It’s not real!” she declared. Eighteen-year-old Essena O’Neill sobbed as she looked into the camera to record her final YouTube video. She had spent the previous six years devoting her life to her social media presence. Along the way, she had gathered more than 500,000 Instagram followers and a modeling contract. Maintaining her image had become her career, and now she was walking away from it all.
“I quit social media for my twelve-year-old self,” she said. “When I was twelve, I told myself that I was worth nothing because I wasn’t popular online or beautiful by society’s standards.”
I ache for the young women who judge their worth by our culture’s flawed standards. If only that lack of self-worth ended with our teenage years! It too often bleeds into our adulthood, and we continue to judge our worth by what we see in the mirror.
But… it’s nothing new. In the Victorian Age, a woman’s worth was strongly connected to how well-mannered she was or whether she found a good husband. In the 1950s, the ideal woman kept house perfectly and had dinner on the table when her husband walked through the front door after work—and she did all this while wearing lipstick, heels, and pearls!
Although women today have many more opportunities to explore their gifts, social media puts ridiculous pressure on us to concentrate on and perfect our image. Even after you take a selfie on your phone, you can download apps to make yourself look better.
What about our culture’s celebrity addiction to Photoshop? We are constantly surrounded by Photoshopped images of unrealistic beauty and “perfection.” It is a constant assault on our self-image that is difficult to escape, isn’t it? Without even realizing it those perfectly smoothed, trimmed, and tucked images can cause us to begin to think negatively about our own appearance.
And if we aren’t careful, we will buy the lie they all are selling—the lie that our worth is defined by physical beauty alone, and measured by a standard we can never reach.
Our hearts can get pretty battered and broken in the mix.
David—the shepherd, psalmist, and king—knew the pain of a broken, battered heart and in Psalm 31, he poured out his sorrow out to God: “I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel” (v. 12 NKJV).
The words broken vessel don’t have the same impact on us that they did on David. In his day the ground was littered with pottery shards and pieces of broken vessels. Once a piece of pottery was cracked, it was no longer of any use at all. It was simply thrown out. It shattered on the ground, and its pieces became part of the landscape. There was no repairing a broken piece of pottery; it was utterly and forever ruined.
At the writing of this Psalm, that is how David felt about his life: utterly ruined and beyond repair. So he turned to the only one who could help. David needed to hear from God. He needed to hear words of comfort. Words of restoration. He knew that his God was the only one who could put his broken heart back together again.