This post, for me, is vulnerable so, read it with a gentle heart, please.
My entire life I have struggled with self-doubt and self-loathing.
Most folks aren't aware of this because I have a strong personality and do things like... sing in front of people, etc. However, my relationship with myself has been broken, healed, broken again and so forth for as long as I can remember. It's the single most damaging struggle to my marriage, emotional and spiritual health, relationships with friends, to my music and to my ministry.
Sadly, this is the case for almost every woman I know. Society has a ten mile long laundry list of the things that women are and are not supposed to act like, look like, dress like,think like and so on. The pressure is enough to make even the most confident of women crumble into a pile of rubble every now and then. For most of us, loving ourselves is still the final frontier; the place we've heard of but have only seen photos and never been, much less, lived there.
I've spent most of my life feeling like I'm not enough and too much. Too fat, not smart enough. Too loud, not motivated enough. Too paranoid, not pretty enough. Too awkward, not feminine enough... The list goes on.
When I became a Christian, God began the work of setting me free from all of that. He started to turn my life around and convince me that I'm not worthless (quite the opposite, by grace). I was created intentionally by a being who loves my guts more than I can imagine, and I'm meant to shine brightly just as I am and NOTHING can change that.
While I have found myself in plenty of healing times where I felt like I had really found victory over hating myself, for the past year its felt like I'm back to square 1. Even though I have a loving husband and wonderful friends and family who love me just the way I am... I still find myself struggling with this more than I'd like to admit ( mostly in the body department)
It feels eerily familiar to the way I felt before God started to rescue me from all of that. My view of myself has gone from getting confident, to teetering on OK, straight into the trash can.
I'm currently close to the bottom of the can.
I'm not proud of it. I'm actually embarrassed about it. Why?
Well, a few years ago I was slated to sing at a Young Life camp* (as I am known to do), and I got a call from my friend Kristy. She was speaking at the camp and wanted to toss an idea my way. See, Kristy gives a talk every time she's at camp to the teenage girls about how they don't have to live as slaves to feeling not- enough because God has created them beautifully, and they ARE enough because He says so. Its really incredible and she's so good at it, I cry every time. She asked if I'd be interested in being involved. I immediately felt a ping in my heart and jumped at the opportunity.
Shortly after that phone call I wrote a song called "You're Mine". Its a song from the viewpoint of God. I wrote it imagining these young girls looking into the mirror at themselves... and what God would say if He were right next to them as they were staring at themselves. Its a song I wrote for these girls but it ended up being for me too. Now I've been singing it as well as speaking on the topic in bits and pieces for about 3 years or so.
I have been told by legions of girls that the song I wrote and the words I've spoken have changed their lives. It always leaves me weak in the knees and out of breath because... Our God is incredible. It blows my mind that He can use me in that way when I'm constantly struggling with believing in and living out the very issue I sing about.
( This is a photo of a message someone left me anonymously. I arrived at camp a few years ago and on the first day, I found this message scribbled on the whiteboard backstage of the meeting room where I'd be singing. It blew. My. Mind.)
So, this summer I'm heading to camp again. This time though, I got a call from my friend Alan who will be our camp director. Kristy was supposed to be on our team, but she can't make it.
So guess who's giving the seminar this year?
In exactly 6 months, I will be getting up in front of hundreds of teenage girls every week for a month and teaching them how to love themselves.
I will be standing on a stage preaching a message that I am so desperate for right now its almost funny.
Yesterday something clicked in my brain. This season of feeling incredibly discouraged about myself right before stepping out as an expert on the matter is totally on purpose.
God has lead me into the wilderness of my own heart because there's no way that I'm going to stand on that stage and FAKE it for these girls. There's no way that I'm going to stand before vulnerable and hurting teenagers and pretend to have the miracle cure for self hatred when I'm so deep in it I can barely breathe.
I won't do it.
So, the only alternative is to dive head-first into becoming an expert at loving myself as He loves me. I want to speak with authority on the topic, as someone who's walked through the fires of mending my relationship with myself and can promise that its possible to come out on the other side NEW.
I know healing is tricky and that I will have to fight hard for myself on and off again for years to come... But in this season, I want to get out of the trash can so I can lead a rebellion against this nasty cultural norm.
(Can you believe its just NORMAL for girls to walk around feeling ugly, fat and unworthy? Do you know how many times I've heard someone say "Well, all women feel that way"? While that can be comforting, its- and pardon my french-but its BULLSHIT. )
Also, I don't want to try and get to the place where I'm confident the way that I'm tempted to. I'm TEMPTED to think "Yeah, I'll just lose 20 pounds and then I'll be confident".
I want to love myself regardless of my weight, my paycheck, my popularity or my successes. Because if loving yourself is dependent on those things, well honey, it aint love.
So for the next six months, I'm going to do everything I can to mend my relationship with myself, and I will document what I learn so that I can share this journey with, not only the girls at camp, but with women everywhere. I've been very, very mean to myself and I've always felt like I deserved every cruel thing I've told myself. But if I'm going to be a leader to these girls, and more than that, if I am going to do the things God is calling me to, and to be the woman He designed me to be- me and myself are going to have to reconcile in a real way.
I decided yesterday that to fully immerse myself in this process of re-focusing my attention from my own flaws to Christ's great love and vision for me, I'm going to need to stop some things that will be very difficult for me to stop.
Here's my challenge to myself. For the next 6 months, NO:
- Scale. No Weighing myself
- Diets or cleanses ( or fasting)
- Calorie Counting
-Long Distance Races ( I need to exercise for the joy of it, as a celebration of my health, not to compete)
- Exercising as a response to feeling "fat" ( No exercise if I feel bad about myself. Exercise won't heal that, Jesus will)
-Looking up weight loss tips on the internet ( friggin Pinterest)
-Measuring my body ( I have a secret measuring tape in my medicine cabinet and use it every day, usually a few times per day)
-Photos of myself to compare to other times in my life( does anyone else do this? Its bad) No looking at photos of myself at all ( they either make me long for a different time in my life or bury me in shame)
No punishing this temple.
No trying to lose weight.
No trying to change myself into a form I deem as lovable.
Essentially, no trying to become content by way of changing my appearance. I'm not sure if folks realize how much I do the above list but... its a lot. A LOT. So much of my energy has been placed in me thinking about or doing these things, then feeling guilty and ashamed when I do them, that its made me sick. I've been convinced that looking different will heal this part of my life but, the truth is that whether I weigh 145 or 175, I feel the same. Weight loss is clearly NOT the great healer of self-loathing. It will not and cannot heal me.
In order to fully focus on the right areas of my life, I need to be free from measuring my physical progress. I need to stop caring about physical progress and instead, get beautifully distracted with God's goodness and promises to me. I want to be so wrapped up in what He has for me and using the gifts He's given me, that I don't even WANT to know what I weigh.
In turn, I will seek out wisdom from those who have paved the way before me and wise counsel. I will spend quality time studying who God says I am. And I will wait on Him to lead me through this so that I can lead others.
I've literally told God that I need Him to re-build my sense of self and confidence- and I need Him to change my life in a miraculous way. I've challenged Him to set me free from this and that scares and excites me.
I don't want to be the girl preaching self love but living self-abuse anymore. I want to be living it. I want to look in the mirror and celebrate what my Creator has made.
Lord, lead the way
Carly Calmes the First
* Young Life is an outreach ministry that seeks to introduce Jesus through relationship to highschool kids that would never step foot in a church. It seeks the "furthest out" kids through mentorship in hopes of connecting them to Christ, earning the right to be heard in their lives, and meeting them where they're at just as they are. That's how I met Jesus in highschool and it was the most genuine experience of love and mentorship one could ask for. I wasn't loved in hopes of being converted. I was loved because I was... loved. Just a personal note.