How Are We Conditioned this Way?

We, as women, are told that we are beautiful and worth it no matter what we hear or what we see telling us otherwise. As little girls, we have no trouble believing this; seeing ourselves the way our daddies and Father in heaven see us is easy. We embrace the concept of being a “Princess” and a “Daughter of the King.”
But then we encounter the real world. This world is superficial and with many insecurities, but we choose to overlook them in favor of believing that the happiness we see in the faces of those stick-thin bodies on magazine covers and clothing ads is real, even though we know deep down it’s not. If only we looked like them.
We want so much to believe in the lie of formulated contentment the world whispers in our ear: The only way to be successful and happy is to look a certain way and to have no visible vulnerabilities. And so we strive for that end knowing that we probably won’t succeed, but that awareness doesn’t matter as much as us now having an excuse to be unhappy with ourselves along the way.
Hold on a minute. We shouldn’t have insecurities? Isn’t that the essence of a woman? Aren’t men made to be tough and bold and women are the the delicate and feminine gender who show fear at spiders and snakes? Oh, we can have those kinds of fears, just not real fears, like about our bodies or self-image. Not real fears, like those of rejection or not being good enough. People only have those kinds of fears if something is wrong with them.
But stop, we are in the age of feminism. Women are being empowered and given more say in their lives than ever before, so why is this epidemic of low self-esteem and self-loathing growing in our society? Why is this happening if women are being freed? Why is there still so much pressure to conform? This baffles me, but I know a good place to start: What if (*gasp*) women and men aren’t equal?
What if women were made by God to be more emotional? What if the curves of our body were designed that way, rather than to be straight (like a man)? What if the reason we cry all the time is because it’s supposed to be that way? We can spend all the time in the world trying to be tough and hide everything we think is wrong with us, but it won’t do any good. God designed us that way. And his power is made perfect in our weakness.
What scares me about the feminist movement more than the fact that it’s having the opposite of its intended effect is that it’s trying to say we’re supposed to be (or have a right to be) the same as men. I believe this isn’t the truth; we were created as a helper to come alongside men. We are not men, nor were we created to play their role. But I digress.
The real purpose of this post is to address what happens as a girl is caught in the lie of formulated happiness. She starts to believe and soon falls into the trap that showing vulnerability is a sign of weakness, and that weakness is unacceptable. And so she hides it. And it festers. And then she doesn’t know where to turn except to destructive mediums: control, fear, or anxiety, which lead to unimaginable harm when directed to physical or emotional self-abuse.
How do we get out of this cycle of thinking we will only be accepted a certain way? By believing that our true worth comes from one entity and His opinion is all that matters: Jesus Christ. Only then can the process of healing our shattered viewpoint begin.
The problem is that most of us don’t figure this truth out for ourselves until we are already conditioned to think that we aren’t good enough, and we are damaged by the years of believing it. It’s a tough road to get back to seeing ourselves the way The Lord does.
Alright, we have realized that we are beautiful and enough, but now what? Will that ten second epiphany change the way we live our lives forever? Well yes, that would be nice. Will we never accidentally slip back into bad habits? I doubt that.
For someone like me who is emerging from the darkness of believing these lies, it is a struggle every day not to go back to letting my fear control me. Every day I still see the ads and magazine covers. Every day I still scroll through Pinterest knowing that particular dress probably wouldn’t flatter me because I have curves. And every day I thank God for who He made me to be and what he made me to do.
He reminds me that I am worth love for so many reasons that have nothing to do with my appearance: I am kind, I know how to encourage, I love smiling… and on the list goes. Why are today’s most valued attributes only physical when compliments about what’s inside mean more to the person commended and more to the world?
Think about it: Women, when we really ask themselves, don’t like being whistled at or hearing comments about what our bodies look like. It makes us feel like objects and not people. We appreciate comments on our quick wit, sense of humor, or the way we laugh.
But change starts with us. If we stopped acting like our physical appearance is the be-all and end-all of who we are, then maybe men would stop acting that way. If we choose to value and work on what’s inside of us instead of using that energy to hate ourselves, maybe things would be different.
But it starts with us and Jesus. No one else.
So I will continue every day to fight, trusting God with the victory that I already have in Him. Because it’s a long road to get back to where I started and I have a long way to go.

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