From the outside, she has it all together. She’s committed to her family, her friends, and her church. Her Instagram account is an inspiration. But behind every carefully worded post and perfectly posed picture is a woman tormented by the voice in her head: Am I pretty enough? Smart enough? Thin enough? Good enough? Successful enough? Am I ever enough? Author and speaker Elizabeth Oates knows that voice all too well.
Q:If You Could See as Jesus Sees was written to reach women who struggle with self-worth. How common is this problem?
A: I think most women—from ages ten to one hundred—wrestle with feelings of inadequacy, doubt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and even self-loathing at some point in their lives. We scorn our bodies, our faces, or our hair. Maybe we even dislike ourselves at our core: our personalities, our gifts, our talents, and our souls. So we spend days, if not years, comparing ourselves to our friends or media celebrities and daydreaming about a different life. Eventually, we morph into an existence vaguely similar to ourselves, yet not quite us. We alter our behavior to please others. We dress like our friends or emulate what we see in InStyle magazine. We may even change our appearance through plastic surgery. Before we know it, we are just an empty shell of our true selves, mere imposters of the women God created.
The details vary from woman to woman. Yet, for each of us, a common thread weaves through our stories: the grand story of the fall. Think back to Eve in the Garden of Eden. She lived in paradise with her loving husband, Adam, and her devoted God. They enjoyed constant fellowship with their Creator. Then the deceitful serpent entered the stage. Listening to his empty promises and twisted propaganda, Eve succumbed to his lies, and women have been believing those lies ever since. We view ourselves through our own distorted lenses of self-loathing, ugliness, shame, and discontentment instead of Jesus’ lenses of love, beauty, redemption, and generosity.
Q:The topic of social media comes up often in this book. How do Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media sites negatively affect some women?
A: Have you ever mindlessly surfed Facebook, only to shut your laptop, feeling lonely, useless, and discouraged? It’s tough not to succumb to jealousy, envy, greed—and even despair—when we are inundated with our friends’ vacation photos, dream homes, new cars, job promotions, and all the other exciting things people want to celebrate. We are left feeling as if we are living a less-than-stellar life. For the woman who already struggles with a negative self-image, those posts are a constant reminder of the many ways she doesn’t measure up. Social media has become a driving force in our culture, but it doesn’t reflect reality. It’s the highlight reel. We see people living life seamlessly—the perfect family, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect faith—and we wonder, “What am I doing wrong? Why am I not married yet? Why am I not pregnant yet? Why don’t I live in my dream home?” What we don’t see underneath those beaming Facebook posts is the crumbling marriage, the house in foreclosure, the credit card debt, and the I’ll-show-up-for-church-on-Sunday-morning-but-don’t-you-dare-ask-me-do-to-anything-riskier kind of faith.
Elizabeth Oates is an author and speaker who encourages, inspires, and equips a new generation of women seeking a deeper relationship with Christ. She is a cliché Generation Xer from a broken home who once searched for purpose and significance apart from Jesus Christ. Today she devotes her life to spreading the message that we are not defined by our past; our God is bigger than our broken family trees and stronger than the sins that weigh us down.
Elizabeth lives out her faith and passion not only through her writing but in hands-on ministry as well. She and her husband offer pre-marital education to engaged couples through Legacy Family Ministries and also founded Project Restoration Ministry, which offers affordable Christian counseling and mentoring for married couples in Central Texas.
Elizabeth’s writing includes a Bible study for teens, Dealing with Divorce: Finding Direction When Your Parents Split Up. Since 2008 she has written a monthly faith column for Waco Today Magazine, and she regularly blogs about life and faith. Elizabeth is among the experts featured in the DivorceCare DVD curriculum along with Dave Ramsey, Anne Graham Lotz, and others. She earned a B.A. from Baylor University and received her M.A. in Christian Education with a focus in Marriage and Family Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.