It’s my honor today to share this post written by Lauren Fitchett, a new friend who was a part of the audience during my talk to a MOPS group in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania last week. Lauren shared the following words with her Facebook friends and with me. I loved it so much that I couldn’t wait to share it with you!
Today I discovered that I am more than my reflection. My reflection is distorted and adjustable. It changes day to day, and even the very mirror I use is warped one day and concave the next. The mirror shows the world what color hair I have, the exact shade of blue in my eyes, the width of my hips, each pimple and divot and roll.
The mirror is never silent. It speaks as loudly as any enemy, alternately whispering lies and shouting untruths. It speaks to my self-esteem, staring and judging, smirking as I yank off yet another shirt I deemed ill-fitting. Even from the other room, the other side of town, in the car, the mirror finds a way to speak, to whisper, to remind me that I am not good enough.
No one likes your double chin, it says with a haughty dip in its tone. Wow, you squeezed into THOSE jeans? it sneers. Ugh, and look at that stomach, I hear in my mind, the thick knife of judgment slicing through the shredded threads of my dignity. Everyone is watching you, it observes as I enter a room, and they are so glad they don’t look like you!
This mirror has long claimed my life. It embodies discouragement. It reeks of failure. So much so, that most days I refuse to look. If I don’t see myself in the mirror, if I can’t see what a gelatinous blob I’ve become, then maybe I can pretend that people want to be my friend. Maybe I can pretend that I’m pretty. Maybe I can convince myself for just a few moments that I’m more than my reflection.
Those are the thoughts that parade in my head day after day. Yes, I know that I just had a baby (my second in two years!). Yes, I know that weight loss takes time, and even then I may never get my pre-baby body back. Yes, I know that I am beautiful in God’s eyes, in my husband’s eyes, in my children’s eyes. I know all the right things to tell myself. But it’s never been enough.
Thank You, LORD, for MOPS! I have learned more in the last two months about myself and about being a mother than I have in the last ten years!! Lessons I’ve never before considered. Miracles of faith I’ve never before discovered. Understanding and comradery I’ve rarely, if ever, found before. Today’s lesson? Beauty.
The speaker spoke on several things today, but what hit me most was her description of comparisons as a form of covetousness, of wanting something I can’t have. Worse, she used the word “objectifying.” So many times, we accuse men of objectifying women, when all along that’s EXACTLY what women do to each other aaalllll day long. My friends, the woman on the street, in the grocery store, my sisters, my mother – they all become objects and I take away their humanity to make myself feel a little bit better.
I ignore her heart. Her passions. Her dreams. Her intelligence. I take away her dignity, her freedom. I make HER life about ME and what I don’t have. And I am ashamed.
Even as the speaker spoke about this concept, found myself looking around the room, doing the exact thing she was warning us against. The woman three tables over had on (what I consider) a frumpy top and I applauded myself for wearing one of my trendier pieces. I looked at the table in front of me and scoffed inwardly at a woman’s hair, knowing that mine was obviously perfectly coiffed. I saw another woman with slender toned arms and I wanted to hide mine. Why did I wear this short sleeved shirt? My flabby arms shouldn’t be brought out in public! Another woman had beautifully done makeup, bringing out her gorgeous green eyes. Someone else had a lovely flat stomach, after giving birth to her 3rd baby.
I caught myself as the women in the room laughed and I realized I’d missed the joke. Shame made me hang my head low and brought tears to my eyes. Those women didn’t deserve those comparisons! They may not know what was going on in my head, but that makes it no less detrimental. Instead of appreciating their humanness, their God-given personhood, I treated them like the women in magazines – arbitrarily picking and choosing what I did and did not like, judging and blaming and honestly, treating them the same way my mirror back home treats me.
As we spoke today over our MOPS table, I was struck by how much women (especially me!) rely on compliments or praise or encouragement and how FEW of us get it. Maybe you’re not this kind of person, but I know I love being told where I excel, where I have been a blessing to someone else, what I’ve done right or well. I don’t mean this in a selfish way. I’m not fishing for compliments, but come on! Who doesn’t like being told something nice about themselves? Sometimes I don’t see the good in myself and a simple phrase of positivity from a friend, or even a stranger can make a WORLD of difference.
For example – I was walking through the MOPS hallway today, surrounded by women and babies, and this woman (I don’t even know her name!) said “Hi, Lauren! I love your headband! The bow is so cute!” I stopped, obviously confused and taken aback. I said, “Oh, well, thank you! It’s actually my daughter’s, but I stole it for today!” I shrugged sheepishly, laughing, and expected that to be it – a short blip of a conversation between strangers that no one ever intended to continue. But the woman continued, and she said, “I was talking with a few of the other leaders, and I mentioned you and your directory photo (we had had the option to use dress up items for our directory page – I put on a blonde curly wig, a feather boa, and a green tiara!!). I kept telling them I really want to get to know this girl! She looks like so much fun, always laughing and just someone I’d want to be friends with.”
I was flabbergasted! This woman didn’t even know me! But somehow she saw right past whatever physical image I was projecting at that moment, and saw me as a person, someone who needs relationship and companionship and friendship and decided that I was someone she wanted to get to know. She didn’t need to know my pant size or my bra size or just how flabby my stomach was. She didn’t care about my thick arms or my double chin or the mascara that had smudged beneath one eye. It didn’t faze her that I was a mess, that I needed an extra cup of coffee just to stay awake, or that I hated my reflection. She didn’t see any of that.
I ended up speaking to her for a few more minutes, about what I don’t remember, but I left her and I left MOPS today thinking, why don’t we do that more often? Why don’t we speak out positively to others instead of harboring negativity against ourselves? I know how good that woman made me feel today. Don’t I think others deserve to feel the same? Yes, I want to know that I’m beautiful on the outside, but what I realized today is that more than being recognized for my outward appearance, I want to know that I’m accepted as I am, that I have value, and that beauty is NOT my salvation.
Beauty is more than physical appearance. Don’t get me wrong, if you like someone’s shirt, or that dress looks great on them, TELL THEM! But why do we hold back when we see good things being done? Are we afraid of being awkward or weird? GET OVER IT! Those feelings are of the enemy! Pour out those compliments! Indulge in encouragement! Dissolve someone’s expectations with praise!
This world is full enough of hardship and negativity and anger and bitterness and disembodied mirrors that haunt our minds. It’s full enough of low self-esteem and photoshopped bodies and unrealistic expectations.
So I’m declaring war!
Right here! Right now!
When I see something beautiful, inside or out, I’m going to tell you. No more hiding! No more timidity! The world needs to hear, to know, to believe that there is more to your life, to my life, than mirrors. I am not my reflection. I am not distorted. I may not always like the way I look, but there is more to me than a pane of glass. There is more to the men and women around me than waist circumferences and hairlines. There is more to each person I see than what I judge to be either unwanted or unattainable.
I am fighting the mirror. I am fighting its words. I will not let something so superficial replace my Jesus. I will help those around me fight their own mirrors. There is joy to be found, joy abundant, if we just SPEAK IT! If we but SHOUT IT from the rooftops!
We are not bound by this sin of covetousness, this sin of self-centeredness. We are free in Christ and in His hope. That is where I will spend my solitude. That is where I will lay my head. Instead of a mirror, I will look into His eyes and know and believe and trust that I am His and that is absolutely enough for me.
And hopefully I convince a few more people that they are more than their reflection.
Lauren Fitchett is a stay at home mom of two under two. When she’s not changing diapers or keeping up with the laundry, she’s scrapbooking, crafting, or reading the newest Jodi Picoult novel. She loves all things Christmas, hazelnut coffee, and her wonderful MOPS group.