Having a baby changed everything about my body. Every single part. I’m gradually losing my hair, breaking out in pimples like I’m back in high school, still dealing with swollen fingers and feet, and don’t even get me started on my jello-like belly and thick thighs.
I like to talk about my postpartum body because it’s real. And for the most part, I like my body, too. I’m still so fascinated by the fact that it housed a tiny human for nine months and is able to produce the only source of nourishment that tiny human needs. When I look in the mirror, I often see a strong woman, a mighty warrior, and a great mom. But when I take the time to really examine my body, I begin to remember the way it used to look and start to notice all of its flaws.
Lately I’ve been noticing the flaws more and more. I’m no longer on that “new mom high” and I’m paying more attention to things outside of my life with a baby, like what other people are wearing or what size they are or how flawless they look on social media. I still want to appreciate my body and feel confident in my own skin, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should be thinner, tighter, and trendier. I don’t like that none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me. I feel frumpy in my seamless nursing bras. It bothers me that I still look like I could be four months pregnant. And if I’m being totally honest here, I feel far from sexy with this saggy, squishy body.
I could spend the rest of this post ranting about how our society has failed us –how it’s difficult to find flattering clothing for curvier women, how we’re surrounded by pressures to get rid of our baby weight, how filters and editing apps create an unrealistic expectation of how women should look, and how Victorias Secret doesn’t even carry plus-sizes (I may or may not have shed tears at the mall after discovering this) — but I know that my problem isn’t just with society. The problem also lies with me.
I’m the one who has a problem with the way I look. Sure, I call myself “beautiful” because that’s what I’m supposed to believe about myself, but I still pick myself apart like most women do. I’m the one doing the analysis. I’m the one who’s deciding I don’t like what I see.
This past Sunday evening at church, I was trying to focus during worship, but all I could think about was what a disaster my shopping trip had been that day. I went to the mall with expectations of finding clothes that would make me feel pretty and I instead left empty-handed. It’s not wrong to want to feel pretty or to want to dress up and look nice. But because I failed at fulfilling this vision for myself, I began to question my beauty as a whole. Am I really beautiful? Because I think my muffin top says otherwise and my greasy hair disagrees. How I would love to be just a few sizes thinner! Or have amazing, long hair or a smaller chest or a nicer wardrobe.
But the Lord had something to say about that.
“You don’t get to pick and choose what parts of you are beautiful. You either are beautiful or you’re not. And my darling, you are beautiful.”
Me? Really? I’m beautiful?
I let this sink in for a moment. And I had to ask myself, is it enough for the Lord, my heavenly Daddy, to say that I’m beautiful? Is that enough for me? If I stopped getting likes and comments on my photos, if I stopped wearing makeup or curling my hair, if I didn’t have anyone around to compliment my looks, would it be enough for me to know that God himself sees me as beautiful?
I don’t like my answer to that question. Because truthfully, it’s a no.
I don’t have that confidence yet. I don’t have that security in myself. I don’t have that positive body image. I want it, but I’m just not there.
Praise the Lord for grace upon grace.
I was created for more than this world, but I still get caught up in it. The Lord formed my body, but I tear it down. I am blessed with life, but I curse the vessel I’ve been given. My Father in heaven calls me beautiful, but I act like he’s a liar.
But I know there is immeasurable grace for me in my moments of weakness. And I know that if I come to him with a desire to change, to see myself as he sees me, he’ll give it to me. It’ll take time to believe the truth he whispers in my ear and it’ll take effort to cast out the lies the enemy whispers in the other, but one day — Lord willing — I’ll get there and it’ll be so worth it. I have hope there will be a day when I will be able to stand in front of the mirror without a made-up face or the pretty, frilly things of this world and fully, completely, irrevocably see myself as beautiful. From the top of my head all the way to my toes.
But for right now, when I am asked to believe that I am beautiful, I at least pray, “I do believe… but help my unbelief.”
I’m sure some of you wouldn’t be too surprised upon hearing that I love to journal. Just about every day for the past four years, I’ve been writing down my thoughts, feelings, prayers, and accounts of my life in journals of all shapes and sizes. These are my sacred writings; I don’t dare show anyone what I dutifully write. But every now and then I find myself writing things that seem like they ought to be shared. Today is one of those days. I hope you are encouraged as I was just a moment ago when I found these words my hands and heart collectively turned into a declaration of hope.
May 6, 2014
“Therefore we do not lost heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)
Lord, I want to live with faith in this verse. I want to believe that my momentary troubles are achieving an eternal glory for me. It’s hard because I can’t see that glory in whole, but maybe I am being shown glimpses. Maybe part of the eternal glory is the tears and smiles of friendship bonded by wounds and struggles. Maybe it’s also found in the relief and rest that comes from being beautifully flawed and wonderfully accepted by another. Maybe that glory is also found in the cry of my heart to fix the pain of this world. Maybe it’s in the daily renewal of my heart and the way I’m still hungry for you each morning after all this time. The beautiful things of this world scream of you and of your grace. Would I have or appreciate any of these things without the momentary troubles or grievances?
And the best part is that these things don’t even come close to the true eternal glory only found in heaven. We’ve only just peeked at the surface of it all. If I can make it through today and the next day and then the day after that, then perhaps I really can make it to that eternal glory. Day by day you renew me and give me just the right ounce of strength to press on in this fight and messy life. I’m looking forward to the eternal glory, but the stuff that leads up to it is not a waste. There’s no need to lose heart when you’re gently leading me there. You are achieving that glory for me. You are truly a good, loving Father.
Here’s a word all girls are familiar with: Acceptance.
Every female struggles with it.
Am I pretty enough? Do these people like me? What should I wear today? Will they make fun of me?
Or worse: Who does she think she is? Why can’t he just be normal? Why should I bother getting to know this person?
Whether it’s trouble with accepting ourselves or trouble with accepting others, we are all guilty.
Today someone raised a question: Why do you want to be accepted?
For a long time, I literally did not have an answer.
We spend so much time putting on makeup, trying to impress people, working to achieve something of worth, hoping to getting someone’s attention, and asking ourselves if we’re even good enough.
It’s obvious that we all want to be liked and accepted.
Why does it even matter? Who cares if your hair looks like a mess? What’s the point in trying to gain as much approval from your peers as you can? Who are we trying to impress anyway?
Because we are like Eve. Every woman is.
“Like Eve after she tasted the forbidden fruit, we women hide. We hide behind our makeup. We hide behind our humor. We hide with angry silences and punishing withdrawals. We hide our true selves and offer only what we believe is wanted, what is safe… We will not risk rejection or looking like a fool. We have spoken in the past and been met with blank stares and mocking guffaws… To hide means to remain safe, to hurt less. At least that is what we think. And so by hiding, we take matters into our own hands. We don’t return to God with our broken and desperate hearts.” Captivating- John and Stasi Eldredge.
When we fail to accept ourselves, we are drifting farther and farther away from where God wants us to be. He wants us to run to Him, He wants us to put our insecurities behind us, and He wants us to find truth.
And the truth is that we were each created to be simply captivating.
“A woman in her glory, a woman of beauty, is a woman who is not striving to become beautiful or worthy enough. She knows in her quiet center where God dwells that he finds her beautiful, has deemed her worthy, and in him, she is enough. In fact, the only thing getting in the way of our being fully captivating and enjoyed is our striving. “He will quiet you with his love” (Zeph. 3:17). A woman of true beauty is a woman who in the depths of her soul is at rest, trusting God because she has come to know him to be worthy of her trust. She exudes a sense of calm, a sense of rest, and invites those around her to rest as well. She speaks comfort; she knows that we live in a world at war, that we have a vicious enemy, and our journey is through a broken world. But she also knows that because of God all is well, that all will be well. A woman of true beauty offers others the grace to be and the room to become.”
Once we break through those layers of hurt and fear, we find a capable version of self, a beautiful one. Once we see the true meaning of beauty and we learn to accept ourselves, we also learn to accept others. We are all so much alike.
Ladies, we all seek to be loved, we all want to be seen as lovely, and we all struggle with looking at ourselves in the mirror, some more than others. Once we realize how similar we really are, how can we not love and help each other? How can we not accept each other? You are meant to be captivating, and so is she. We all are.
Though we may not fully know why we want to be accepted, the desire is there. Instead of allowing it to control our actions and determine how we live our lives, we need to let it all go and realize what we can be, not what we aren’t.