Note: I wrote this back in April–just took me 4 months to get the guts to publish it.
I don’t really look in the mirror much these days. Why? Well, truthfully, I don’t really like what I see. My legs are hairy, my stomach is jiggly, and my skin looks like a basketball.
Let’s just get real for minute. Women, we’ve got issues. We constantly critique ourselves and each other, driven by some unrealistic hope that we’re going to suddenly wake up and be something we’re not. But let’s just face it. We are not all size 2, we don’t all have perfectly symmetrical faces, nor do we all look as good as the mannequin does in the dress we just bought. But not being what we’d like to be doesn’t give us an excuse to think we’re ugly, worthless, or somehow less than. It’s our own responsibility to fight for our value, regardless of how difficult that might be.
I’ve never been one of those girls who had a lot of self-image issues. Not because I was prideful or confident–it was more of a “whatever, this is who I am” attitude. I never had a eating disorder but then again, I’ve never really loved food enough to be overweight. Don’t get me wrong–I’ve had my share of worth issues, they just never really involved my appearance….until the last few years.
I’ve really only had two parts of my body that I have been proud to call my own–my hair & my legs. My hair, mainly because it’s my identifying characteristic and requires little-to-no maintenance, and my legs, simply because they were relatively thin and lean, despite the fact that I’m short. Weirdly enough, I once actually had someone compliment my calves and was convinced I worked them out every day. This is hilarious, particularly since I HATE working out.
So, fast forward to 2010. Melanoma diagnosis occurs and I bid farewell to my slender legs. Welcome seven surgeries and a high risk lymphodema leg (google it–it’s gross). The one part of me I was somewhat confident in was nowhere to be seen, full of scars, and frankly, creepy. Some say scars are sexy and I should be proud of them–and I’d agree to some extent but this isn’t a cute little line on my arm or back–these are foot-long, jagged edged, and not something I’d deem “sexy” or “cool.”
Time passes and I learn to live with it. I get pregnant (which was totally worth it because my daughter is the jam)–we all know what that does to the body. Honestly, I was never appalled by my preggo body but then again, I never looked “behind” me so I definitely didn’t see the whole picture. I gained a normal amount of weight, about 30 pounds or so. The first twenty came off pretty easily but the remaining poundage is equally dispersed across a few areas. So, my tummy is now jiggly–a type of jiggle than can only be understood by fellow former preggos. I’d like to say it doesn’t bother me but hey, I’m human–a woman–and it does.
The icing on the cake comes with this stupid (but helpful) medicine I’m on that’s helping to fight the melanoma. Because it started as and is essentially a skin cancer, this medicine takes out all the stops in rebooting my immune system, making me look like a red-faced basketball X-woman. Seriously. My skin feels and looks like a basketball & I’m ultra sensitive to the sun so my face is red and a kind of dry that no moisturizer can fix. Maybe even worse is that I can hardly shave my legs–know how impossible it is to shave when you’re cold? Yeah–it’s like that…just worse.
So, my stomach is jiggly, I’m a human basketball, and my legs are hairy. All-in-all, I’m super confident and feeling awesome about myself. RIGHT.
Days and weeks pass and despite the fact that I appear to be doing well, this nagging “ugliness” keeps trying to take a little more of my spirit. I know it needs to be dealt with but for some reason, I think its better to spend weeks avoiding an issue rather than spend the short time to actually deal with the problem. So, I finally shut up, sat down, and actually decided to talk to Papa about it.
Funny enough, I was immediately reminded of a conversation I had had with Ginny Owens back in 2002. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Ginny Owens is a Christian piano-playing singer-songwriter that was pretty popular back in the late 90’s. And she’s blind. I was interviewing her for a CCM Article on her new album but on a personal level, I had some real questions for her. Her newest album featured a song called, “Call Me Beautiful.” At the time, I was probably 19 and despite the fact the conversation happened ten years, I still remember parts of it vividly. It went a little something like this:
Me: Ginny, your newest single is “Call Me Beautiful.” I’m not sure how to word this but I’m so intrigued at how as a woman, you deal with this idea of beauty. I mean, you can’t look in a mirror. You really don’t know what you look like…so what is happening in your life that you are empowered enough to write a song like this?
Ginny: (She laughs) Oh, Mallory. This is the story of my life. I don’t just know or feel I’m beautiful. I mean, I really have no idea. But every single morning I wake up, go to the Father, and listen. And every morning he says the same thing–he calls me beautiful.
I mean–seriously? I can’t even imagine. I can’t imagine not being able to see, especially as a woman, and walking and living life confident in your beauty. Needless to say, I began to feel a little convicted about my attitude and realized that my mindset was normal–but that’s just it. I’m not called to be normal. I’m called to live in union with the Father, hear his voice, and live above whatever situation I’m facing. And living in that place of authority is completely dependent upon how closely I’m listening to Him.
In our weakest moments, we often have nothing to say. What better time to listen than when we’re at a loss, feeling defeated, and grasping for hope. As a woman, as much as we try to deny it, our confidence plays a direct role in our ability to receive from the Father. So, in those moments, when I was feeling frustrated with my appearance and like the way I looked was in complete opposition to how my spirit felt, I just listened. I looked at myself (yes, in the mirror) and listened. I allowed myself to cry. I allowed myself to be angry that my eyebrows were gone and that I was forced to have hairy legs (I know, it’s so gross). But in the midst of my tears, the love of the Father shows up, calms my heart, and speaks a truth that immediately shuts down any lie that was beginning to take root in my mind.
I’m not human being that has a spiritual form–I’m a spiritual being that is temporarily in human form. And when the King of Kings whispers “you’re beautiful. You’re so loved. You’re ok. You’re going to be ok,” what really matters? Not my basketball skin, not my ugly scars, and not my hairy legs, that’s for sure.
Going through cancer sucks. It sucks really, really bad. It’s scary and takes a physical toll on your body unlike anything else. A disease that even the best scientists don’t understand is in the body and doing it’s very best to destroy who you are…or so it thinks. 🙂 But that’s just it–our bodies are not us and we are not our bodies. We are spiritual beings created to live forever and while we are on this earth, reign over our bodies. We can’t let our bodies affect our spirit–our spirit needs to dictate our body. This is far from easy and is not a one time deal–it’s every day, like Ginny said. Our confidence cannot come from this world but in the assurance, love, and whispers from the Father.
We’re loved. We’re beautiful. And we’re gonna be OK.
While writing this, I was listening to old Ginny Owens stuff…and came across this. This was always one of my favorites. 🙂