My sister streams YouTube videos on her TV in the morning while she gets ready for work. Sometimes I’ll sit on her bed with my coffee as she puts on her makeup. It doesn’t take long before I’m sucked into videos of young women documenting their entire day. It amazes me as I watch them cook perfectly healthy comfort food all under 30 minutes with just enough time to spare to do a full face of makeup and a bonus tutorial on how to achieve Disney princess hair in just three steps! All you have to do is buy this product, and this product, and this product! Oh, and be sure to subscribe!
As I leave the YouTube void and return to my body, I begin to wonder if documenting their glamorous life is really as gratifying as it seems. I wonder how they feel at the end of the day when the videos are edited and the likes and comments pour in… is it enough?
I’m going to let you in on a secret. I deeply care about what others think of me. But I don’t think I’m so alone in this. I’m willing to bet that we all have certain jokes in our line up so that people know we’re funny, certain clothes that we wear so that people think we have a good sense of style, certain organization affiliations so people know we’re charitable. The list goes on and on, and I firmly believe that this mission to bear the image of social perfection is not new to modern generations. King Solomon had everything under the sun at his disposal. Even he, in Ecclesiastes, says it’s all vanity.
No, our search for approval, validation, and praise is nothing new. The only difference between modern generations and their predecessors is that our false sense of affirmation is on our mobile screens, our constant companion. How many times do we find ourselves refreshing our feed, checking to see whose attention we’ve captured with our latest photo? How many “likes” will it take to feel enough? 50? 75? 100? More? How many times do we look at our own profile pages and wonder, are we worthy? How many activities would we abstain from if we couldn’t post a picture of it on Instagram? Have we sought so much validation that we’ve backed ourselves into these corners of generating personal experiences for other people to envy?
Here’s the problem: If all we’re seeking is validation, we’ll never find it. Lack of self-worth is not solved by becoming the objects of praise. We are not made worthy by our own doing. We are worthy because we are image-bearers of God.