1.07.2014

Not Something to be Seen



"She never looked nice. She looked like art, and art wasn't supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something." -Rainbow Rowell "Eleanor & Park"

Shortly after J moved back in following our 9 month separation, we began preparing for a trip to the Cayman Islands. 

Now, even if a new and relatively fragile reconciliation hadn't been part of the picture, a beach vacation and all that it would entail would have been enough to make me start to feel very small, anxious and insecure. 

This was meant to be a second honeymoon; an opportunity to reconnect and recommit. I didn't want it to be marred by my body shame, and I really didn't want to spend every second of the trip watching where my husband's eyes went and competing to keep them on me. 

So, how to feel calm, comfortable and confidant? I didn't know. I prayed for help. 

I'd already thrown out pretty much anything that had bad memories or past associations with them, so I was now forced to purchase essentials. Bras, underwear, swimsuits, sundresses, etc. The very first thing I determined was that I would not allow myself to perform. I was not going to buy something simply because of how it would make me look to others; my primary objective would be that it made me feel pretty. If I liked the way I looked, that would translate to security, right? I would be able to enjoy myself, sure that I looked nice to me.

I braced myself and went to Victoria's Secret, {Ugh. Who knew bra shopping could be so traumatic?!} and spent an ungodly amount of time in a dressing room with a box of bras, trying things on and crying. I wanted to look pretty. I wanted to feel pretty. Was that really so wrong? I didn't think so, and yet the whole experience was making me feel terrible. I went home with my purchases and felt like throwing up.

That evening as I poured out my anguish to the Lord in prayer, I heard these words in my mind: "... not meant to be looked at." and knew immediately that I was more than something to be seen. I was more than that to Him. I wanted to be more than that to others. And I certainly needed to be more than that to MYSELF. 

I'd been so terrified of being objectified and judged-- confused because I didn't want to be lusted, but scared of being dismissed and despised-- that I'd bought into the prevalent theory that the way to take back power is to objectify myself.  That if I thought of myself as sexy and desirable {something to be looked at} first, that what others thought of me wouldn't phase me. I would have confidance. I would have self-esteem.

Bull#%$&.

I was accepting that I was nothing more than something to be looked at! It didn't matter if someone else said it through their actions towards me or if I said it to myself-- I was allowing myself to internalize the lie that my reflection was a measure of my worth. And that-- buying into that lie-- was killing me. 

All that pain, all that depression-- it was as if my very soul were rejecting the notion, refusing to be dismissed as simply a body. As I let the idea that I was more sink in, I began to feel free.

I took back the stupid, pink bag of 'sexy' undergarments and bought something simple instead. This time, I just wanted to honor and respect what I saw in the mirror. 

I purchased a modest, stylish swimsuit that felt like 'me'. I tried not to worry about whether it made me look thin or not. 

And when we ended up on a boat to see the stingrays and sat across from a model in a tiny bathing suit-- I closed my eyes and told myself that I am not my body-- and neither is she. We are not a threat to one another.

It was the first step in an ongoing journey. 

{image of a Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange. I love the strength and humanity in her face. It reminds me that beauty is everywhere and is far more than society's 'ideal body'}


6 comments:

The Dragonfly said...

This is powerful, dig deep, real stuff you're addressing! It is so hard to find and believe that true worth when our society tells us the opposite is true, but you are spot on. Thank you.

Crystal Hansen said...

I see women do this to themselves all the time. That's why a few seasons back when watching Project runway and hearing the Judges use "sexy" to determine whether or not a look was good, EVERY SINGLE EPISODE, I got mad, then I got inspired. I realized that I love designing clothes that make you feel beautiful and happy. Sexy is between you and your other(despite the world telling you it's between you and everyone else. Your clothes are about you and who you are. That's why I spot lighted Mani and why I am going to be spot lighting more Real and Beautiful women this year. Love you, you are beautiful.

Apis Melliflora said...

One of my favorite verses: "People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7

How can we make our hearts more pleasing for the Lord's viewing pleasure?

That is the question.

Shauna said...

Love this. Thank you!

Erin said...

I really appreciated your statement that the model in the tiny bathing suit is also not her body and neither are a threat to one another. It pains me when I hear phrases like "real women have curves" - indicating that those of us without them are not "real women".

Nicole said...

A little while ago a friend mentioned an article I wish I could find now on how we should dress for what we are doing, not to be looked at. We shouldn't feel like dressing "sexy" unless that's what we're off to do, said more eloquently in the article of course. I'm a mom and can dress simply like one :).

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