It is a given that, for the most part, I write for women. It’s not that my thoughts are not relevant to men, it would benefit some to read my ramblings to, at least, give a glimpse in to the psyche of us women, and possibly, even help them to avoid common misunderstandings in their relationships. Why is this important, men (just in case you are reading this)? Because “when mama ain’t happy, ain’t NOBODY happy!”
In my adventures in connecting with my “sisters,” years ago, I accidentally stumbled on a phrase that received such a rousing response I use it pretty much every time I speak now. I was dressed in camouflage, doing a presentation entitled, “Major Mom: Mission Possible” and in my intro (much of which is ad-libbed) I said “Does this outfit make me look fat?” And WOW did they respond, and continue to respond, over the years, no matter the group, event, or outfit.
What is it about our self-image, value, and worth in this culture that is so needy and negative, that no matter how big or small, pretty or average, rich or poor, that we as women feel we don’t measure up? We aren’t good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, successful enough, lovable enough, whatever enough! And that insecurity, for me, is at its worst in the dressing room.
Of course, I am a woman, and I love to shop, but I hate trying on clothes! Whether looking for that perfect outfit for a special occasion or something new to boost my confidence, when I am hormonally challenged, is too much pressure! The trying on ritual rarely makes me feel better. Then, every time I try something on, when I look in the mirror, it never looks like I imagined it would,ever! And don’t even get me started on sizes!
I look back at pictures of myself 20, 30 years ago, and I remember thinking that I was fat and felt very insecure then! Now I think, “I was crazy! I looked great!” And I don’t mean that in a conceited way. It’s just that with age comes perspective, if not total acceptance, of reality and what is really important. At 51, I am now able to see what I really look like, to myself and others, and realize how I looked back then, when I thought I was fat and dumpy.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think, “Does this outfit make me look fat?” every time I get dressed. But it does not consume me or make me feel insecure. Sometimes I think an outfit actually does make me look heavier, but I like it so I wear it anyway. Why? Because I realize that who I am is not defined by my weight, age, or clothes. Although, I find that what I wear can reflect my personality, it does not make me who I am or determine my beauty.
I look at women my age in the media and see evidence of “nip and tuck” surgery, among other attempts to remain young and I am saddened at beautiful women who, instead of embracing their age and maturing with grace, become caricatures of themselves. How very sad! We idolize youth and devalue age and wisdom in our culture. It is wreaking havoc on our emotional, physical, and spiritual health. In doing so, we have also dismissed God’s plan and purpose for maturity in our lives and reduced life to a futile pursuit of unrealistic, unattainable perfection. We have traded rich relationships and depth of character for vanity and shallowness; true passion and purpose for frivolous, self-absorbed lives.
I am beginning to actually like my wrinkles, not even kidding! I am still trying to embrace the cellulite-thing, but nobody’s perfect. So what made the difference in my perspective? Age? Wisdom? Education? Fatalistic acceptance? Well, maybe all of those, but the reality is that walking the journey of womanhood with the God who created me, and redeemed me, gives me a clearer filter on my life lens.
First impressions are certainly important in some situations (job interviews, blind dates, etc), but frankly, it is our superficial society that makes first impressions and outward appearance the basis for everything. If you are not enough when I meet you then you are not worth my time. It sounds so mean and even juvenile, yet it is so true. Thankfully, it is not God’s perspective.
Sometimes we skim over Scripture, take it for granted or even dismiss it because we do not really believe it. We treat Glamor, Vogue and People magazines as truth and use them as our bible for defining who we are and relegate God’s Word to the shelf of platitudes and clichés that are convenient when we need to sound spiritual but do not let it actually impact our lives. So, yes, I admit that I am an insecure woman in a culture that bombards me with lies about who I am. So how do I embrace God’s perspective and change how I feel? By telling myself the Truth and begin to change and adjust the lens I see myself through. By renewing my mind through meditating on what God says about me. What we choose to think about and dwell on is what we will end up believing and ultimately acting on which, in turn, will drive our emotions and feelings. So how does God see His girls and how does He want us to view ourselves?
He created you and says you are WONDERFUL!
13For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
He is more concerned about WHO you are than what you wear or your size and shape.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
Note: I do not believe that ‘gentle and quiet spirit’ refers to personality but to an inner peace and confidence that comes from knowing and trusting God. That confidence helps us overcome the emotional roller-coaster and drama that often characterizes our gender and can make even the most physically plain and outwardly invisible woman noticeable, attractive and even classy.
He wants you to know how much He loves you and He wants that Truth to drive your self-image.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
So how do we change our mindset and get over our superficial insecurities? Work on getting to know the God who created you and then change your thinking!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, [sisters], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things! (emphasis added)
We may not be able to control what bombards us externally or even control the thoughts that pop in to our minds, but we can certainly control what we do with those thoughts and what we choose to believe as truth. A woman who chooses to do this will find peace and fulfillment regardless of her size or style.
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
There you have it! Even those of us insecure, imperfect women who struggle with our weight, cellulite, wrinkles and self-image can be women of value and worth. We can accomplish much more than just momentary attention for outward youth and beauty. We can impact our sisters, daughters, families, communities and world for eternity!
So, does this outfit make me look fat? Maybe, but it doesn’t matter because I look MARVELOUS to my Heavenly Father and that’s what matters!