Where do you get an accurate image of yourself? Christine Virgin redirects our gaze.
By Christine Virgin
When I was growing up, our front foyer was about 10-feet long. The left wall was floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Over the years, I was downright cruel to myself in that space. Total mean girl material. I stood in front of it and overanalyzed my skin, my shape, and my outfits. I lamented my acne and popped my zits, mutilating my face while trying to squeeze away the ugliness. I criticized my fine and thin hair. I smooshed my thighs in from the outside, trying to make them look how I wanted, just for a moment, so I could make my proportions appear different.
Unfortunately, I was a teenager when Sir Mix-A-Lot released his multi-platinum, Grammy award-winning song, “Baby Got Back.” An ode to curvaceous women, his reference to the bust-waist-hips measurement “36-24-36” only reinforced that I was not blessed with the ideal shape.
In that foyer mirror and many others, my self-talk was incredibly critical. “My legs are too fat,” I would say. “My hair will never look good.” “My boobs are too small.”
There is perhaps no other place we speak such harsh and critical words than in front of our own mirrors.
Where did I learn to be so cruel? I watched my own mother tear herself down quite frequently, yo-yo-ing her weight through various cabbage soup diet plans, constantly chasing some previous figure that had long since deserted her after becoming a vessel to bring forth life. And, when we can’t measure up, we often give up. But we don’t feel good about that, either. Thus, in our insecurity, in our desire, in listening to the world’s opinions of us instead of God’s, we chide, deride, and tear ourselves down.
Once I had my own daughter, I fiercely protected her from these sorts of attacks even at an early age. I worked so hard to fulfill my first child from my bosom that I nearly broke my own body trying. She always wanted more. I had to face the demons about my body not being enough, not measuring up, not being what it was supposed to be. After nursing, I worked hard to give her the nourishment she needed to grow and be healthy.
Then one day, when she was two years old and I was strapping her into her car seat, my dad said, “You don’t need to feed her so much, she looks a little fat.”
I looked him squarely in the eyes and demanded, “Dad, don’t ever call her fat again. You may never use that word to describe her.”
I think we were both taken aback by my response. I realized I was mama-bear-ing. But I also realized how deeply I cared about protecting her from getting any ideas like the ones I had growing up.
Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and these are the things that defile us (Matthew 15:18). It is crucial to feed our souls with God’s view of us instead of the world’s. Through reading Scripture and prayer, we come to understand how God sees us and every other human he has created.
We have the power to swing the pendulum towards truth by reinforcing to our children, families, and friends that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. We can call out beauty in the everyday and praise each other on social media for the beauty we see in each other’s smiles, loving actions, and kind deeds. Our voices also speak loudly when we use our purchasing power to consume from companies that reinforce beauty as multifaceted and un-photoshopped. We owe it to each other to work overtime to stem the tide of the media and marketers who help flame mayhem when we look in the mirror. This is especially true as we influence the views of the girls and boys we know, love and raise.
What’s become clear with age, and I hope a little wisdom, is that the ideal shape is the one we’ve been gifted by God. Oh, how I wish I could have measured myself against that ideal when I was young. But it’s never too late for the right kind of self-reflection, the kind that speaks kindness, love, and God’s goodness over us when we look in the mirror. The next generation is watching.
Christine Virgin is building a small army of moms and daughters who will not be conformed to culture’s view of their beauty and worth. A mom of three, she has a background in journalism, magazine publishing, and television production management. Christine has written for Christianity Today and Proverbs 31, and is working to publish her fiction tween girl manuscript, The Beautiful List. To join her army, subscribe to her blog at www.christinevirgin.com, and connect with her on Instagram @christinevirgin and Facebook @ChristineEVirgin.