Wednesday, May 12, 2010

We Are More Than the Sum of Our Parts

Today I was watching an Oprah that I had recorded about weight loss. I think the commercial said something like "never diet again." I was really curious to see what it was that Oprah was going to talk about. The show was unremarkable and I don't know much about the book she was promoting but I do know that one thing on that show really struck me. I've been thinking about it all day and how it applies to all moms and even those who want to be moms someday. I couldn't get it off of my mind so I decided to share it with you all.

I'll begin by saying that I have struggled with self-image since I was little. I have loving, supportive parents and family who always complimented me. I was never teased. I was never super cool but was never super nerdy either. Despite all of this, I remember sitting in my 6th grade class looking around the room at all of the girls and then looking at my arms and thinking that they were way too skinny and gross. Oh, how the tables have turned.

Right out of high school I struggled with self-image, more specifically my weight. I never got to the point that I was anorexic (at least I don't think I did) but I would sometimes chew gum all day to try to curb my hunger and then eat a light dinner. There were times that I was so hungry that I would grab some food, chew it and then spit it out just so that I could taste the food. In the period of 7 months I went from 120 lbs. to 100 lbs. At 5' 5" that put me way underweight. There were a lot of factors that caused this but the bottom line is that I felt so gross about myself and everytime I looked in the mirror I felt like the only way to fix what was wrong and to find the approval of people around me was to lose weight. Of course I wasn't relying on the Lord during this time and I eventually learned a lot of lessons that I carry with me to this day.

As I watching the Oprah show a mom in the audience was crying because she said that she struggles with her self-worth and self-image and that the day before coming to the show her 7-year-old daughter said to her, "Mom, can we go home before school so I can change? My thighs look big in these pants." The mom was devastated at how her actions had rubbed off on her
skinny, 7-year-old daughter. I paused the show and didn't finish it. At the time I was holding Makenzie while she napped and I thought, "Lord, how am I going to raise this baby girl to have confidence in herself, through you?" How can I raise my daughter to find full and complete satisfaction in You, when I constantly struggle with my self-image?

I remembered that there was a section about this in a book that Dirk got me for Christmas called
"5 Conversations You Must Have with your Daughter" by Vicki Courtney. I put the baby down and grabbed it. I read the first two chapters and was so convicted.

In this book Courtney talks about 5 lies that our culture feeds our daughters. One of which is that you are sum of your parts. I realized that this is so often my mindset.

I don't know how to say this without sounding conceited but know that I am trying to make a point. I am a perfectionist and I like to live up to the highest standard. As I grew up I often heard from many sources that I was cute or pretty or skinny, etc. Instead of taking this as a compliment, I took it as a requirement. People think that I'm cute, or pretty or skinny, therefore I have to live up to this standard that people have imposed on me. Of course this was my own doing, not the doing of those who complimented me but nevertheless I felt like I had a standard that I didn't believe I met and that I needed to live up to and this carried with me throughout my life.

In her book, Courtney states that, "[Our] culture has imposed a narrow definition of beauty, which does not allow for the natural effects of childbearing or aging. Women are expected to return to their prechildbirth bodies that show no evidence whatsoever of the beauty of motherhood. The culture's definition of beauty does not tolerate stretch marks and excess skin that might cover up once firm six-pack abs." (page 11) Seriously, I reread these sentences several times. As if I don't have issues enough, I now have this body that I feel is alien. Instead of embracing the beauty of birth and the miracle of motherhood, I've been so disgusted with my body. Comparing it with others whose bodies have bounced back so quickly and, in my eyes, so perfectly.

I'm not saying that I have the answer on how to raise Makenzie with a positive self-worth which she finds in the Lord but I do know that I need to learn to find my full satisfaction in the Lord. Courtney shared the verse 1 Samuel 16:7, "But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at his heart.'" I was made to bring glory to God not to meet the expectations of men. It's easy to say, much harder to do. One thing Courtney says about instilling this positive self-worth in your daughters 5 and under, is to praise her character and not just her looks. I realize now that it's so easy and so natural to say, "You are just the cutest thing ever." It takes a little more effort to say, "You bring so much joy to my life" or "The way you sung that song to the Lord really brought me joy." I pray that as Christian women we can begin to bring a revolution to our churches by praising virtue rather than vanity.

I haven't a chance to browse Vicki Courtney's blog but here it is if you're interested. I definitely think that you should buy the book. It's a very interesting and easy read and I do believe it will change your life.


  1. Beautiful post. And very timely for me, as I just tried on my pre-pregnancy jeans yesterday and started to feel really disgusted with myself.

  2. Wow Alica.. Something that I really needed also.. I feel like even though Hadyn is a year old that my body should be back to the way that it was before I had her... I feel gross all the time, which I believe has pushed its way into my life in general. Thank you for your post it has really helped me.

  3. Thank you for sharing. I know it took courage to be honest about something like self image. I have also struggled with self image, but mostly after highschool. I was the opposite in that I heard alot of compliments about the girls I hung out with, so I pretty much didnt feel attractive at all - so after highschool it was something I really worked hard to fix about myself. I've been guilty of being too concerned with the outer appearance...but I really love your quote in this post... " I pray that as Christian women we can begin to bring a revolution to our churches by praising virtue rather than vanity." Well spoken!!

  4. I love that book. I just read it. My daughter is 10 and I so want her to have a positive self image and to be happy in her own skin. All over the message is THIN, I just want her think healthy!! I want her self worth to be seen in her heart, just as the Lord see it, and not only her appearance! Love your blog, brings me back to when Tom and I were newly married and had our long ago. I am glad your mom shared it!
    Maria Tinker

  5. so encouraging and something all women need to hear!