Ophelia, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, illustrates the destructive forces affecting young women. Ophelia is a typical girl, footloose and fancy-free. But she loses herself in adolescence. She falls in love with Hamlet and lives only for his approval. She doesn’t have a relationship with God or the insight of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct her, so she lives merely to meet Hamlet’s and her father’s demands. Who she is, her value, is determined solely by their approval, and she is torn apart. She goes mad with grief. Elegantly dressed, she tragically drowns in a stream filled with flowers.
For twenty years I lived an Ophelia existence. I attempted to take control of my mind, yet I couldn’t conquer the addiction to food, alcohol, cigarettes, diet pills, and promiscuous behavior.
When I was a kid, our family moved quite a bit. In the first move from America to London, England, schoolmates teased me because I didn’t fit into the culture. I was unlike them because I had an accent. I felt stupid because I needed a tutor. I was weird because my clothes were different.
Weirdo! What I heard was “You do not belong” and “You are not accepted.” No kid ever gets used to other kids being mean, but in time you learn how to not feel the sting of rejection so much because of a deep-seeded desire for acceptance.
We moved back to America when I was twelve. Again I was weird and different, but now I was entering adolescence — the hurricane years.
The pain of rejection became part of my normal thought process. I expected people not to like me. We moved several more times, and I fell in with the wild crowd, feeling the pressure to fit in. I smoked cigarettes and tried alcohol and drugs. This group gave me a sense of belonging and a means to forget the rejection and losses.
Then I began to gravitate into a new world of worshipping celebrities and models. I believed the lie that to be popular, you have to look like a model. Teen magazines say, “Don’t worry about being good. Worry about looking good and being socially accepted!”
As a teen, I pretty much turned off my God-given talents and gifts in search of the Western culture’s definition of ideal. I set my sights on being a super model.
When I announced this in my sixth grade class, a few boys laughed, “Yeah, you’ll be a supermodel . . . for MAD Magazine.” Translation: “You’re ugly. Give it up!”
I didn’t give it up. I’d do anything to be a beautiful super model or celebrity. And why not? In this culture celebrity and beauty have their rewards. This was the beginning of what I call the Cover Girl masquerade. And the spiral downward began.
It started innocently enough with a simple diet. My senior year in high school I lost fifteen pounds and looked remarkable. I received compliments and praise from my parents and friends, and I wanted more.I felt accepted and loved. I belong! Now I’ll be popular!
The disordered eating thought process began in high school but exploded when I entered college and joined a sorority. Before I knew it, I was a full-blown bulimic, a disease that took over my life. I wish someone had said to me, “Great — you’re now a size six. There are a million other size sixes out there. What’s different about you? What is about you, Kimberly the person, that shines?” That would have stung a little but hopefully would have pointed me toward working on my inside. Instead, I worked tirelessly trying to conform to this culture’s image of the stick-thin woman.
As I grew into adulthood, my self-esteem continued to deteriorate. Clearly, by bingeing and purging I was self-medicating for the stress, anxieties, and pain.
Then my body started desiring and needing alcohol. Alcohol abuse usually leads to inappropriate sexual behavior. I couldn’t stop the promiscuity. I did what I thought I should do in order to be accepted.
Again, I justified it. Everyone else is sleeping around. It was a way to fill the hole in my heart. But it only deepened the wounds of shame, humiliation, and abandonment.
I eventually got pregnant and chose to have an abortion — another demon to deal with. I had a major life choice to grapple with as well: to bring this baby to term or abort it.
There was no doubt in my mind that abortion was the answer. After all, I wasn’t married. I had an established lifestyle, and I would have brought embarrassment and shame upon my parents.
When I chose abortion, I was really choosing to purge my baby, like the food I ate. I could clearly see that at that time in my life, I didn’t value myself, so how could I value my baby’s life?
You could say the monster bulimia took two innocent lives. After I had the abortion, I chose to bury this experience like a wrecked ship on the bottom of an ocean.
Mystified, I wondered, Why is this happening me? I am basically a good person. There was no joy, no hope — only fear and self-condemnation.The shame kept feeding every destructive behavior. Asking for help meant admitting I was a failure. People would know I was a phony, which is pride. So I became the Master of Secrecy.
Like Ophelia, I was in danger of drowning. It was beginning to look like a life-or-death situation; I had to be revived. I needed someone to point me to Jesus Christ. Like one of the psalmists wrote, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears” (Psalm 18:6, NIV).
God sent that person, and he took me to church. Jesus walked into my messed up life and a couple months later, I confessed my sins and received His salvation. The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9, NIV).
Jesus pronounced, “Daughter, you’re free to go. I’ve done the time for you (see 2 Corinthians 3:17). Now go and tell the world what you have experienced.” The shackles released; evil evaporated.
Through my experience, I learned that I don’t have to be good enough, smart enough, or religious enough to earn an audience with God. I can have a personal, intimate relationship with the God Almighty.
My identity changed because God adopted me into His family. God took all my guilty acts and thoughts and placed them on Jesus. At that moment, He said, “Kimberly, you are forgiven. Every offense is wiped from your record.”
I wish Ophelia had known that God forgives and forgets completely. I became righteous — perfect before God. No external makeover can compare to the internal makeover I received from Jesus Christ!
This article is an edited excerpt from Kimberly’s book Breaking the Cover Girl Mask: Toss Out Toxic Thoughts. Check this out, along with more of Kimberly’s writings, at www.olivebranchoutreach.com/shopping.htm.