When I was in high school, you were considered hot stuff if you wore the most expensive and fashionable brand name clothes and shoes. Top it off with a fresh hairdo, and you were really doing big things. If you were dressed homely, you were made fun of. If your clothes were faded, you were made fun of. If it looked like you had on hand-me-downs, you were made fun of. If you wore something too often, you were made fun of. You had to be on point or else you would be made fun of. I knew many people who would literally steal and risk going to “juvie” just so that they could wear “nice” clothes and fit in. It was ridiculous.
For me, dressing the part was difficult. My mother’s motto was, “As long as you’re clean and smelling good, you look fine.” She refused to spend any money on name brand items. This meant that instead of Ked’s, I got Ted’s. (They looked like Ked’s but they were sold at Target). Instead of a Starter jacket, I got a plain one from the Slauson Swap Meet.
If I wanted name brand things my mother didn’t attest to me having them, I would just have to buy them myself. I’ll never forget my first pair of black boots. I had worked hard all summer and saved up enough to buy myself a black Bebe shirt and some dark blue Express jeans. I wore this outfit to school with a pair of black and white Ted’s a few times before my homeboy suggested that I pair the ‘fit with a trendy pair of black boots instead. I was on a budget, so I headed to Payless and bought a pair. When I rocked my new and improved outfit to school, my homeboy (who was also the class clown) immediately noticed my no-name boots. He pointed them out to everyone in the lunch area. Everybody pointed and CRACKED up! I couldn’t believe that something that was supposed to be so right, had gone so terribly wrong. I stood there blushing, embarrassed.
My absolute worst shoe day had to be the day that I wore my brand new Red Cross’s to school. (I’m sure you’ve never heard of those. Neither had I. But they were cheap, they were new, and my mom had actually been willing to buy them for me.) I was trying to be low-key the day I wore them, but they were so white that they caught EVERYONE’S attention. The laughter roared AGAIN! Thankfully, I had a great sense of humor, so I was able to crack jokes about myself and play off my humiliation, but people clowned me about that for the next few years.
Flash forward a few years. College. I was determined that no one would ever make fun of my attire again. My mission was to rock the best clothes and shoes no matter what the cost. If I wanted a Louis Vuitton bag, I would work hard and buy one. If I wanted a pair of Tommy shoes or a Baby Phat outfit, I bought them without a second thought. I spent a great deal of my free time shopping. I tried to make myself feel gorgeous by buying the most expensive clothes and shoes that I could find. I worked hard and then spent my entire checks on junk—hoping to find happiness and acceptance in the things that I wore. Just knowing how much I had spent on my outfits made me feel confident. You couldn’t tell me anything.
One day it hit me. If I only felt good about myself when I rocked a pair of Chanel glasses and had a fresh hairdo, my self-esteem must be really messed up. I had friends who could put together some classy outfits without spending nearly as much as I did and their clothes actually looked better than mine. I felt foolish for wasting so much money on things that wouldn’t last. I was determined to do something to correct my “stinking thinking.” I started buying clothes that I considered quality instead of buying clothes simply because there was a brand name attached to them. I programmed my mind not to focus as much on the label as it did on the fact that I was clean, beautiful (inside and out), and presentable—just as my mother had taught me. In time, I came to know that no matter what I’m wearing, no matter how much it cost, no matter whether my hair is pulled back or down, I am gorgeous!
Here are some tips to help you if you find yourself judging your worth by superficial measures (as I once did). Hopefully these tips will help you to focus on that which is most important so that you can feel great about yourself no matter what.
1. One of Satan’s tricks (that he loves to use on young women) is to make us think that our self-worth and approval are tied up in the way we look. If we don’t measure up to the world’s standards of beauty, often our self-esteem takes a hit. When we are feeling down about ourselves it can potentially hinder our praise. Satan knows this. His goal is to take our focus off of God and then destroy us. Remember that you were made in God’s image as a reflection of His beauty (Gen. 1: 26-27), so you can’t help but to be stunning.
2. Challenge yourself to see yourself through God’s eyes. He’s not concerned with what’s on the outside. What’s on the inside is what matters most. Make sure that the inner you is the best you that it can be and that will definitely make you look even more attractive on the outside as well.
3. Smile at yourself every time you look in the mirror each day. I can’t say enough just how beautiful and unique you are. There’s no harm in acknowledging that and giving yourself a stamp of approval each day.
4. You can make a shirt from Target, Rave, or your local thrift shop look stunning if you choose. Constantly remind yourself that you make your clothes look great. It doesn’t matter how much they cost, where you bought them, or what name is on them. Without you in them, they are lifeless.
5. If anyone ever makes fun of what you are wearing, don’t let it get you down. Say a quick prayer for them and remind yourself that you are royalty. God takes great pleasure and delight in you and His opinion is the one that matters most.
I’m not at all suggesting that you never wear name brand clothes again. As a matter of fact, that would be hypocritical because I still do. The difference between me then and now, however, is that I love myself and feel good about myself regardless of where I buy my clothes and regardless of how much they cost—and so should you!