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.