Good grief y'all. This modern world can be so very hard on the heart and mind of a woman. It’s enough to make you good and crazy.
Most often without even realizing it, we are in a constant state of consuming information, images, and sounds… yeah yeah, we’ve heard that before, BUT the bigger point is that because this barrage of stuff is coming at us all the time- as a result, we are in a constant state of analyzing and criticizing – evaluating and judging- as we process the wave upon wave of information that comes at us. Not all of that is necessarily bad, but it is definitely not all good either.
With the steady and constant presence of Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat in our lives, it’s undeniably true that in our daily, or let’s be honest, even hourly habits of what we feed our minds, imaginations, and daydreams- we are constantly consuming images that, like it or not, subconsciously establish an unreasonable expectation for our own beauty, bodies, and relationships. You know the joke “I can’t ever un-see that!”? Yep- the truth of that rings loudly every second in our subconscious.
In addition, as a generation, we are seemingly obsessed with the fantasy of being someone other than who we are. I’m not saying that you outright want to skin another woman and “be” her (creepy and funny I know), but we do all harbor a long and loaded list of things we wish we were and that we weren’t. We want to have prettier skin, have that glowing tan, longer legs, have less cellulite, own a better wardrobe, and be in that perfect romantic relationship. In general- we want to have a glamorous life that is “Instagram-worthy”.
Um, let me shoot you straight here ladies.
No wonder we’re running on caffeine and dry shampoo (But let’s be honest-God bless both of those though- Hallelujah!)!
Half the time we’re not even aware of how exhausting and wearying it is, because it’s just become a regular part of our day. However, the result is a chronic, unrelenting state of comparison and evaluation that hums along in our minds, just below our surface thoughts.
We don’t even realize we’re doing it, and I’ve come to realize it is stealing my very LIFE from me. Comparison really is the thief of all joy.
I’ll never forget when I learned that as humans, but especially as WOMEN, that our minds cannot just see and process information, and then toss it aside- be free of it. No, we attach meaning to every single thing that we see, read, hear, and observe. EVERY.SINGLE.THING.
What does that mean? That means that mindlessly scrolling through so and so’s perfect instagram feed, Facebook page, or binging on reality TV- affects your SOUL.
How? If we attach meaning to everything, then we develop emotions about it, we make judgements about it, and we commit thoughts to it. Not just once, but repeatedly. There is a strong case to be made that we have more meaningful connections with things on our phone screen than the actual living beings in front of us on a daily basis- simply because we devote more time and attention to them.
Out of sheer necessity for some kind of order in our minds, we often create mental “buckets” in order to filter and sort through all of the images, status updates, and flood of information.
While looking at so and so’s IG feed, those buckets may sound something like this inside of your head: “ugh, she’s so perfect”, “That is what I’ll never be, or what I will never have”, or perhaps the more honest- “I swear, if I could just look like this or have this, I know I would really be happy.”
So what’s the big deal Ab?
The chronic result of all of this, is that WE ARE NEVER PRESENT AND NEVER HAPPY in our own lives. Our days are spent in another world, a fantasy idea of what a good life would be. We cannot ever be pleased. How can real life live up to the magic of filters, misleading angles, and perfectly crafted captions?
Ladies, we are living under a ruthless taskmaster, and we have believed the lie that to be ourselves is to be unhappy- to never be enough.
As someone who operates in an industry that can be terribly and outrageously critical on the female form, I am all too familiar with this battle. I am older than most of my musical peers- and if I’m honest- it’s just not a pretty conversation in your head when you start comparing the body of a 21 year old with your own 34 year old physique.
Now, let us all take a minute to reflect, appreciate, and just laugh at what an impressive feat of nature our bodies were in our teens and twenties. I mean- drinking 3 margaritas (or Dr. Pepper’s), eating two bags of sour patch kids, cleaning out a late night pizza the night before, and downing a breakfast burrito on your way to confidently and comfortably float the river in your bikini just does NOT happen after you hit 30, in my opinion. Hell, that didn’t even really happen in my early twenties- but you get the point.
No matter your age, or how you think you feel about your body- I believe these expectations, these “images”, become standards in our minds - and it seems ladies, that we are gluttons for punishment. We just keep going back and adding to the list of what we’re not, what we don’t have, and what we think we should be.
I found myself in a similar place just this last year. I was frustrated, uncomfortable in my clothes, and “eating my feelings” (it’s a real thing y’all).
I finally realized in a moment of frustration, anger, and then clarity- that I have a hell of a lot more to offer this world than how I look. I’ve wasted far too much, and I mean FAR too much of my life worrying about and working on my weight.
You know what?
Here is what I realized y’all.
No one will be inspired to chase their own dreams, or pursue freedom in their lives if I finally lose that stupid 10 pounds. No one is drawn to courage to defeat their demons and rise above their hardships if I can finally wear my skinny jeans. Peace will not be brought to this earth, and the Lion will not lie down with the Lamb if I finally actually finish the 21 Day Fix.
Let us aim higher ladies.
(Now hear me out- there are people who DO inspire with their incredible feats of health, weight loss, and strength… but that is not MY particular calling to this world. And yet, I have spent years of my life consumed with this kind of struggle.)
The expectations for my life should aim much higher and the use of my energy put towards much greater causes than what I see in the mirror or what I look like in photos.
You have a stunningly gorgeous wealth of gifts to offer to the world around you- and, it’s crazy how the more focused you are on how you look, the more dull your other gifts seem to become. You literally are choosing to only be known for how you look. What a tragedy.
We let our list of “what we want to look like” demand all of our energy. Even if we’re not actively working out, or meal prepping, or dieting- that energy is spent in front of the mirror, tugging on clothes we’re uncomfortable in, and just wishing that we were completely different.
As that sassy little boy says, "Listen Linda"- It’s just a flat out lie that looking perfect will make you happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. You and I were made for so much more dear sister!
Our beauty should flow from a satisfied soul who has brought her best to the world today, from a big smile that knows we were good to ourselves today, and from a strong body that has been honored, respected, and fed real food so that it can carry us to do our best work.
The obsession with how we look is a black hole… you just get pulled deeper and deeper into your dissatisfaction with your body. The body that carries you through this life, that is the sacred house for your mind, your emotions, your memories, your brilliance… we no longer respect it, take care of it- feed it well, or invest time to make it strong. Because we decide it will never look perfect, or even just “right”, we have all begun to harbor a deep resentment and frustration for these incredible, and I mean incredible, gifts that God has given us. We stop really caring for it all together- and it is killing us.
Many times because we decide we can never be perfect- because we can’t make ourselves look the way we have fed our minds to believe that we should look in order to be “beautiful” – we either numb ourselves out and refuse to consciously take care of ourselves, or we punish ourselves constantly with under-eating, extreme exercise, and obsessively looking at people that we think are what we want to be. We literally torture ourselves.
You want to know the problem?
The problem is that somewhere along the way, we started to value how we look over what we do and who we are. We started to value this idea of “beauty” over health, being skinny over being STRONG, and how we look in a swimsuit over what we bring to and add to the world around us.
My sisters- we are MORE than how we look. We are so, so much more. To spend your life focused on that one aspect of who you are is to lead a very unbalanced and unhealthy life. What happens when you lose your balance? You fall. You fall into obsessions, unrealistic expectations, inhumane standards, and it HURTS YOU.
I’ll never forget a conversation I had my Junior year of college with a precious friend, and a much braver soul than I. I was in another rut of being deeply frustrated with my weight- I had fluctuated way down and way up, and I was also battling a broken heart, and even some depression.
One night at Chili’s over a “bottomless” bowl of chips and salsa (one that we found the bottom to, many, many times), this sweet sister looked at me and asked, “Ab- do you have a fixed idea of what you think you should lose or look like to be beautiful?”
My face flushed at her courageous, honest question, and I eventually stuttered “Well… yes.”
She then said, “Well- if all you can see when you look at yourself is what you need to do or lose to be pretty, then that’s what you see when you look at me too. You can’t just turn it off.”
I promptly melted out of my chair and onto the floor and died- because y’all. SHE WAS RIGHT.
I loved this friend- deeply, fiercely, and I thought she was gorgeous- stunning, just because of who she was. But good Lord, if she wasn’t right about what was really going on in my heart and mind- when I looked around me, somewhere inside of my head there were always judgements,evaluations, comparisons being made. Because that is the conversation I was constantly having with myself. The standards and expectations we have for ourselves, even the ones we think we hide so well- always have a way of shading the way we see others.
I wept that night at home in my room- because I was ashamed and worn out. Ashamed that I could have let myself reduce myself to an image in a mirror (I knew I had so much more inside of me and so much more to offer), and I was EXHAUSTED because I could not win- no matter how hard I tried, I was never pleased with what I saw in the mirror. I was living under the rule and terror of a ruthless taskmaster, and I finally wanted out.
This was all long before the social media craze that we have today, and I’m afraid we’ve only been handed gasoline and matches with Instagram, Facebook, and the rest of social media.
Sisters, let us forsake and abandon self loathing, fantasy living, and obsessing with perfection. Rather, let us voraciously pursue learning how to be KIND to ourselves, to care well for our bodies, and to love ourselves deeply- so that we may bring the very best of ourselves to this world in our love, work, relationships, and pursuits.
Let us commit to stop tormenting ourselves. Rein in your screen time in the fantasy world of social media. Release and abandon those crazy expectations and standards- which is much easier to do when you stop feeding them!
Rise above the clutter of images and status updates- be a WOMAN OF SUBSTANCE, and AIM HIGHER.
That phrase has rung loud and clear in my heart for months now- and the call is deep ladies. It calls to the deepest parts of us- the best we have to offer. Be a woman of substance- refuse to reduce yourself to how you look, what you own, or even what others think of you.
Step on up to that mirror and SMILE at that wildly gorgeous, brave, and fierce hearted woman - for who you see there is a powerful, beautiful, and wondrous creature made in the image of Her Father. She has great things to bring to this world, and it is much, much more than just how she looks.
ANY YET- HEAR THIS: your physical beauty IS a gift. Not to be disdained or manipulated. Your beauty should flow and only increase from loving yourself well and learning to see yourself through the eyes of your Heavenly Father who ADORES you. He thinks you are the most stunning thing He’s ever made. Physical beauty is not bad, and pursuing health is not either. But to obsess over looking a certain way is, I believe, wrong and it hurts us. It causes us to be less of ourselves, and harbor internal resentment that is toxic to our souls.
Sure, perfect may be “pretty”, but authentic- rocking what you got and loving it- is wildly gorgeous. I’ll pick wildly gorgeous over perfect any damn day.
Finally, my sisters- Be kind, be well, and be good to that woman in the mirror- for she is who you are right now. Respect and love her now, and she will only grow more beautiful and strong every day.
LEARN HOW TO BE KIND TO YOURSELF. (Pay attention to how you talk to yourself! We all flourish under encouragement and love, and we shrink under shame and comparison.)
Keep in mind- to truly be kind is not to be harsh, unforgiving, nor over-indulging or medicating.
Take everything you see, pretty much anywhere- with a grain, or a pile of salt. Never underestimate the magic of a filter, squeeze effect, or angle. Many who post perfect photos and updates cry at night because their posted life is very different from their real life. Perfection is an illusion through and through. Don’t spend your life chasing something that doesn’t exist.
Be present. Fill your thoughts and aspirations with “Today- I took care of myself”, “Today I was kind to myself.”
Rock the hell outta what you got. Confidence is the most gorgeous thing in this world. Hands down. Start today. Won’t do you any good to say- I’ll be more confident when I____. Rock the hell out of what you’ve got TODAY.
Invest in and prioritize taking care of yourself.
Feed yourself real food, and drink lots of water. You just feel better about everything when you are hydrated and eating real food- makes it easier to be confident.
Get active because it makes you STRONG.
Look for the joys in TODAY. The sunset you can see from your car on the drive home from work, the wind on your face as you go on a walk, and one of my faves- the simple delight of cold sheets, the noise of your ceiling fan, and the welcome darkness of your room as you drift off to sleep after a full and satisfying day of being the best woman you could be today.
Finally- be a woman of SUBSTANCE, and aim HIGH- stir up greatness in those around you, speak life and encouragement into the women around you, refuse to feed the monster that is comparison in you or others! RISE ABOVE THE NOISE!
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