Are you bound to the opinions of others? Are you chained to approval and acceptance? Believe it or not, you can feel important without being image-obsessed. So that you don’t feel totally attacked, I’ll share my story first.
I’ve been on a self-awareness kick since December of last year. I had taken the enneagram test a year prior to then, but I brushed off my results. I rolled my eyes, dismissing that the little internet test could possibly capture my inner essence.
Hearing about how much self-discovery the enneagram brought other Christian leaders that I know, I couldn’t resist taking the test again. Not to mention, I’m also a sucker for a good personality test. The results showed me the same thing I had dismissed a year prior–I was a 3w4 sx/so.
To keep things short, being an enneagram 3 showed me that I am someone who, if not totally dependent on the Holy Spirit, finds my worth and value in my public persona. When I’m on auto-pilot, I can be driven by image, hoping to appear as if I have it all together, that I’m unique and special, and that I’m a high achiever.
I didn’t want to admit that feelings of worthlessness drove me to be hyper-aware of my image. I also didn’t want my image to shape my sense of importance. Does this sound like you?
Not wanting to believe that vanity could be a driving force in my life, I grappled with this truth. I struggled to fathom that I could reduce my self-worth down to beauty, prestige, and success.
I learned that the core sin associated with the enneagram 3 is deceit. I am not a dishonest person, nor do I overtly lie to others. But what I found was that the hardest person to be honest with is myself.
I had been deceiving myself all along, not admitting that I could be consumed with approval addiction. Ever since I’ve confronted myself about how bent toward this particular vice I am, I’ve actually been able to grow.
The good news is this: What the enneagram fails to do is account for the Holy Spirit. All the thing does is tell you what your flesh is capable of when you’re at your best and when you’re at your worst. You’re not bound to any one number, because the Holy Spirit empowers you to be free from the things that once entangled you.
When I wrestled back in forth with my desire for external validation to deflect from my feelings of worthlessness, the Holy Spirit whispered to me, “In your flesh, you’re an enneagram 3, but with My Spirit you are FREE.”
Nice one, God. I see what you did there.
So, in the spirit of freedom, I want to share with you how you, too, can shake off the shackles of approval addiction. I will equip you with three ways that you can consciously love yourself and find freedom from being image-focused.
1. Be Honest with Yourself
You can’t conquer what you refuse to confront. What’s your vice? The need to perfect yourself and control everyone around you? Your need to be “all things to all men?” Your desire to be seen as beautiful and successful? Your need to be special and unique? Needing to feel complete security in your external circumstances and people? Wanting to feel “free” to do anything and everything to escape reality? Needing power and dominance? Or never wanting to step on anyone else’s toes so that you don’t rock the boat?
Whatever your “thing” is, confront it. Whether you struggle with porn and masturbation, you’re a chronic lier, or you’re jealous of others, know that those sins aren’t haphazard; they’re a symptom of a deeper root issue.
Be honest with yourself: what is the lie that you believe that makes you do the thing that you hate? Taking an enneagram test or learning about your type can be helpful.
Write down the “thing” is. Then ask God, “God what is the truth that you want to show me about this thing?
2. Ask God, “Who am I?”
One day, I asked God, “How do you see me?”
And He said, “You’re my Treasure.”
I sat in awe.
Treasure… What better name to give a girl who struggles with feeling valuable?
Because I know who I am to God, whenever I doubt my worth and value, I remind myself that I’m His Treasure. I remember that others’ praise can’t give me value, and others’ criticism can’t steal my value. I am valuable because I am His Treasure.
Self-image issues are at the root identity issues.
So, learn your identity. Ask God:
How He sees you.
If He has a special name to give you.
Why He created you.
Then, write it all down. When you start to look for your needs in things outside of yourself, remind yourself who you are.
3. Pour Out for Others
Have you been so wrapped up in your troubles that you forget about others? When you’re focused on yourself, even when you scratch the itch of external validation, it never truly satisfies you. This is because you’re built for service. When you live for yourself, when you die, you lose everything. When you live for others, when you die, you lose nothing.
Being a mentor helps me to esteem others more highly than myself. It allows me to silence my own issues and insecurities to focus on the needs of others. I’m all for self-care; However, when I meet the needs of others, that act of service refreshes me in a way that self-care simply can’t.
Serving others helps them, but don’t forget that it also helps you. It pushes you to activate the voice of God when you’re tempted to listen to the voice of insecurity. It challenges you to look outwardly when you’re tempted to sulk inwardly. It gives you a reason for being other than consuming air, space, and resources. Rather than wondering what the world has to offer you, it gives you the opportunity to offer something of substance to the world.
Find someone to serve, and serve them well. Put them on your calendar. Set an alarm to text them. Write their name on your prayer list. Do whatever it takes to keep their needs top of mind.
If you know who you are, you’ll know what to do. So, confront who you’ve been. Ask God who you are. Then, go do something for someone else that will matter for eternity.
Need to improve your self-talk? I’ve also created an Affirmation Template to help you rewrite your internal dialogue! Download the Affirmation Template here: