MM4

Margi’s Memo
From Margi: Wife, Mom, Attorney, Married to a Pastor
To: The Gals in Our Church
Re: Self-Esteem

I remember it well. There I was, all of 18 years of age, walking through the college campus at Cedarville College in Ohio and I heard, “So how’s the weather up there?”

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I honestly had never given that much thought to my height or how I looked until that moment. It was a defining moment for me. A thoughtless, immature fellow student made this offhanded, I’m sure she thought–funny–comment. I realized at that moment that I was not “normal.” I was taller than “normal.”

I’d like to say that I turned to the Lord and read my Bible and prayed and found myself and my self worth and that this comment meant nothing to me.

Not so.

Almost 27 years later I remember the event as if it happened this morning. I spent years struggling with self-concept and acceptance of who I was.

Was it because of that one thoughtless comment? No, of course not. But that comment was enough to make me take survey of who I was and my life. It made me aware of things like never before. I had always been tall and thin, but until that moment I had never really focused on it.

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Outward beauty was never emphasized in our home. Education, character and godliness were – all through my mother. I credit my mother for initiating in me any of the virtues I possess. My mother is truly one of the kindest, most godly, self-sacrificing, wisest examples of a true Christian I have ever known. Not only was outward beauty never emphasized in our home but I don’t recall ever speaking of outward beauty. It was inconsequential.

Unfortunately, in our society outward beauty is not inconsequential. The idea sometimes seems so pervasive that too often our focus is shifted from the more important, inner beauty, to the superficial, outer beauty. So, having no established concept of outward beauty as one is growing up, can be a problem for dealing with a beauty-crazed world.

Many women struggle with self-concept. We probably don’t say much about it, though. Not with parents, our best friends or our spouses. We silently berate ourselves and cry silent tears for the failings we see in our outward appearance. (Don’t even get me started on my inner inadequacies.)

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Who can blame us? Everywhere we turn we are bombarded by images of thin, complexion-perfect, thigh-perfect, sculpted-cheekbones-perfect, incredibly beautiful women. Go to the mall– there are posters everywhere of these goddesses. Go to the grocery store and the magazines beckon you to pick them up with reverent fingertips and bow at the altar of beauty.

If you don’t fit into the mold of the tall, thin, but shapely, beautiful women on the magazines, on the television shows or movies, you just don’t add up.

Since that Fall day at Cedarville College I have found solace in Ps. 139:14 “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

On my good days, my soul does know very well that God made me perfectfully and wonderfully. It seems that the more I focus on God and others and less on me, the most I immerse myself in God’s Word, the more I surround myself with people who lift me up, the more I engage in activities that focus on my strengths, the less I feel inadequate in my self-concept

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Do I struggle with my self-image? Of course. I would never be so disingenuous as to say that I’ve got it licked.

The reality is that, as much as I try to spiritualize things and find my identity in Christ, I still have those moments where I wish I were one of those goddesses.

Is there an easy fix of just reading the Bible and praying and all will be better? I don’t think so. I definitely think it helps. Perhaps the solution lies in a combination of bringing our secret insecurities to the Lord and surrounding ourselves with people that truly love us. Place yourself in situations where those around you celebrate your uniqueness and uplift your spirit.

Work on acquiring a better self-image. Read the Bible and pray; find fellowship with good , trustful women; read books on the subject; stop looking at those magazines; stop comparing yourself with others, get counseling – and above all know that you are not an accident or mistake of our Heavenly Creator. You ARE wonderful and beautiful and amazing – perfectly made by God for His perfect purposes.

Bill here, adding this P.S. Our daughter is tall for her age, which is an EXCELLENT reason TO NOT TELL HER SO! Or else! Kids her age don’t want to be different (see my post about stage fright).

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For Part 2 of this blog, please check back next Wednesday.

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3 thoughts on “MM4

  1. First, I ain’t a gal, but I read your your memo anyway. Hope that’s OK. I am 6″ 4″ which is tall for a full grown man but I was 6′ 4” in the sixth grade!
    I used to hear that crack all the time about “How’s the weather up there?”
    So I started pretending to hack up a loogey like I was going to spit on them (which I never did) and then I would say “It’s raining”. If nothing else it got people laughing and more likely than not they would be laughing at the person who had asked the question in the first place. I felt vindicated.

  2. Margi,
    I recently read a book, “The Body Project,” which discussed the destructive, double whipsaw effect of outward beauty and women’s need for acceptance based on that beauty. (See http://www.thebodyproject.com). The author was not a believer (as far as I could tell) but her sober conclusions were remarkably close to Biblical principles. Please have a look at the webpage (and/ or obtain a copy of the book). I highly recommend it.
    Grace.
    Joe

  3. Marg,
    Here is the critical review I provided on the “Body Project” as part of an assignment for a recent Bible class… I quoted page numbers for reference. I hope this info provides better perspective on the inner/outer beauty tension that (Christian) women face today.
    * * *
    There were five principles that I learned from reading this text. First, every girl suffers from adolescent angst (p. xviii). That is, their shape and appearance (‘body projects’) become the primary expression of their individual identity (p. xxi). During the ages of 11-16 years, their self-esteem crumbles, and they become self-doubting and insecure (p. xxiv). Application: I have a daughter, and am better prepared to be ready for her adolescence—I intend to teach her that her moral character, spirituality, health, and generosity of spirit (virtues of the Victorian era) are what constitute her beauty (pp. 70, 76, 97, 101). Second, girls today experience menarche as late adolescents—and this development is commensurate with a post-modern culture that is more tolerant of allowing younger girls to engage in sexual experiences—the result is exposure to premature sexuality and manipulation (p. 19-20, 197, 204). Application: My daughter is no less susceptible to the cultural (and biological) realities. My wife will have some of the responsibility to protect the younger member(s) of the same sex (p. 19). My responsibilities will be to discourage my daughter from associating good womanhood with inordinate attention to the cosmetic aspects of her body (p. 93). Third, the peak age of sexual assault among women in the United States is between the ages of 14 and 15 (p. 190)—half of all rapes occur to victims less than 16 years of age (p. 190). Thirty-three percent of women polled in recent studies indicated that they would consider forced sex as all right, if the assailant was someone they were dating for a long time (p. 190). One million girls in the United States gets pregnant every year—55% of these pregnancies results in abortion, miscarriage, or adoption (p. 201). Within the United States, girls are five times more likely than girls in other industrialized countries to give birth (p. 201). Application: My daughter is three years old, and I expect to educate her in coming years on the excesses of society saturated with sex; the popular messages that violence is ‘sexy’; and that somehow instant ‘intimacy’ is desirable (p. 200). In addition, I will have to relate to her that men and women still have unequal power and resources, and it is hard for many women to overcome this gender imbalance (p. 192)—further, the society we live in fosters a sexually brutal and commercially rapacious outlook against women (p. 197, 208-09, 211-212). To that end, I should (as a parent) appreciate to the concept of the ‘protective umbrella’ of young women that was common in the Victorian era (p. 197). Fourth, the commercial market has identified the menstruation process as a hygiene crisis—that is, the importance of menses lies in its emotional-social meaning for reproductively and its concomitant responsibilities—but the sanitary napkin industry has re-identified the menses as a personal inconvenience, and has driven a ‘third party’ wedge between mothers/daughters, doctors/patients, and teachers/students on the wider societal issues of fertility (pp. 29, 31-32, 41, 53-55). Application: I intend to engage my daughter (with my wife) in coming years on her fertility and the wider discussion of her self-image and why her emerging womanhood may be vulnerable. Finally, this book captures well the concept that younger girls—developing women—have freedoms that are laced with perils (p. 197)—i.e., their bodies are ready for reproduction earlier, but their emotional and intellectual development is not (p. 5) while living in a more tolerant culture for recreational sex (p. 197). Application: I will ask my daughter to read this book, when she is able, and, of course, recommend this ‘secular’ book to other Christians.

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