Sunday, February 26, 2017

What's Your Self Image Worth - A Red Dress?

Is your self image worth the lies or the victories?

OMGosh why do I always feel fat!

No one escapes the messages they received about their self-worth, their personhood. Messages come in all forms such as praise, edification, guidance, uplifting or perhaps destruction, lies, invalidation, tearing down, to name a few. Some messages were blatant while others were disguised.

Messages can be misleading. Perhaps they suggest that looks helped us to succeed in life, a job, a relationship, while others said we'd never make it, who'd want you, I disown you, you're stupid, too thin, too fat, too pretty, too ugly or you're trash.

The messages we receive, good or bad, often become the filter on how we see ourselves, the world, our job, our family, our friends, and perhaps even God. Some people know the message they received while others aren't sure or claim they don't have one.

For me, it wasn't until I got older and began asking questions about my past that I began to unravel some of the lies of my abuse. You might ask, if the abuse was real, how can it be a lie?  Well, the abuse was real. What wasn't real was the messages that I received from the abuse that imprinted a lie about my self-worth. False lies that will continue to skew my view of my life, if I let them. So instead, I choose to keep asking questions one step at a time in search of a different view.

Why is it I hear many girls say, if I could just loose that 10 pounds I'd fit into those jeans better, be happy, feel good, feel something?! What's up with that? Why do we do that? I started to think it's a default switch we're born with or maybe it's Eve's fault that we had to give up the fig leaf and move into clothes that are restrictive and cut off circulation, so maybe that's why we always feel fat. Actually, it's Adam's fault because he shouldn't have been tempted, but I won't go there, that's for another time. I'm not looking to open that can of applesauce.

I don't know about you, but every  time I walk into a public bathroom it's like ground hog day all over again. I can't help but glance at my reflection and fuss with my shirt, then turn sideways and assess the view and groan at how fat I feel that day even though I know the mirror has added 10 additional pounds above the ones I already want to loose and the fluorescent lights make me look ashen, old and haggard. And then I say, you are in such denial, you are old. But then I go home and my mirror there is much kinder to me. Well maybe because the lighting is low and I'm in my sweats which have no restrictions!

A couple of weeks ago I went shopping with a coworker for a meeting at work. While we were pushing the cart around B.J.s looking for food, one thing led to another where I said something like, "I can't eat this or that, I get fat just looking at it. I'm always struggling with feeling fat."

She said, "Really? I've never felt fat in my life. I never felt that way about myself."

I said, "I can't imagine what that must feel like. I didn't have such a hot upbringing. My dad gave me some pretty negative messages along the way."

She said, "I loved my dad, he was always so wonderful to me and made me feel good. I miss him."

I assumed every woman felt the way I did, that was, until I began meeting women who had a different air of confidence about them and then I learned that they were loved and encouraged by their dad or both parents. It seemed that was an integral part and made a huge difference in their personhood.

And I realized, that also explained why I often feel like I'm climbing up a mountain, fighting false summits.

Perhaps there is a default switch in women and perhaps marketing can play a role, but I have to ask the question, where does the default switch come from and if marketing can convince us otherwise about the body that God gave us, then why is that?  If an advertisement can sway us from common sense, is there something deep within us that is hurting and needs light shed on it to make it go away?

For me, part of my fight is recognizing there is something to fight. That's half the battle and a step in the right direction rather than saying who cares. The other way I fight is to ask, seek and knock for answers.

So what's a red dress got to do with this?

Here is an excerpt from  a chapter in my book titled:
The Day My Music Died
(age eight or nine)

Guests milled throughout our house one Christmas as aunts, uncles and cousins celebrated in our new home. My sister and I received red dresses. A couple “ooohs,” and “ahhhs,” insisted we try them on so some relative could capture the gift in a photo. 
 Dressed for display, I walked back into the kitchen where people mingled and leaned against the counter. Dad laughed, “That dress makes you look fat.” Two of my boy cousins mimicked their Uncle John’s laugh and repeated, “You look fat.” I froze and wished I hadn’t put the stupid dress on, but I was following orders. I was embarrassed and I was sure everyone had heard.

That Christmas moment was forever recorded on film. 

That photo reminds me I was humiliated by my dad and in front of guests. The photo revealed how one click can capture the fragile and fractured heart of a little girl desperate for her father’s admiration. An unexpected word, now silent in the photo, reminds me how I started to become fat and ugly through my lens of myself.

The Polaroid that never fades reminds me why I never felt pretty, especially in Dad’s eyes.
 The End

As an adult when I look at the photo, who am I kidding, I'm swimming in the dress and it does make me look fat. Boy have styles changed since the 1970s. Perhaps it was an innocent comment or blurt by my dad and had he been asked at that time, did he mean it, maybe he would've said, "Of course not!" At least I'd like to think so.

It's not like I don't get that people can joke around or have a bad day. What I don't get is why the negative comments mixed with the tension in our home wasn't balanced with edification and affection. If I had felt loved by my dad, I would've felt pretty no matter what the dress looked like or if I was wearing a burlap bag.

When a little girls heart is missing that sense of feeling adored by her father, that can make or break her into the woman she will become. It will help her to think she can conquer anything or it risks having her spend a lifetime feeling defeated before she began. It's not that she can't overcome, it just makes for a steeper climb uphill toward her victory.

With the help of dark chocolate, I battle the lie that wants to leave me feeling fat and ugly as if that is my worth. But the bible says:
You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.

I conquer the lie with the belief of God's promise that says:
"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I am determined to not care what other people think because:
"...People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

I persevere to be one of those women who resembles this verse:
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
If you received a negative message, how are you attacking the lie?
Mini series on - What's your self-image worth?
My disclaimer: I share my stories in hope that they speak to someone who might be stuck in the lie of a message they received. I'm not here to split hairs over the difference between self-image, self-worth, self-esteem or self-confidence. I believe they're related in varying ways and/or feed/affect the other. I'm suggesting that discovering the message behind why we do or don't what we do is perhaps the beginning of discovering a new view to our value which helps define the gift we have to share with the world. 

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