Wednesday, October 29, 2014

let me be louder

I heard from lots of you yesterday regarding this post on body image and insecurity and beauty. You liked it and commented and shared it and sent me emails and facebook messages. I was so happy to hear from so many of you and so sad that so many of us struggle with this. Dove has campaigns on beauty and Colbie Callait sings songs like this and Maya Angelou writes poems like this and we are educated women with great families and jobs and hobbies, yet we are sometimes crippled by this feeling that we aren't enough. That our looks make us less than. That we should get plastic surgery or stop eating or binge and purge or exercise excessively or take pills or cut ourselves or drown our inadequacies in the drug of the day or give our souls away to the first person to tell us we're pretty, no matter how many strings are attached to that one little statement.

We are surrounded by female Secretaries of State and presidents of universities and lactation consultants and CEOs and stay at home moms and Olympic athletes and librarians that exude strength, beauty, class, intelligence, care, and wisdom. We are educators and accountants and fitness instructors and business owners and single women and nurses and volunteer coordinators and members of the PTA and doctors and moms. Yet we worry about the wrinkles around our eyes and the number on the tag in our jeans and the size of the veins in our legs and the texture of our thighs.
We are raising strong, beautiful, smart daughters and we want them to feel strong and beautiful and smart every single day, but we can't even begin to do the same. We want them to navigate the pre-teen years and ignore the music videos and magazine ads, cyberbullying and websites celebrating eating disorders. Yet we sit out of pictures, watch from the beach instead of dive into the surf, and spend a week/month/year counting calories/eating grapefruits/saying no to carbs in preparation for the class reunion/kid's graduation party/friend's wedding. We obsess over the size of our waist and wrinkles and thighs. Our daughters see this. They see all of it and they take it in and it becomes a piece of who they are. These daughters we want to feel strong and beautiful every single day.

Last night I was reading Anne of Windy Poplars with my fierce, determined, lovely daughter as she brushed my hair. It is part of our nightly routine and something I look forward to all day long. We read great books together. We pause to talk about the things going on in the book or the things going on in our lives. And there's the added bonus of getting my hair brushed. {happy sigh}

Last night Audrey was sitting on my back brushing my hair as I read another of Anne's letters to her beloved Gilbert. She leaned in close and said, "Oh, there's a spot right here where there are a few hairs really close together and they're silver." Ouch. So true. Then she continued on. "They're this really pretty bright silver color." Hey, that doesn't sound so bad. "Does that mean you're getting old? Because I don't think you're getting old."

We talked about how different people get gray hair at different times and since my mom and dad got gray hair young I did, too, and how I found my first gray hair when I was a sophomore in college so you definitely don't have to be old to have gray hair. She asked me to look for gray hair on her head, but nope, still shiny, beautiful brown. We talked about how gray hair just happens and some people let it stay gray and other people color it and it's just how God makes people. We tried to think of women who let their hair turn gray and she could only think of one. We thought of loads of men, but only one woman. That's insane.

OK. We all know there's this big, horrendous, disgusting problem that hits us from all sides. What can we possibly do? What can we do to help ourselves and our daughters in order to stop this nonsense?

I don't have the answers. Obviously. But I thought about it today and came up with a plan of action. Here's what I came up with.
First, no matter how I'm feeling, I never talk about my body in front of my daughter. Oh wait. I actually tell her how fast I can run and how strong I feel when I work out and how I think my eyes are pretty. I want her to hear a lot of that.

Second, my daughter knows what beautiful means. It means full of beauty. As in sunsets and the view from the top of a mountain and a smile that exudes joy. We talk about the fact that beauty has nothing to do with what she's wearing and has everything to do with what's inside of her. Her kindness and intelligence and silliness and zest for life. She comes down the stairs in striped leggings and mismatched socks and a floral shirt and then she smiles and it's just perfect.
Third, I'm loud. I was talking with a friend the other day, and by talking I mean facebook messaging because I don't get to real life talk to any of my friends anymore. Waaahwaaah! She had this junky thing going on at work where someone was putting her down and she was generally feeling crappy about it. You know how people say stuff and even if you know it's not true you start to second guess yourself and feel miserable until finally you think maybe they're right after all? I pulled out my big loud computer voice and put in all caps, "YOU ARE INTELLIGENT AND WORTHY AND LOVED. LET ME BE LOUDER. LET ME BE THE VOICE YOU HEAR." There may have been three lines of exclamation points involved, too. What can I say? I wanted her to get the message loud and clear.

It's the same with my daughter and my message about her worth and beauty and strength. When the day comes and someone calls her fat or skinny or too short or too tall or too curvy or not curvy enough or whatever stupid, subjective, idiotic, impossible nonsense standard they think they get to hold her to, I want her to hear my voice in her ear, loud and clear. (YOU ARE INTELLIGENT AND WORTHY AND LOVED. LET ME BE LOUDER. LET ME BE THE VOICE YOU HEAR. (I also want to punch that person in the teeth. Really.)

Fourth, our faith plays a role in this. We believe we are created in God's image. That we are fearfully and wonderfully made. That God knew the plan for our lives before we were born. That the world can rage around us, but we are safe in God's love. When I was pregnant with Audrey I listened to this song a lot.
I want the voice of truth ringing in her ear, measuring her worth and reminding her that God made her just how she's supposed to be and she is loved.

I don't know. It's too much. This is such a huge issue and it is related to so many other issues. I just know I know a lot of beautiful, you know, full of beauty, women who feel really bad about how they look. I just know there are times I'd rather stay home than figure out what to wear because I hate all of it. I just know I want more than that for my daughter.

How do you handle this in your house and in your heart? Any advice? I'm all ears!


  1. You hit the nail on the head for me today, DeNae! I was one of those girls who never thought I would be perfect and was made fun of because of my size. I remember those days and keep them locked in a box in my heart so no one can see the pain. I'm old enough to get rid of those childhood days but yet they seem to come back to haunt me on my melancholy days when it seems like I'm treading water to stay afloat. But God isn't finished with me yet - He has me wrapped in His arms and He has blessed me with a loving husband who sees beyond my size and looks at the beauty inside of me. I have a son and a granddaughter who love me without question and a fantastic family - nuclear and extended - that we can share all of our ups and downs with (even when we can't talk real life face to face)! Thank you, DeNae. I am so honored and blessed to have been chosen as your godmother and I thank God for your wonderful, honest words that help us continue on the life journey that God has planned for us. Love you!

  2. Love love love, how you have expanded these thoughts into different posts.