I’m experiencing a bit of a “vulnerability hangover”. I heard that term before and it couldn’t be more appropriate now. It’s how I feel after posting something incredible honest, or when I have a heart to heart with another person. In the days or weeks following, I am on edge as if there was about to be an earthquake. I am waiting and hoping that I didn’t do anything I’ll regret. It always turns out OK. Being vulnerable just feels weird at first.
So last Sunday I had the honor of speaking to the women in my town at a “Spiritual Makeover” event. This was the first time I’ve ever spoke to a large crowd, let alone, shared my story with this many people. Needless to say, it was extremely difficult. God, however, is already bringing about so much good from the experience – for me and for others.
Below is a part of the talk I gave. I thought that maybe some readers need to hear this too.
Every girl, deep down inside, wants to be beautiful. We want to be told we are stunningly gorgeous, that we are enough, and, most of all, that we are loved. Growing up, I wanted the same thing. However, I was raised in a family that was very concerned with outward appearance. Because of this, I thought that true beauty was only exterior. I thought that true love was being desired in a lustful way. And, unfortunately, like most young girls today, I looked to the world to give me these things.
The world’s perception of beauty affected me greatly. Yet, looking back, I can see two things that affect me even more: Gossip and Self-degradation. Not necessarily that I was gossiped about, just the fact that I knew it went on was enough. Women often talk negatively about other women, and women bash themselves, their appearances, their weight, hair, skin, and clothes, whatever… It’s no big deal, right? We’ve all done it.
And it’s not just about looks; there is extra pressure to excel, to be perfect, when you’ve been given so many good things. Also, interestingly, there is a common fear of being accused of pride, vanity, or self-centeredness if you don’t proclaim your flaws and degrade your own goodness. I call it “false humility”. It is the rejecting of the good in yourself, yet appearing to be humble on the outside. If you are complimented, do you say “Thank You” or do you immediately dismiss it like you don’t deserve it?
Because of gossip, everyone is afraid to be talked about in a negative way. We’ve all experienced this same “what will they think of me?” fear. Actually, even before this event, old eating disorder temptations crept up. I was afraid that you would notice my weight and talk about me and how fat and ugly I looked up here. Or that my hair so frizzy or my shoes don’t match my outfit.
We all talk about other people. I am guilty too.
We might know that gossip is harmful and degrades the other person, yet, I don’t think we know how detrimental it is to our own self-worth.
When we gossip, we are setting an unrealistic standard for others and for ourselves that no one should have to live up to. By gossiping or bashing ourselves, we are saying that we must to “earn” our self-worth. And we are telling ourselves that true beauty is somewhere out there just beyond our reach.
If you do NOT believe you are truly beautiful and have self-worth, you will treat yourself differently – you will reject how you look, degrade yourself, and punish yourself with ridiculous things like extreme diets and excessive cardio work-outs, you will dress immodestly, nit pick your flaws in the mirror, and not stick up for yourself…
On the other hand, if you DO believe you have inherent self-worth – that true beauty comes from God – you would treat yourself different. You would treat yourself with respect, love, compassion…You would guard your beauty, protect it, cherish it…
The body and the soul are very intricately connected. Our bodies are a sacrament – an outward sign of an invisible inward reality. You see, if you do not believe you have inner self-worth then your actions, will reflect that.
I am still tempted to belief the lies of the world. I am still tormented with self-degrading thoughts and feelings. It’s taken my whole life to form these habitual negative thoughts about myself. I know they will take a long time to change.
I also know that I will lead with my actions and my mind will follow. A Catholic writer, Matthew Kelly, once said “Your lives change when your habits change”. If you treat yourself with dignity, if you respect your body, and if you take care of yourself, your mind will eventually believe in your self-worth. Lead with your body and your head will catch on. Soon, your actions will become daily practices and your practices will become habits. Your life will change when your habits change.
I want to believe I am beautiful and worthy someday. So I have to act like it now. Some of my practices include: eating when I am hungry, going for walks, writing, creating art, going to counseling, praying, and most importantly, repeating positive phrases over and over and over… like; I am enough. I am worthy. I am loved. Even if I don’t believe it in my head, I am still doing these positive things. Some call it, “fake it till you make it”. I have reminders around my house like that one to keep myself in check. Like: Feelings are NOT facts, You do NOT have to earn the right to eat food, and Thoughts do NOT dictate actions…
It also helps me to remember how I treat my own friends and loved ones. I don’t care what they look like, what they do or don’t do, I love them for who they are. Instead of “treat others as you would like to be treated”, I tell myself to treat myself the way I treat my friends, to love myself the way I love my friends.
I know I have a long way to go. Yet, I know I am on the right track. God created me; therefore, I am beautiful. I am His creation; I am His work of art. For that reason alone, I deserve dignity, respect, praise, and all things good and beautiful. In addition, God gave me this life for a reason. He gave me this particular body for a reason – to be united with Him in heaven someday. And because of that reason alone, I will acknowledge its goodness. I will be compassionate toward myself, take care of myself, and treat my body as a sacred temple.
It is sad and overwhelming to me to see the direction the culture is headed. But, we can only change ourselves. We must start treating ourselves with dignity and respect so that we can recognize our inner beauty. And also so others can learn that they possess inner self-worth as well. We need to stop degrading our bodies and our appearances. We need to stop comparing ourselves to others. We need to stop talking about other people – stop gossiping. And instead, we need to affirm each other’s gifts.
Each one of you already possesses true beauty. You do NOT have to earn it.