God promises to bring peace to those who seek refuge in Him. Yet the world is screaming a different message, and it can be easy to get distracted. Young women feel the pressure to fit in, find acceptance and succeed. Mothers often feel overworked and under-appreciated. Most, regardless of age, are over-committing themselves to find their place in this world. And in this pursuit it can be easy to settle for less than is deserved and start to believe the world’s lies: that there are undisputable standards for how many friends a woman should have, how beautiful she should be, what grades she should get, what brands she should buy, what her personality should be, etc. The list could go on and on.
Alex Forster felt this pressure, but she also found a way to overcome it. Growing up in a small town in Minnesota and struggling with negative self-image, she was tired of the criticisms of her appearance and personality from those she loved.
After years of struggling, Forster recognized that she needed to place her worth in God’s hands. And she knew that this need was not unique to her, but that so many women needed the message of truth in their lives. Too many women were suffering deep emotional pain from buying into lies for too long. Alex found freedom in the Lord, and she wanted to share that message with others.
Forster won the title of Miss Delano, a city-level pageant, and went on to receive the statewide title of Miss Aquatennial, Queen of the Lakes in 2010. She had always looked up to the pageant titleholders in her hometown, and wanted the opportunity to be a role model to younger women. “When you think of pageants, you think of gorgeous women who model bikinis,” said Forster. “To be a size 12 and win that title was such an amazing feeling, but also to be comfortable in who I am and know that with that comfort and with that trust in the Lord I can conquer any criticism from anyone on my personality or what I look like.”
Through this honor, she traveled across the country throughout the year of her title for different speaking engagements. She was able to share a message of encouragement to thousands of women across the nation. Through these experiences Forster also found greater confidence and comfort in God.
“I would definitely say the world is looking for that very, very thin woman who has all the curves in the right spots and acts a certain way,” said Forster. “Well, it doesn’t have to be that way. You just have to be comfortable with who you are and what you like.”
One needs only to turn on the television or open a magazine to see the way that the media defines value. It can become far too easy to find refuge in worldly comforts rather than in God. In this image-driven society, adornment and accomplishments are valued highly and compliments sought at any cost. Value is found in relationships, and when they fail, life falls apart. Women seek these things at the cost of their self-worth.
Forster attributes a lack of positive self-image to many young women’s problems. “Society puts so much pressure on women to be a certain attitude. As I say this stuff I’m the first to say that I still struggle with this so much.” She added, “It’s easy to condemn yourself. I don’t think that women realize it enough that there are aspects of their personality that shine through that just haven’t been acknowledged yet.”
Though she faces the struggles of image and acceptance on a daily basis, Forster said that 1 Peter 3:3-4 has been a great encouragement to her. The verses say: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
God looks at the heart, and the actions that spur from that. He desires His children to live lives that honor Him, which includes honoring, in thought and action, the bodies and personalities He individually created. The Lord serves as a refuge for those that would seek Him. In Psalm 91 the psalmist writes, “If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord who is my refuge – no disaster will come near your tent . . . ‘He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.'”
Whether from the criticism of family members and friends or a constant comparison of oneself toward others, a negative self-image can be detrimental to personal health. Misplacing value and looking to the wrong places to satisfy that lacking can be dangerous.
Dr. Bill Mair, psychologist for Focus on the Family, said of negative self-image, “Healthy self-image starts with an honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. You may need professional help with that. Then you can make a decision to address the weaknesses without letting them define you.”
Mair continued, “Looking at your life as a journey can free you from obsessing from goals that seem out of reach. By simply continuing to work toward those goals you’re already succeeding.”
Forster said that it helps to have a good support system that can encourage and support and to seek out the wise counsel of older women. She said, “Insecurities are all around us. Insecurities are going to be with us right now as 21-year-olds and as 50-year-olds. There’s always going to be insecurities. Break free of those insecurities through the help of Jesus Christ and to feel confident in who you are and love who you are and who the Lord has made you to be.”