When you hear something enough times, you believe it’s true. At 19 years old and 118 pounds, nothing rang truer than “you need to lose weight.” Not the fact that I was on a full-ride academic scholarship. Not the fact that I’d finally found community and friends who loved me well. Not even the love of my Savior.

Some variation of, “You need to lose weight. As you are, you are unlovable. continuously looped in my mind. I had heard it enough times. And I believed it.

I wrestled with anxiety, desperately trying workouts and eating plans to become beautiful. When, inevitably, apple cider vinegar and kale did not live up to their promises of instant weight loss and flawless skin, my anxiety only increased. I was empty, desperate, blinded by lies.

Because you see, it was never about being beautiful. It was about being loved.

I’d bought the lie and drank the Kool-aid that beauty and love were directly and inseparably connected: I could not be loved if the world did not deem me beautiful.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being beautiful. We are all marvelous creations, formed “imago dei” (in the image of God). The problem is that we are so much more than beautiful.

I am beautiful, but I am so much more. I have a purpose, and I am loved.

But the enemy is an expert at confusion and chaos, sucking us into vicious cycles before we even see it coming. I believe he loves attacking self-esteem, not only because we embody characteristics of a God he hates, but also because in attacking our identity, he distracts us from the reason we’re on this earth.

When we think more about ourselves, we think less about others. When anxiety to belong consumes us, we care less about letting others know they belong. When our obsession centers on a scale, exercise routine, or diet plan, our adoration is removed from our creator. When we focus on proving our worth through how we look, we lose sight of our greater purpose on this earth. And I think the enemy loves that.

It took me years to figure out this simple truth: I am beautifully created in His image, but I’m so much more. In allowing myself to doubt the worth He’s given me, I criticize the artistry of my creator and devalue the unique gifts He’s given me. This simple realization has been life-altering: I am beautiful, but I am so much more. I have a purpose, and I am loved.

No longer does eating give me anxiety. No longer do I have to exercise to feel worthy of love. No longer do I have to vacillate between limited intake and over-indulgence.

Do I sometimes still look at my thighs, longing for a gap that was never meant to be? Sure. Do I sometimes eat birthday cake, chased down by an anxiety attack that because I ate cake I will gain weight and be unlovable? Sadly, yes.

Daily, I have to battle the lies, believe my true identity, and focus on my purpose instead of my insecurity. But when I hear the truth enough, I believe it. I am beautiful, but I am so much more. I have a purpose, and I am loved.

So, my friend, take it from someone who’s been there:

You are beautiful. But you are so much more. You have a purpose, and you are loved.