On my drive down to Myrtle Beach for my sister’s bachelorette getaway last weekend, I listened to this book on tape by Beth Moore on insecurity (no comments please, unless it’s about the cheesy cover of the book… you’re allowed to make fun of that). As I thought about some of Beth’s points in the book I couldn’t help my mind from wandering to another book I’ve been consumed with lately: The Hunger Games. As crazy as it may sound, I felt like they connected in some ways.
Perhaps this excerpt (from Beth Moore’s book) will help you to see my line of thinking:
Many of us are well aware that our insecurities, given full sway, would dictate if not utterly destroy every female friendship on the horizon.
The loss would be incalculable… Insecurity will rob us of some of the richest woman-to-woman relationships of our lives. It turns potential friends into competitors…Some women completely avoid being around other women who make them feel even slightly inferior, only making friends with those they can successfully look down on… Others do something just as extreme but on the opposite coast. They attach themselves to women they perceive as superior because they feel like they can at least share a small measure of status by association with them…Most of us live somewhere between these two extremes. We don’t feel threatened all the time. Just too much of the time. We’re up to our ears in social networking (I like it too), in touch with a hundred women yet especially close to none. We can’t figure out for the life of us why we fight this looming cloud of loneliness. We know we should be happier and wonder why we’re not. Most of the time we have no idea we are scrambling to play our part in a make-believe world. The high-definition images surrounding us at every turn and screen look so real that we forget we’re being vacuumed into a matrix. A constant stream of media and celebrities pressures real women to either try to measure up to pretend lives or admit to failure. We end up feeling like we’re on a runway in our old underwear. Nobody’s clapping, and everybody’s a competitor.
See where I’m going with this? If you haven’t read this recent rebuttal by Ashley Judd on her appearance, it is definitely worth the read. Media is vicious when it comes to women and appearance, obviously. But Ashley Judd also touches on how women are just as vicious to one another! It’s so true. The way we comment on the appearance of other women, or even ourselves, sends the message that women are only as valuable as their looks. We complain about women being objectified, yet we do the same thing to ourselves and other women. Here are some examples of comments made between the 4 of us at my sister’s bachelorette getaway: “Ugh, you are so tan! I wish I could get that tan! My skin is so pale…” “I’m not eating breakfast anymore and I only let myself eat a small salad for lunch, so I can lose more weight.” “Should I leave these extensions in or take them out? I want my hair to look fuller and longer.” “I look so bad when I first get out of the shower! Sorry everyone.” “I’m going to leave my coverup on, no one wants to see me in a swimsuit right now!” And that’s just a few. Sit with a group of women for one episode of some reality TV show (Bachelor for instance) and you will witness just how mean we can be. I am guilty of this. Our words about other women can easily become a blood bath, killing off their worth in your mind and (if they find out what you’ve said) potentially in their mind as well. And why do we do this? Because we’re so insecure. It goes both ways: either it is comments like, “eww, she looks so awful in that swimsuit! For the Love, put on something that covers up those thighs!” where we push other women down so as to feel good about ourselves; or we say something like, “gosh she is so skinny, I wish I had her body,” putting ourselves down.
We’re constantly competing and we look to other women to determine whether we’re winning or losing. It’s as if we’re fighting to the death, doing all that we can to be the last one standing in the end. You might suggest that “death” is too strong of a word to use in describing our insecurity competition, but I would beg to differ. The way we talk about the appearance of women is literally leading some women to the slaughter. Sometimes it is more of an emotional death, a loss of heart as one’s self worth becomes so little it threatens to no longer exist. Other times, it is physical death. I sat by my sister’s bed side in the hospital when she was weighing in under 80 lbs. Praise the Risen Lord my sister is healthy and doing great now, but that was in high school. She was so young! Which leads me to my other point of how these 2 books intersect. Gladiator sports in ancient Rome? The thought of that is disturbing to most of us. But what is most disturbing about The Hunger Games is that it is children fighting to the death! Friends, that is what is also most disturbing about our insecurity games. These games we play now involve children. My mom works for Este Lauder and recently told me about a 5 year old (yes 5, you read correctly) who came over to her counter with her mom because she forgot to put on her makeup that morning (“she” being the 5 year old, not her mom). I also recently read this from author Lisa Bloom (you can find the article here):
This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers…
You better believe I get scared out of my ever loving mind for my daughter growing up around this kind of competition and pressure. And you can bet your favorite pair of shoes that I have had to confront my junk in this area, because I don’t want to pass my mess and my baggage onto Riley. But here’s the thing, even if I were to get allllllll my jacked up stuff together (which I never will on my own), as sure as there are highlights in my hair there will be other women in Riley’s life who may influence her otherwise. I am not her only teacher. Any woman she comes in contact with is teaching her something about what it means to be a woman. Every TV show, movie, sales add, clothing store and Billboard will communicate something to her about womanhood. I wish I could walk the earth and ask every single woman I come in contact with to stop all negative talk about women’s appearances if/when they come in contact with a sweet little brunette with big, questioning eyes, rosy cheeks and a toothless smile. I can only pray that Riley will be rooted enough in Christ that she will not only be safe from losing the “Insecurity Games” but that she would be a rebel advocating for them to stop all together.
Beth Moore challenges us that we can stop playing the game even if no one else in our environment signs the no-compete. But how do we do that?
Well I am certainly no expert in this area. Just this past week I made a vow to myself and God not to make any negative comments about my appearance for a week. It was harder than I thought! I met with a friend for lunch at CPK (California Pizza Kitchen of course!) and within a few minutes of arrival she told me that I looked really cute. The response on the tip of my tongue was, “Ugh, well I’ve just been putting random outfits together with whatever fits me lately.” But instead, I smiled and said, “Thank you. You look really cute too!” (which she did by the way, in the most adorable little black romper I’ve ever seen). So I’m a work in progress, but I am going into recovery and begging God to take me out of the “Insecurity Games” before I get killed or end up killing my opponents (or at least causing significant damage). I know the solution is the gospel. When I let the truth penetrate my heart that I.am.loved. and I.have.been.redeemed, then I know that I am as secure as I could possibly be. I am imperfect and quite frankly have made a mess of myself and my life. But Christ took the damage that I caused to the cross, and offered me His life instead. He offered me hope and freedom from the lies and insecurities that choke me and threaten my life constantly. He told me that I am His, and forever will I be. Whether I am skinny, fat, pale, tan, wrinkly, old or sick- I belong to my Maker, and He has claimed my life for Himself. These Insecurity Games have no ability to take my life. Or anything from me for that matter. He is the merciful King who reaches His nail scarred hands into the arena of the games, saving lives and giving us new names. He replaces the horrible names that have been given to us or that we have given ourselves. “Ugly” is now named “Beautiful.” “Un-wanted” is now named “Desirable.” “Un-loved” is now “Beloved.”
Can you imagine the freedom we would feel if we lived in this truth? We would realize that someone can wound us with their words, but they cannot have our security. Media can tell us lies, but it cannot have our security. We would be able to look at a beautiful woman and admire her God-given beauty without feeling threatened by her. We could enjoy the richest, deepest female friendships without distrusting their intentions or comparing ourselves to them. Sounds good to me! Today, I am signing the “no-compete.” 🙂