How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire

I’m brimming with excitement. Overflowing really. Like splashing excitement out into the streets. Why? Because I have two favorite things happening today on the blog:

  1. I’m kicking off a new Thursday series focused on helping us wives Feel Beautiful. It’s been my personal and public goal in 2015 to get us wives believing and feeling the beauty God created in us. I’ve had a few posts on this subject (Feeling Beautiful: From His PerspectiveFeeling Beautiful: 8 Things I Learned While ShoppingFeel Beautiful in 2015: “Fight the Frump”!Feel Beautiful: Dust Off Your Exercise Shoes!), but I’m now inviting other marriage bloggers to chime in on the subject in whatever way they choose.
  2. We’re starting this series with one of my favorite people! Sheila Wray Gregoire has been a friend for years, and she’s a go-to resource for marriage, parenting, and authentic Christianity. I encourage you to follow her blog and check out her books.
Sheila and Me at Girl Talk—holding each other's books!

Sheila and Me at Girl Talk—holding each other’s books!

And now, heeeeeeere’s Sheila!

How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire

When I give my sex talk at churches, I often ask the women, “how many of you can name 5 things you LOVE about your body?”

The women glance around awkwardly, and a few raised hands pepper the audience.

Then I ask, “now, how many of you can name 5 things you HATE about your body?”

Almost every hand in the room goes up—often to various cheers around the room.

We all feel it—that body insecurity. We want to be beautiful, but how can we, with the stretch marks, and the wrinkles, and the muffin top? Our bodies change. And after you’ve pumped out a couple of babies, you can never sneeze in the same way again.

We’ve all heard plenty of pep talks: your beauty is on the inside, not the outside! Women of all sizes can love sex! Sex is about a deep and abiding love, not about two perfect bodies.

And to a great extent all of that is true.

But it’s not the whole truth, because sex, even if we may not like to admit it, is actually done with our bodies. It isn’t done only with our beautiful hearts or our gorgeous minds. It’s done with the muffin top, stretch mark, pock marked bodies. And that means that if we feel lousy about our bodies, sex is going to be affected—as are other areas of our marriage. When we feel lousy about our bodies, we’ll feel lousy about our self-worth. And that is a recipe for a pretty unhappy woman.

Nine Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage: Because a Great Relationship Doesnt Happen by AccidentA wise woman (hint: her name is J) once told me that “happiness is a gift she could give her husband.” I interviewed J for my new book 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage, and we talked about how finding peace and joy ourselves is such a gift to our men who feel like they have to make everything better for us. And when they can’t make stuff better, they feel lousy. Inadequate. So they retreat.

If your man can’t make you feel beautiful, because you yourself don’t feel beautiful, then he’s going to retreat. He’s going to feel inadequate. And that’s going to drive you even further apart.

So how in the world do you feel beautiful?

1. Think of yourself as a beautiful woman

This sounds odd, but the things that we tell ourselves become the things that we act out. What are you telling yourself? “You gained 5 pounds again!” “You look so much older than you are.”

Try telling yourself something else: “That top flatters you.” “You have lovely eyes.” “God gave you a great nose.”

Everyday, tell yourself something good about your body.

2. Have a Go-To Beauty Routine

That’s easier to do, of course, if the top actually DOES flatter you. Sometimes we feel frumpy because we get in a rotten groove. We’re so tired with little kids and with work and with just plain life that we give up. Why wear earrings if the kids are going to pull on them? Why do your hair if every time you head to the bathroom someone calls for you?

And so yoga pants and T-shirts become our wardrobe.

Listen, ladies: it takes no more time to put on a pair of jeans that fit and a shirt that flatters than it does to put on yoga pants and a T-shirt.

And you can brush and gel your hair, and put some foundation, blush, lipstick, and mascara on in less than 4 minutes. I swear.

The trick is knowing what makeup to use, and having a hairstyle that’s easy to wear.

Go to a drug store and ask the makeup artists to show you how to do a simple, 2-minute face. Go shopping with a fashionable friend and ask her to help you find 5 quality outfits. When we hate our bodies, we tend to buy stuff on clearance that looks awful because we figure that’s all we deserve. Buy 5 outfits that make you look great. That’s all you need—and it will make the world of difference to your confidence level.

3. Feel Your Body

When we hate our bodies we tend to ignore them. We don’t want to notice anything below our necks because then we’ll be reminded how ugly we are. So we stop listening to our bodies’ cues. We forget that maybe we do have a libido!

Take time to FEEL your body everyday. Do 5 minutes of stretches. It’s luxurious! Do 10 minutes of a basic yoga or pilates routine off YouTube. Of course I could say exercise, but how many of  you will actually do it? Even if you don’t work out, I think stretching is a great way to remind yourself, “I have a great body! It can feel wonderful.”

4. Look Great for Your Husband

When my husband would say, “let’s go out for dinner,” I used to rush upstairs, put on some makeup, change my clothes, and be I’m ready to go! And a few years ago I realized that I was getting “prettified” for strangers, but never for my husband. When we went out I looked great. If he were coming home, I’d still look my worst.

But my husband is the only one who is supposed to enjoy my body!

So now, 15 minutes before my husband comes home, I head upstairs to get into a flattering top and put on a bit of makeup. It tells him, “I’ve been waiting for you!” And it reminds me that I like feeling pretty for him.

If you do these things, you’ll start to think of yourself differently—you’ll be concentrating on what you like about your body, rather than what you hate. And you’ll be feeling more confident! That makes you a lot more likely to want to embrace sex.

But I can hear some of the protests now.

But what if my husband is doing things that make me feel ugly?

Maybe he looks at porn. Maybe he watches Game of Thrones—and then wants to get it on (with you). Maybe you caught him texting another woman.

And all you can think is: am I not pretty enough? What’s wrong with me?

Oh, my sweet friends. That’s so sad.

There’s nothing wrong with you. He is choosing to devalue marriage and to devalue sex. He is making sex into something which is only physical, rather than something which is also spiritually and emotionally intimate. And the more he does that—the more he trains his brain to be aroused by an image, rather than a person—the less he’ll be able to be aroused in  your marriage.

And hear me, ladies: it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with the lure that porn has—a lure that often started for many guys right around the age when they were getting their first sexual feelings.

But even though it has nothing to do with you, that doesn’t mean that God hasn’t placed you right here to do something about it.

Your husband isn’t just hurting himself by looking at porn, or by watching nudity on TV. He’s hurting himself. He’s wrecking his sexuality. He’s harming his marriage. And he’s putting a huge wedge between him and God.

You may be tempted to do nothing. You may run from conflict. Like I say in 9 Thoughts That Can Change a Marriage, many of us are peacekeepers, trying to keep the lid on issues, rather than peacemakers—people who confront and solve issues.

Be a peacemaker. Put your foot down and say, “no more porn. No more nudity. This stops here.” Get a third party involved if you have to. But whatever you tolerate will continue. It is okay—it is MORE than okay—to say, “this needs to stop.”

So think of yourself as a beautiful, capable woman. A woman who takes pride in herself and her marriage. A woman who believes in real beauty, not in the false beauty our culture sells us. A woman who stands up for pure beauty in marriage. And when you start doing those things, I pray that you will start to feel beautiful—just as God made you.

Sheila GregoireSheila Wray Gregoire blogs at To Love, Honor and Vacuum, where she talks mostly about sex. And sometimes gets people riled up! Besides 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage, she’s also the author of The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex and 31 Days to Great Sex. And she’d love to give you her free downloadable ebook, 36 Ways to Bring Sex Back to Your Marriage! Get it here.

15 thoughts on “How Do You Feel Beautiful? with Sheila Wray Gregoire

  1. Kassandra

    Well said Sheila, absolutely love these truths that you pointed out for us. And what blows my mind is they are so simple, but as women we make everything so hard (well like 99.99% of us do). Especially when it has anything to do with beauty. I know it’s not so simple to feel pretty when your husband has cheated on you, looks at porn, checks out other women right in front of you (been there done that) but since all that has happened God has reconciled me to my husband in a way I can’t explain. Thank Ya Jesus. My problem was I never told him I needed him to tell me I was pretty, because DUH shouldn’t he already know to do that. And the few times he did i NEVER believed him.But he didn’t know what was going on in the depths of my soul until I sat down with him, poured out my heart to him honestly, and now, he’s doing all the right things (most of the time😊)

    Reply
  2. nylse

    Believe the scripture over what the culture says; renew and transform your mind so that you know and believe that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that when God created you he said this is good!!!!

    Reply
  3. B

    I just… can’t.

    My husband’s lack of interest doesn’t help.

    No loving words, no “claiming” he finds me attractive can ever outshout the truth – that he finds me repulsive. His lack of interest has awoken me to the fact that I am not beautiful and have no hopes of ever becoming so.

    The other day another woman commented that I was beautiful “inside and out.” I wanted to cry. Neither is true. What should have made me feel special was like a knife in my gut.

    I look at other women, and I feel they all have something beautiful about them, and they are all beautiful in God’s eyes, and deserve to feel so. I do not feel that way about myself. I cannot. I don’t know why. I’m tired of trying.

    At a function, a coworker said to my husband “you have a beautiful wife.” My husbands response? Silence. It was soul crushing. I whispered to him “you could say ‘thank you’.” So he then replied “thank you”. But his first response – stone cold silence – told me all I needed to know. He is repulsed by me and was shocked to think that any other human man would find anything about me attractive. I have never been so hurt, than to find out my husband truly believes I am so very ugly. And he wonders why I don’t believe him when he calls me “pretty.”

    Reply
    1. J Post author

      So you basically believe that everyone is lying to you? Please sit down with a counselor. This is not a healthy perspective for you and the people around you.

      Reply
    2. e2

      B,

      I’ve read your painful posts before and my heart breaks. Let me offer some insights from a male perspective. What I hear from you is that you are defining your beauty by they way your husband reacts to you. You say he is uninterested. Even if that is the case, it doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful. Male sexuality is not as simple as “see beautiful woman, get aroused.” Many things spark our interest and a woman can be drop-dead gorgeous and have no affect on our libido. Your husband may not be interested in sex, but that could be due to stress, the busyness of life, or other relationship issues having nothing to do with your beauty.

      Okay, he was silent when a coworker commented on your beauty. If I could be so bold, I think you’re reading far more into his silence than he truly felt. Believe it or not, we men often fail to verbalize what we feel, and we definitely fail to say what our wives think we should say in social situations. And, the knowledge of our verbal failures only makes us more stressed about saying the right things; so we just clam up. Better to remain silent than to say the wrong thing. His silence doesn’t mean you’re not beautiful. More importantly, notice the situation. A *coworker* commented on your beauty. I would never, ever, ever, tell a man he had a beautiful wife if it wasn’t true. The coworker thinks you’re beautiful. I doubt he was just trying to make polite dinner conversation.

      And, yet, despite his lack of interest, you say your husband tells you you’re pretty, and you don’t believe him. You’re going to get yourself on a crazy cycle here (“Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs) He says you’re pretty. You don’t believe him and tell him so. He gets discouraged and stops complimenting you. You then conclude you’re not beautify because he never tells you that you are. But, he never tells you because you never believe him. He gets frustrated and it affects his libido, not because you’re ugly, but because you won’t believe him when he tries to tell you that you’re pretty. His decreasing libido causes you to conclude that you’re repulsive. The more you feel repulsive, the more that attitude gets conveyed to your husband and the more disinterested he becomes.

      The whole world thinks you’re beautiful, and moreover, tells you so. And, yet, you refuse to believe it solely because of your husband’s lack of sexual interest. Deal with the two issues separately. His interest is not the standard by which to measure your beauty.

      Reply
      1. B

        Ugh! I wish I’d read your comment earlier! As the posts go on, I often lose track of the older posts. But your comment is eye opening. Because…

        We had this very exact argument/discussion yesterday. We are very much on a crazy cycle, very much – almost exactly – like what you described above. I mean – almost exactly.

        One of our big problems is that my husband (who I love deeply) does not like to talk about feelings, emotions, issues. He’ll listen, but he just sits there. It’s infuriating and it sure seems like he just could not care less. To me, silence is just another way of saying “you are not worth talking to.” It makes me crazy, and if he doesn’t answer, I draw my own conclusions.

        The male perspective is helpful. I don’t always like it, but it’s helpful. I most of the time assume that my husband is telling me what he thinks he “should” say, not what he means. I know Im wrong a lot, and I know I should believe my husband more than anyone else. However, you have no reason to tell me what I want to hear, and in some ways that’s helpful. So thank you!

        As for the stress, yes, that’s a BIG part of it, and I HATE it. There’s a part of me that appreciates how hard he works and tries to understand how tough his job is. And there’s a selfish part of me that feels very jealous that work is so important to him and consumes him so much. He actually admitted yesterday that sometimes the pressures of work consume him so much that he doesn’t even think about sex. If I initiate, he gets into it, but i stopped initiating when I realized men were supposed to be the pursuers – never vice versa (except for a rare surprise). All I was reading started to make me feel desperate and pathetic, so I backed off.

        So yea, our problems are multi-faceted, and not all related to the fact that I’m not his type physically, but it’s still a painful part of it. The good news is, we are making progress. Slowly, but, some progress is better than none.

        Thanks again for your helpful comment!

        Reply
  4. Stephanie

    You just slapped me in the face!! I am always finding fault with myself and my husband tells me I am beautiful daily. The red flags that jumped out about yoga pants. That is meeeee. We have date night and I always make sure I am in my role as a beautiful wife. The facade is, I really do not feel beautiful. This is a good tool you have given me. I can’t wait to get your books. Thank you!!!

    Reply
  5. Katie

    I have a theory.

    Back a couple generations, it was common, at least among middle classes and higher, for girls to be “finished.” They were taught, even in public schools, to have poise, do well in the home, speak well, dress well, and care for themselves.

    In some circles, it may have gotten extreme, one-dimensional, and misogynistic and there was push-back. Women shouldn’t be valued for their appearance and social prowess. We have minds, capabilities, dreams, career focuses. As with most push back, one extreme is countered with another and in this day and age women are no longer taught the fine arts of self-care, poise, presentation, etc. We jump from one fad, fashion, or magazine article to another. We just don’t know! And we face a world that says beauty matters so much, but at the same time you are superficial and not a good feminist, or you are too vain and superficial and immodest to be a good Christian. And we deal with a personal inner longing to be beautiful and desired by our husbands.

    I loved the show Trial By Jury where women were made over, not just outwardly, but inwardly with counselors and life coaches. They were sent a stylist to help them choose clothing for their body type and he always had something positive to say about their figures. The results were women who were “finished.” Confident. Poised. Beautiful.

    Reply
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  7. Eric Wiggin

    Katie’s comment makes a very good point, in that our culture has gone from teaching girls to have poise to teaching them to compete with men. There is still another angle, which is very prevalent in many Christian circles, and that’s various forms of pietism, asceticism, legalism, Gnosticism or some aspects of the holiness movement (I think this list covers them all,and they do overlap; and let me say that holiness, properly understood is a good thing). Some churches, Christian schools and many–but not all–homeschooling parents react, especially with girls, against the teen culture of the public schools, rather than teaching them to consider Bible standards. The result is frumpiness, dowdyness or just plain ugly. Hair must always be long and straight. No open toed shoes, and certainly no painted toenails. Earrings are okay, but only on the lobe, no lipstick, no shorts–the list goes on. Some parents will not call their daughters beautiful, and discourage other adults (such as grandparents) from doing so, since they fear the girls will become vain and conceited.

    As I wrote in another post, God’s final and most beautiful creation was woman, intended to be beautiful both naked and clothed. I also quoted C. S. Lewis. Please see my post re “Flowers,” if you’re interested.

    Eric

    Reply
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