Our Beauty Legacy

 

What’s more powerful for your daughter’s self-esteem than telling her she’s beautiful? Not telling yourself you’re ugly in front of her. As the video in this blog post shows, if you ask many young girls and their mothers what they either don’t like about themselves or would change, the answers are incredibly similar.

Growing up my mother never told me I looked bad. Not once. But I would sometimes watch her criticising herself in the mirror and think, if what she’s got is bad, then is what I’ve got bad too? I am a mini version of her, after all.

It didn’t affect my sisters much at all to my knowledge and I’m happy to say that they have not struggled with low self-esteem. It’s also important to say that there are many factors when it comes to low self-esteem, and this wasn’t even the most significant one to affect me, but it did impact me to some degree and I’m committed to looking at all angles of self-esteem. I am not sharing this to make my mother or any mother feel bad. My mum is one of the many wonderful, strong, beautiful women that make this world a better place just by bringing their heart to it.

But I refuse to let this continue one generation further. This stops with me. Because the way we view ourselves affects our daughters, and our relationships, and the challenges we take on in life.

I’ve decided long ago that I won’t belittle myself in front of young girls, but then I caught myself some time back criticising my drawing as I was helping my 6 year old friend with some art. She immediately started to criticise hers too and I had to pull myself up and point out all the good things in my drawing, as well as hers.

The point is that even though I was aware of how quickly younger girls can see themselves in us, I still spoke negatively about myself. If we’re going to get this right for the sake of the generations to come, we need to be very intentional.

The first time I watched this video I bawled my eyes out because it resonated deeply with me. Mothers, I know all of you want to have the most positive impact on your daughter as humanly possible. And even if you don’t feel comfortable speaking well of your appearance, just try avoiding talking about all the features you dislike, because chances are your daughter has inherited at least some of them.

We were created by God, fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), and he didn’t make a mistake with our nose, our legs, our hair colour, our freckles. He saw fit to infuse it into our DNA so that it would be replicated in the next generation in a new and beautiful way, mixed with our husband’s features.

And He looked.

And He said, “IT IS VERY GOOD.”

 

Sincerely,
Lil

The double standard most people ignore

 

Who is your worst critic? Maybe it’s your mother, or an older sibling, but most likely it’s the person staring you in the mirror. Why are we so much harsher with ourselves, particularly in the areas of looks and achievements, than we are with other people?

I had a customer at work this week who tried on a fitted black dress because her friend’s daughter had invited her to be a guest at her Debutante ball. She was probably in her late 40’s and as we assessed the suitability of the dress for the event she started to point out all the tiny details of what was “wrong” with her. The greys in her hairline, the size of her bottom, the curve of her stomach, the crow’s feet around her eyes. It was all news to me because even though I was staring hard into the same mirror I literally hadn’t seen those things until she pointed them out. All I saw was a lovely, beautiful woman who had that special, comforting mum-vibe that only comes with years of experience and triumphing in hard times (people think that their gentleness of spirit cannot be seen by those who don’t know them, but it’s not true). And I realised that’s how the rest of the world probably sees her too. But she is walking around thinking people are thinking things that they aren’t, assuming they are zeroing in on her minute faults, and judging her for them. And it is damaging her self-esteem. Her own thoughts are hurting her.

Image result for beautiful women low self-esteem

I’ve realised a long time ago that working in women’s fashion, it’s not how the garment actually looks, it’s how a woman feels about herself in it. Because, as I explained to a new team member the other day, if she doesn’t feel good about herself in it, even if she buys it she will barely ever wear it because she feels her flaws are exposed in it.

We spend so much time trying to cover our true selves, with concealer, spanks and baggy clothes (usually black, because it’s slimming, right?) because we’re afraid the world will not accept us as we are. This is a fair assumption, considering the advertising industry spends most of its money and energy telling us that we’re not good enough.

I’m reminded of another encounter as a shopper this time. I was with my friend in the U.S. about four years ago and she came out of the change rooms and asked me what I thought of the outfit she was wearing. I said, “I think it looks like you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re a woman.” Yay for honesty. She actually got quite emotional and began to open up about some deep insecurities she has about the way she looks, and how she doesn’t feel she can wear fitted clothes. That New Year’s Eve she sent me a proud photo, wearing a dress that showed her lovely feminine figure in a completely classy way. Another victory.

She was liberated to be who she was as a woman. That would be my prayer for every woman. Stop judging yourself so harshly, ladies! You are beautiful, and wonderful, and knowing that is powerful.

Trust me, most men don’t see all the little flaws either. One of my friends said her husband has asked her to stop pointing out all her miniscule imperfections because he hadn’t even noticed them.

Here’s an idea: start viewing yourself the way you view other women – as strong and beautiful and worth envying.

Dove tends to agree with me that women are more beautiful than they think…

Sincerely,
Lil (a beautiful daughter of the King)

 

Images sourced 4 May 2017
http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/631289/revealed-womens-shocking-top-daily-self-criticisms

Book recommendation: Captivating

Do you ever feel that you are “too much” and “not what you should be”?

The non-fiction book that has probably impacted me the most is this book Captivating, written by a Christian married couple, John and Stasi Eldredge. The introduction alone had me in tears.

It began to answer the question: “What does it mean to be a woman?” As someone with identity issues, this text spoke to me in a way that I had never experienced before.

This book, written from the perspective of both husband and wife, is not mainly a book about marriage. It is a book about being a woman – and for me has been anointed. The best way to describe it is that it tore me down and then built me back up, from the very foundations.

Captivating has brought me to tears (eye-swelling, gut-wrenching, soul tears) where wounds so deep—some I didn’t even know existed—got brought into the spotlight. Reading it was very painful at times but I finished the last page a different woman because God used these words to minister to my soul.

I don’t like sounding so dramatic, because people often say about books and movies, “This will change your life!” And I promise I am receiving no money to promote this book. But the fact that I have bought or recommended it for close to 10 people already shows how relevant I find it. If you’ve talked to me about self-esteem or identity issues you’ve probably already heard me mention it.

I know I am not alone in this nagging sense of failing to measure up, a feeling of not being good enough as a woman. Every woman I’ve ever met feels it—something deeper than just the sense of failing at what she does. An underlying, gut feeling of failing at who she is.  I am not enough, and I am too much at the same time. Not pretty enough, not thin enough, not kind enough … But too emotional, too needy, too sensitive, too strong … The result is Shame, the universal companion of women. It haunts us, nipping at our heels, feeding on our deepest fear that we will end up abandoned and alone.
– Stasi Eldredge, pp. 230-131 (Wild at Heart and Captivating, 2005)

Why does this get to us? Because we have believed some lies in our lives, some at a very young age. And they have poisoned our hearts. Jesus wants to draw the poison out of us, the things that paralyse us, and bring us out into his glorious freedom. Because we were created for wide open spaces, for beauty and intimacy, not for shame, and self-loathing and fear.

Trust me I have lived on the one side, and am learning to live on the other. And I am so thankful to a couple who were obedient to God when he surely said, “I want to bring some freedom to some of my precious daughters through you.”

What is at the core of a woman’s heart? What are her desires? What did we long for as little girls? What do we still long for as women? And, how does a woman begin to be healed from the wounds and tragedies of her life?
– Stasi Eldredge, p. 224 (Wild at Heart and Captivating, 2005)

John and Stasi don’t claim to answer every question, but they have grasped something true and powerful in the heart of a woman that has often been lost, hidden or crushed. And it is something that the world desperately needs.

~~~

From a man’s perspective:
Q: Would you say it’s beneficial at all to read Captivating as a man? If yes, how so?
A: I’d say yes. Captivating reassured me of a lot of things I had been told about women – growing up with two women in the house, I had never fully noticed things that Captivating spoke about. I think it’s beneficial because it helps you understand just how important a man’s role is, and how it is in a woman’s core to be loved and desired.
– Jacques

Where to buy . . .

Sincerely,
Lil and Jacques

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Image: http://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1442893930i/11413._UY500_SS500_.jpg

Wednesday’s prompt: What you were doing this time last year

This time two years ago I was forgetting my brother Samuel’s birthday. I have the best brother. I love him to death and don’t tell him enough. In 2014 I don’t feel that I was the best sister. I didn’t go to one single football game of his, had to be told about the fact that he’d made the grand final by my friend Jethro, and then I forgot his birthday. It was 9pm before I remembered. This morning I sent him a text at 6:28am, still trying to make up for two years ago.

Looking at the texts, I compared my word count (60, exactly) to Samuel’s (two – I counted twice). That pretty much sums up our relationship. I’ve always been chatty and, despite being a man of few words, Samuel’s always shown me grace. We may not have the longest conversations, but I know he’d always have my back and I would do anything for that man.

However, the prompt did say last year, not two years ago, so I looked back on my journal and found that I was experiencing creative blocks a year ago. I remember Samuel and my older sister Hayley helping me with my writer’s block throughout high school. I’d surrender my notebook (yes, I’m referring to actual pen and paper as opposed to a digital notebook) and receive it back five to 20 minutes later, to read their interpretation of the next bit of the story. Hayley’s stories would somehow always involve a lot of mythical creatures, while Samuel’s just consisted of a lot of fighting (as well as how South Africans say that word – farting). Surprisingly, these ridiculous and brilliant stories helped me to shake off my writer’s block and they’re a memory I love to think back on.

Again, I’ve digressed. I found a quote that I wrote down a year ago.

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because the world needs people who have come alive.

-Gil Bailie

Often what Jesus has called you to is what you’re passionate about, and have some skill in. Pursue things that are life-giving.

A few months ago, as I was sorting through about 10 years of childhood memories in my parent’s house, I started to get sad as I came across books and books of drawings and watercolours, pages full of stories and poems and songs, albums full of photographs. None of them were anything spectacular, but the sheer volume of them show my passion. A passion that I felt like I had lost along the way, and was feeling somewhat hopeless of finding again.

My mum gave me some priceless words of wisdom that really helped me. She said that as a child we show a preference towards the things are we good at and have passion for. Having lots of time and not being able to go out very much, we express these things, often with more abandon than skill. Leaving school and going out into the world takes a lot of attention and energy. You’re learning how to be an adult and take care of yourself – function in the world and contribute to society (full time work is no cake walk at first).

Here comes the good bit. She said I’ve been doing this for the last four years (moving out of home, completing uni, paying rent and bills, learning to drive, moving countries and then towns again, starting full-time work and becoming a manager) but am coming to the end of that season. After an adjustment, coming-of-age period, our creativity resurfaces, but in a more mature, fully developed expression that will actually be of use to people (aka a painting that more than your mum thinks is beautiful, or writing that can be published).

So, despite the fact that they may metamorphasise and change as I grow, I now no longer fear that my passions will disappear. They are placed inside you and will not abandon you. They sometimes get buried, but are never lost.

My passions boil down to:
1. Connecting with God and people
2. Expressing, articulating, communicating and encouraging
3. Creating beauty

So to these things I’ll devote myself.

Sincerely,
Lil

———
Image 1: http://www.nawicpnw.org/news/2015/9/22/thanks-for-the-memories-region-10-forum, sourced 27 April 2016.
Image 2: http://belimitless.com/gchahal/life/motivational/never-let-your-memories-be-greater-than-your-dreams, sourced 27 April 2016.

Dear 15 year old me: the things I wish I’d known

Dear 15 Year Old Me,

I know you jumped on the scales this morning thinking all that running had been paying off, and you’d actually gained two kilos.

Let me tell you something. Muscle really does weigh more than fat. That’s not just something your teachers and parents have made up. You just put on two kilos of awesomeness. Two kilos of healthy. Two kilos of fitness. Own it.

Do yourself a favour. Throw the scales out, or put them in a place you won’t see them (if you think Mum would kill you for throwing them out). The only reason we need scales is to make sure our baggage is under 20kg when flying and to weigh our dogs. Checking the scales can become an addiction that will sit heavy on your back and be really hard to break in later years. Trust me.

If you think weighing yourself more than once a week isn’t excessive, it is, for someone your age. I now don’t even keep scales in the house because of the slippery slope it has become for me. If you look great and feel great, why do you need a number?

Don’t let you those models on TV and in magazines make you think that you have to be stick thin to be attractive. Did you know that half the time (or possibly more) someone behind the scenes, after the photoshoot is complete, is going through and sucking the fat out of those models’ legs with a Photoshop tool? This image of perfection they sell you is false, unattainable. Don’t be their fool. Embrace the body God gave you and work at appreciating it and taking care of it to the best of your ability.

Note to self: starving the body is not taking care of it! Have you ever heard of something called ‘starvation mode’? If we want to turn to facts and science here, (well, summarised facts) depriving yourself of food can actually stop you from losing weight. The body thinks it’s not going to have access to much food for a while so it retains all the fat that it can, in order to ‘survive’. So, probably not the best idea.

Everyone should be their healthy body weight and not made to feel bad about it. For those who are naturally a size 6-8, fantastic. Do you, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it. If you’re curvy and healthy, great.

If you’re aiming for anything, aim for healthy and fit. That is your best you and something your body will thank you for in years to come.

Your choices matter. Think about how your decisions today are going to affect you in the long run. A great book I’ve read recently by Lysa TerKeurst (and referenced in a previous article) called The Best Yes has taught me a helpful concept called “chasing down your decisions”. It’s where you look at what you’re choosing now and the path that each decision is leading you down. What kind of habit am I making? What will this decision help make me into? FYI, obsessively checking the scales every week, every day, twice a day (slippery slope) leads to a paranoid person with very low self-esteem and a feeling that they are never good enough.

So ignore the scales and do whatever your body needs to stay healthy. I’ve gotten into a habit of that now (I weigh myself maximum once a month, sometimes not even that) and my confidence is at an all-time high (maybe almost too high—who knows).

Have a great time being you and make this year a year of change in mind-set. Because when the mind changes, everything changes.

Sincerely,

22 Year Old You

Image: https://noothername412.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/9231a-fitness2bgirls2bto2bget2bbeauty2bbody.jpg
Sourced: 14 April 2016

 

 

Watch your mouth: how to develop healthy mindsets in your kids

Hand over mouth

Watch your mouth. You’ve often heard it from a mother whose kid has just said a naughty word. Or from someone becoming aggressive. The phrase has aggressive overtones and it makes me think about the way we view aggression. A lot of the time in Western society we tend to avoid it, assuming that it’s bad, and it often is. But maybe not in every situation.

Before you start thinking that I’m a hostile person who just likes to go round whacking people for fun, I’ll explain.

There are times when most people would agree that some aggression is necessary. An armed robber breaks into your house while your family’s asleep. Should you get the cricket bat? Well, you don’t want to be mean. You want to be thought of as a nice person. Maybe the nice thing to do would be to just do nothing. If any men are reading, who of you would be okay with this non-reaction? It’s your family at stake, for goodness sake.

It seems obvious in a black and white scenario like this but in our lives we allow insidious things right into our homes. Through the front door, the iPad, the TV. Come on in, we say. We’re a nice family and we won’t kick you out.

When it comes to our children’s identity, self-esteem and freedom from fear, we simply allow it to be attacked, stolen or distorted.

Jesus says in John 10:10 says that this is what Satan seeks to do—steal, kill and destroy, but He has come so that we might have life, and have it abundantly.
Life. Say it a couple of times in your head. A powerful word.

LIFE.

Late at night, in the life you imagine for yourself, is your family crippled by insecurity, wandering around with no sense of identity and purpose? No. And that’s not the life Jesus has in mind for you either.

By doing nothing, what is our response to things seeking to destroy us? Come at my child in any way you like; I’m not going to stop you.

When our children are told by an ad on TV or a page of a glossy magazine, “If only you were a little skinnier, you would be happy. Buy this one great product (twice a month for the next 10 years) and you’ll be the weight you desire,” what does that tell them. You are not enough.

What message do we send when we buy that product?

The problem with this is that we develop this addiction to ‘self-improvement’, chasing this ideal that doesn’t exist (hello, the models in the ad are photo shopped), and we are never satisfied, our progress is never enough. We strive and in doing so teach others to strive, which is a distortion of the way life was meant to be lived. We are trying to get our fulfilment from the way we look, what people think of us, our achievements . . . basically anything other than Jesus.

When our friends come into our homes with negative words or influences, what do we do about it? Asking them to stop doesn’t seem nice.

It’s more obvious when children are young, but what about your teenagers? Probably at the most vulnerable age and they learn to hide their pain down deep. And that is a dangerous thing. Instead of just sniffing the poison of the world’s message, or rubbing a little on their skin, which can cause temporary damage, they ingest it into the deepest parts of themselves. I know this sounds morbid, but I wouldn’t be saying it if it wasn’t happening. A slow and painful poisoning of the soul.

We need to deal aggressively with these little foxes, little tumours, little bits of soul cancer that seek a way to burrow into our family’s minds and hearts, causing untold damage if left to fester and grow. These different poisons when reaching maturity grow into things like depression, eating disorders, anxiety.

How can we defend our families from these things?

1) Our words
Speak life.
(Prov 18:21)

Avoid saying negative things to your kids, especially your daughters, about their bodies. What does God say about them? That their bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), that they are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps 139:14), that they are beautiful beyond words (Song of Songs 4:1).

Speak positively to them, as well as about yourself and your spouse. Also, don’t speak negatively about others in front of them, because you’re teaching them to do the same. Develop a culture of encouragement in your household, and watch the fruit unfold for years to come.

2) Followed by our actions
Practice what you preach.

This week at youth group I shared an example with my kids saying if I tell you I have measles but I actually have the mumps, what are you going to catch if you spend too much time around me?

Consider this. A mother smiles at her daughter in a pretty dress and tells her she’s beautiful. Then turns back to the mirror and says, “I hate the way I look. If I could just lose some weight, this dress would look a lot better” (and my husband would love me more. And I would be happy). And so the list goes on.

What message has the daughter just received? Mind sets are caught not taught. What are your children catching from you?

3) Covered by our prayers
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continually. As a recent Christian movie War Room has reminded me, we need to fight in the way that really counts. Do your fighting on your knees, rather than with your spouse or your kids. Or the TV set. They are not your enemy. The real enemy knows that we start losing when we take our eyes off Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), so don’t give him that satisfaction. Lift your family up to Jesus daily and trust them into his care.

The devil wants us to run after other things, counterfeit ways to momentary fulfilment, but how do you teach your kids to spot a fake? You display the genuine, abundant life in Jesus, in your home, in your life.

Let them “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and see them come running back for more.

Sincerely, Lil

 

Image: https://hankeylorna.wordpress.com/category/a2-graphics/
Sourced 13 March 2016

Try Harder

Give Up

Imagine every day being told
Ten things you didn’t know you were missing
A thousand images being sold
Pictures of two strangers kissing

The covers of magazines fight
For your attention as the voice of the media
Telling you nothing is right
Saying you need to be skinnier

Six dollars eighty for a Women’s Weekly
Pages scream their statistics and data
Who knew bad body image sold so cheaply
The message they bring is try harder

Stop being so emotional, so needy, so soft
Stop wearing your heart on your sleeve
There’s a line in the sand that shouldn’t be crossed
That man in your life’s gonna leave

Think that what you are is enough?
Well honey you better think twice
All around you they’re calling your bluff
And you thought that these people were nice

You will never be enough for them
Where would you even start?
Telling you to “shorten that hem”
They fight for a place in your heart

You’ve had enough to eat today
Stuffed so full you could chuck
A gulp of air, some water sorbet
Don’t hurt yourself, good luck

– Lil Williams

[1] Give Up is a poem speaking to girls about the media and its impact on body image and behaviour. It’s an issue that is close to my heart and at the end I touch on anorexia, bulimia and self-harm. I wanted the ending to be abrupt and shocking to the reader so they can grasp how bad the messages being sent to young girls really are. I also experiment with an ABAB rhyming pattern to give the poem less of a sing-songy tone while still maintaining cohesion.

Written 12 March 2014

Sincerely, Lil

What I Realised While Doing the 21 Day Body Beautifying Challenge

So 21 days (or a few more) is up on the challenge I threw out about body image when I posted the video ‘Why Thinking Your Ugly is Bad For You’. I took the challenge, telling myself in the mirror every morning: “I love my chin. I have a great chin!”

Did it work? To be honest, I’m still not in love with my chin (maybe I need 21 more days). Half way through the challenge, I thought, “Hmm… I now love my chin at certain angles in certain lights with a filter. Does that count as progress?” But I have come to view it in a different way than before the challenge.

The truth is, we will find something to hate about ourselves even if nothing is wrong. The other truth I’ve learnt, or remembered these past 21 days is that getting to a better place about body image is a process, a journey.

I started thinking how much it would suck not to have a chin at all, and that made me thankful for mine. And I realised that tiny little curve from your lower lip leading into your chin … everyone has it. That’s kind of what a chin is. After that I felt somewhat stupid for hating my everyday, run of the mill, some would even say boring, chin.

In the house I’ve moved into recently, every time you walk into the bathroom the first thing you see is the scales. I started weighing myself every day (sometimes even twice a day) in the last couple of months, and was frustrated with the fact that even though I was eating fairly healthy and running a lot, I was either staying the same weight or even gaining it.

It wasn’t until later that my friend Gen made me realise (something I should know from years of being a runner) that running can actually make you put on weight—muscle weight!

A couple of nights before this I was standing on the scales yet again and all of a sudden just froze, staring at myself in the mirror and thought, “What am I doing!?”

All these years and little baby steps toward getting to a healthier place mentally about weight and body image and here I was about to take a giant leap backwards.

I wanted to throw the scales out the window then and there, but after unsuccessfully trying to fob them off to the first person I tried, I gave them to one of my friends, to whom they were not a burden, but an encouragement. To me, scales are my slippery slope, and I now remember that I’ve avoided them for years for a reason.

Another one of my good friends has lived without a full length mirror in the house for about the last 4 months or so, and said she noticed how good she was feeling about herself.

Lesson to be learned from this: if there is something obvious that is hindering positive self-esteem for you, get rid of it.

Throw it out the window. Take it to the op shop. Give it to a friend who it’s actually going to bless. Because you are worth so much more than what the scales say you weigh (which doesn’t indicate healthy body weight anyway) or what the mirror reflects.

Sincerely, Lil

Why Thinking You’re Ugly is Bad For You

It takes 21 days to form a habit, according to Maxwell Maltz. In light of the video you’ve just watched, I would like to present you with a challenge.

What would you like to change about your physical appearance? What do you hate about it? What do you rush to cover when someone yells out “cheese!”?

Now I want you to look at that body part in the mirror once a day for 21 days and say, “I love my _____. I have a great ______.”

Those of you who read my Mirror, Mirror post know that lately I’ve been trying to turn looking at my reflection into a positive experience, with noticeable success, I’m glad to say. From today, I am also going to take this challenge and get back to you guys on the results. It’s a theory that I’ve been wanting to test since it popped into my head while I was walking to meet my mum for lunch about a month ago.

Try it and see!

I’m going to call it the 21 Day Body Beautifying Challenge, because advertising campaigns like to think up fun, fancy names for things that are supposed to radically change your life. But all the diets in the world won’t change how you fundamentally see yourself. It’s the mind, the thoughts, that we are fighting. Not the scales.

Have a blessed three weeks!

Sincerely, Lil