Today’s contributor explores a sense of identity that goes beyond complexion, build, and DNA: a spiritual way of looking at ourselves and others that brings out the best in us.

Christian Science Perspective audio edition
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My friend’s selfie had surpassed 1,000 “likes” on Instagram, and she was elated. It had taken her over 100 attempts to get the “perfect” selfie that she ended up posting, she told me. Well, 100 attempts, plus filtering and editing the photo so that it was truly perfect according to Instagram standards.

My friend’s technique for the perfect selfie included the following: A flattering angle. Ideal lighting. Presenting her face so she could maximize her best features and play down others. The list goes on, but here’s my takeaway: Taking the perfect selfie is mainly about trying to hide all of your perceived flaws through a combination of good camera work, strategic posing, and heavy editing.

In a way, it’s a metaphor for life. If we can just conceal everything about us that’s bad, maybe people will like us – maybe we’ll have friends, make the right connections, and find a way to succeed. Maybe we can “filter” our lives so that our flaws stay hidden and people see only the picture-perfect view that we’ve worked so hard to create.

While it’s completely natural to want to be good and to be perceived as good, what I’ve learned from studying Christian Science is that the perfect selfie approach to our lives gets it all wrong. Rather, our starting point should be our flawless, eternal state as God’s children.

Pause on that for a second. Flawlessness isn’t where we end up after a ton of editing and filtering. Flawlessness is where we begin.

This doesn’t mean that we’re perfect according to the world’s standards. Actually, from this worldly, or mortal, standpoint, no one ever measures up. The standard of perfection is always changing, and we can always find something about ourselves or others to nitpick and criticize.

So the perfection we’re talking about doesn’t involve having a certain personality or body type. Christian Science explains that this genuine perfection isn’t even up to us. It’s God-given, and it’s based on a totally different way of thinking about our identity: as spiritual – immortal, not mortal. Our one true identity is not in a physical body with a certain complexion, build, or DNA makeup. It’s the image of God – of the radiance and beauty of divine Love, the intelligence, capability, and completeness of the Mind that is God. In fact, those are just a handful of the infinite qualities of God that make up our lovely, flawless individuality.

I’m learning that I have so much more to give, and so much more love, poise, and patience with which to give it, when I reflect on this spiritual self, or selfie, first thing each morning. When I’m struggling with things I don’t like about myself, it’s helpful to remember that I’m actually not imperfect trying to become perfect. I’m not defined by what happened yesterday or last week, nor am I destined to repeat past mistakes. Right now, this moment and always, I am totally good and purely spiritual.

And these radical ideas have an actual impact. As I see more of my flawless, spiritual nature, the material view of myself becomes less compelling, and unlovely qualities gradually disappear.

I often check back in with this perfect image throughout the day, especially in those moments when I don’t feel great about myself. Remembering what I am as God’s likeness reorients me and helps me handle challenges with more grace. Another of my friends, with whom I shared some of these ideas, said that since she’s begun taking a little time at the beginning of each day to acknowledge the qualities she possesses and can naturally express as God’s daughter, she’s felt happier, securer, and more peaceful.

This perfect self we’re talking about may not get 1,000 likes on Instagram. But it captures the real, true us – more flawless and beautiful than we can imagine, totally lovable, and perfectly equipped to bring out the best in ourselves and in others.

Adapted from an article published in the Christian Science Sentinel’s online TeenConnect section, Aug. 7, 2017.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.