Updated: May 13, 2022
"You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and
wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
- Psalm 139:13-14.
A new baby is such a gift and delight! It’s so wonderful to simply spend time gazing at a new
baby, finding joy in their tiny fingers and toes, their precious faces, the adorable belly we just
want to kiss while we change their clothes.
Personally, when I am with a baby in our family, I am moved to awe in the presence of such a miracle! It is so easy for me to thank God for all the love and amazing detail He has put into this unique and unrepeatable tiny miracle person.
While I may daydream about all the fun we’ll have together as the child grows and can do many new fun things, or what their favorite interests might be as they grow up, or what contributions
their gifts and talents may bring to the world when they are grown, it never ever occurs to me
say, “I’ll only love and enjoy this baby when they achieve certain things in life.”
Of course I don’t! It would be horrible to cheat myself out of reveling in every moment of this
baby’s life! It would be cruel to the baby. It would be downright sacrilegious not to be filled with
gratitude and wonder in the presence of this new creation of God.
So why do we withhold this same kind of love, joy, and appreciation of ourselves from
ourselves??? Truly why?
Babies can’t DO anything. They can’t walk, talk, wipe themselves, or stop themselves from
drooling. But we look at a baby we love, and we think, “ Oh my goodness! What a perfect little
But most of us never feel that way about ourselves. We always have something to criticize
about ourselves and it often eclipses everything else we should recognize as good.
We sometimes celebrate the way we are made when it has helped us achieve a goal.
For example, we may appreciate how our bodies are made when we run a 5K or the way our
brains are made when we graduate from an advanced degree program. Most of us only
celebrate the way we are made when we do something we consider extraordinary or others in
our lives validate. Additionally, while a wonderful thing, the achievement of a goal is often
preceded by many moments of running ourselves down as we strive to reach the goal. We
often tell ourselves we’ll be happy with ourselves when we’ve lost a certain number of pounds,
gotten a promotion, completely uncluttered our lives, had a certain number of children, won our
parents’ approval… Fill in your own blank here______.
This focus on achievement can steal so much joy and peace from us as it clouds our vision of
everything else that’s good about us. We may tell ourselves that our criticism is motivating us
toward our goals, when we are actually undermining our emotional and spiritual well-being and
perhaps even feeding feelings of depression or anxiety.
We would benefit greatly by acting toward ourselves as we would a dearly loved baby in our
lives, with love and a sense of awe.
I am not suggesting that we dote on ourselves in a narcissistic way, but instead the very
opposite by following David’s example.
In Psalm 139, David acknowledges God, all-knowing and all-powerful, as his creator, and gives
God all the praise. He takes time alone to focus his heart and mind on who God is and
enumerate His works. We can read moments like this throughout the Psalms.
We need to do the same. We are God’s creation, body, mind, and soul. We need time with God
to contemplate and give thanks for all we are, just as we take time to rejoice in every detail of a
baby we love. Try focusing on one part of your body, any part, your hand for example. Just look
at it. Maybe the first thought that comes to your mind is, “I need a manicure. My nails are looking
bad.” or “My skin is so dry.” Now turn down the volume on that inner critic and look again the
way you would look at the hand of a baby. Admire what God has created. What an amazing
design! All those small bones fitted together for so much movement. The beautiful skin that can
gently caress someone you are caring for, but also stand up to so much hard work. Those nails,
no matter their condition, help and protect you in so many ways. Whether or not your hands
work optimally or not, their design is still amazing. And you know what? You didn’t create them.
God did, as an awe-inspiring gift to you. So when you admire them it isn’t vanity. It is praise unto
God. Just like when we admire a baby. So intentionally direct your thoughts and thanks to Him.
When we do it lifts us out of the mundane, the self-criticism, the pursuit of accomplishment and
then connects back to the divine.
We can cultivate our awareness of God’s divine goodness with other practices such as lifting
our minds out of the daily grind by reading uplifting spiritual books (even a page a day), or by
focusing on any natural beauty around us. Noticing natural wonders such as the ever-changing
colors of the sky, the buds on the trees, and even a dandelion pushing its way through a crack in
a city sidewalk can reawaken our awareness of the glory of God. We can visit an art museum
or gallery and soak in the richness of colors and textures outside of our ordinary surroundings.
One of my favorite experiences is visiting an aquarium and seeing all the beautiful sea creatures
and the intricacies of their colors and shapes that God bothered to create even though they are
not easily seen by the average person. These kinds of moments can fill our hearts with an
appreciation that we can then use as a positive filter for how we see ourselves.
All of these things, just like the beauty of new life, help us acknowledge the goodness and
vastness of the God who decided to create you and me. He created you. He values you. He
loves YOU. Seen in the light of His vast awe-inspiring power, our acknowledgment of how
wonderfully we are made is not vanity. It is gratitude!
Of course, we are called to grow in virtue day by day, but we will do that better by
acknowledging that we are created in His image and by joyfully trying to grow to be more like
Him than we can by running ourselves down for our imperfections. Just like we celebrate our
baby’s skill development step by step, we need to encourage ourselves. If our little one is
working on taking their first step but ends up falling on their bottom, we encourage them to try
again and cheer them on. Only a truly horrible person would yell at them telling them they’ll
never be good enough to walk, so why do we say defeating statements to ourselves when we
are growing and developing new skills and abilities?
When we fall into negative self-defeating patterns, we should do as David did and praise God
that we are wonderfully made, and trustingly ask for the help to grow into the person He created
us to be step by step, day by day, just like our children trust us to help them grow and thrive.