in a world of highlight reels. And we assume they are accurate, and then compare them to our own life.
If there is an NFL or NBA special on television about Michael Jordan, Lebron James, Larry Byrd, Tom Brady, Walter Payton, or another elite athlete we rarely see the times they missed a shot, dribbled a ball off of their knee, threw an interception, fumbled, or even tripped over their own feet. And thus we forget how many mistakes are often made on the way to greatness. And then there are the videos of people doing absolutely incredible things on TikTok, and they edited out the 3,000 times they failed before finding success.
One of the biggest reasons you may have trouble loving yourself is because you are comparing yourself to others. And when doing so you assume they have everything you don’t! Due to my professions as a therapist, pastor, and radio personality I have had the privilege of hearing the stories of highly successful people. And they all experienced a lot of failure, but they did not allow it to keep them from moving forward. And here is the key, they did not allow their past to dictate their future. They did not allow their hurts, habits, or hang ups to define them.
I had a box full of hundreds (and I do mean hundreds) of letters from radio stations letting me know they were NOT going to hire me. You know the letters, “We regret to inform you that we have chosen another candidate.” One was from my own hometown in West Virginia, which was market number 180. And then one day I got a call from Miami (market number 12) saying, “We want YOU.” And then a call of “we want you” from the major markets of Dallas, Seattle, and Portland! You can’t have success without failure! However, my point is not that you have to rise to the top or make a lot of money to be successful.
Success is not found in a title or based on the balance of your bank account. If your value is based on your salary or title then you’ll always be vulnerable. Please hear me when I say that your value is based on your integrity, and how you love others. Yes, you need to pay your bills, but you are so much more than your income or title. And what about those of you saying, “Well Tony, I havent lived a life of integrity.”
If you have been living a self-centered and selfish life then tomorrow is a new day. If you have been a slave to your habits then tomorrow is a new day. If you have not been the husband, wife, brother, or sister that you know you should be…tomorrow is a new day. If you have not been the boyfriend, girlfriend, friend, son, or daughter that you should be then (say it with me), “TOMORROW IS A NEW DAY!” You are not defined by your past.
When you look in the mirror don’t see the past, but begin to envision the future. And please know this, God and many others see untapped potential. You were created with a very unique purpose. Begin to love yourself and those around you! One of the ways you may grow in your love for self is through sacrificially loving others. Now, look in the mirror and say, “I am a masterpiece, designed with a purpose, and divinely loved.”
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