Spring is (finally!) in full swing, and with summer right around the corner we have all been audience to endless talk of the “body”. Between Victoria’s Secret’s “ The Perfect ‘Body'” Campaign, the rows and rows of colorful (and, finally, more modest) swimsuits in any given store, as well as the lure of the beach (its good to live in Florida!), I, much like every other woman in America, have become at least more aware, if not more self conscious, about the status of my body.
Lent is a time where Christians reflect upon Christ’s sacrifice of his body for our sins. However this year, for whatever reason, it was easy for me to get distracted by more worldly thoughts. The temptation to compare myself to the supposedly ideal physique I am exposed to on a constant basis was overwhelming. This comparison quickly led down a self shaming spiral which resulted in a pathetic self esteem, and unfortunately, I think many women can sympathize.
The struggle I am experiencing is as old as photoshop (and
probably older). Women, for whatever reason, are particularly susceptible to fall into comparison and self shaming. Perhaps this is due to our desire to be loved, cherished, and “captivating” as the book tells us. We want to enthrall mankind with our beauty, it is in our very nature.
But how can we honestly find ourselves captivating when every image of beauty shows an extremely particular body shape, which very few of us fit into? Even I, who at 5’9″ and with a size 4 waist is considered pretty close, feel an extreme amount of pressure to maintain this shape…. how does a future pregnancy or a metabolism that slows as I age (God forbid!) fit into this “ideal” picture? Could it be that the devil (Who notoriously hates women, as we bring life into the world. He particularly hates one woman, the Virgin Mary, who brought our Savior into the world… call on her in moments of weakness!) wants us to be so inward focused, so ashamed of ourselves, that we delay or decline to complete the mission that God has set forth for us? How many studies have been done to report that women have less ambition in the workplace, are less likely to speak up for themselves, to ask for a raise, or to ask for a promotion? I will not blame a lack of testosterone (we don’t produce enough to increase our muscles mass by 20% like a guy, but we certainly produce enough to give us the emotional benefits), but rather I will blame a lack of self confidence, brought on by the impossible standards that have been set for us.
It is time this changed. I am not saying that we should begin using exclusively plus size models the way we now use exclusively tiny models. However, some variety would be nice. An appreciation of all body types that are strong and healthy would be lovely. And portraying women as more than their physique by intentionally exposing more of the person rather than the body would be superb (and maybe women would cease to be seen as objects…wouldn’t that be something).
At Mass recently, I was experiencing a particularly bad episode of poor self esteem and the inward focus (self consciousness) that renders even the most confident woman useless against the attacks of the devil. I called out to the Holy Spirit, who showed up with full force and smacked some sense into me. I would like to share some of this sense with you.
Women, our bodies are incredible. Our bodies climb mountains, bring 1,000 pound horses under our authority, bleeds for five days and doesn’t die; our bodies can run, jump, throw, and swim. One day, God willing, my body will bring life into this world. Why is it then that I am more apt to be critical rather than grateful for the beautiful home God has given me for my soul? Why do we, as women, fall prey so easily to the lies about what “perfect” even is?
Look at a crucifix. One with Jesus on it, hanging there, bleeding for you. That is perfect. That is what we (those of us who are Christians) are striving for. And how grateful I am! How grateful I am to know what it means to run, or to gallop on a horse, or to see what North Carolina looks like from the top of a mountain… how can I regret my physique, when it grants me so much by the grace of God? How grateful I am that the Lord has called me to his spectacular mission, that i am called to love and serve his precious people. How grateful I am to be entrusted with the souls of 50 students, who are my mission right now.
What is your mission? And how does your body allow you to participate in this mission? That is what I want to know about the models on the screen or in the Victoria’s Secret catalogues. I don’t care about your diet, or about your exercise routine, what is your mission?
Women. Dear, Sweet Women who may come across this blog. Please, do not shame your body. Do not look into the mirror and see the supposed flaws. Rather, see the face of Jesus, offering himself so that you may live with him eternally. We are made in his image, are we not?
Amazing. Just amazing Janelle. This is a wonderful piece and I needed to hear it, as I’m sure so many women out there do. I have been body shaming myself for 2 years now after having my first baby because, yes things have changed! But you’re right, this body gave the two of the most precious and beautiful creatures I’ve ever laid eyes on. And because Christ sacrificed his life and body, I got to bring life into the world! How wrong of me to ever look in the mirror and HATE what I see.. We are all in his imagine, how dare I hate what I see.
Jessica, Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to comment! I miss you! I am so glad this blog spoke to you. What a beautiful gift you have given to this world in bearing and delivering your babies. Your body is amazing! Welcome its changes as battle scars and symbols of your strength and dignity as a woman and a mother. God bless you Jess!
Thank you Janelle for this beautiful and encouraging post. I can just feel the passion and love you put in your words and that really inspires me. It was such a little treat today to find your blog and know there are others like you out there trying to spread words of love. From one girl’s heart to another, keep up the good fight. Many blessings!
Thank you for your comment and encouragement! Many blessings to you!