Something you probably don’t know about me: I love cowboy boots. Like seriously love them. Not as much as I love God, my husband, and my children, but they’re right up there with beach days and cream gravy. And yeah, I’m a Southern gal.
I haven’t even worn cowboy boots my whole life; just the last few years. But they are so comfortable on my feet that I wear them with everything I can, including dresses. A few of those dresses I’ve worn so much, they were getting tattered. What’s a Southern gal to do? Go shopping, of course!
So I spent two days over the July Fourth weekend clothes shopping in my area. Rather than give you a play-by-play of my excursion, simply imagine a horror film with you shouting at the screen, “Don’t go in there, girlfriend! It’s dangerous!” Only instead of a dark basement with a serial killer inside, my threat was the dressing room with poor self-image lurking.
In the course of those two days, I looked through scads and scads of dresses and tried on over 50 items. Oh yeah, 50. How many did I buy? A whopping four, and one of those was a clearance T-shirt bought on a whim.
Why was it so difficult? Because my body sucks!
No, no, that’s not the reason. Yet I had several moments when self-doubt crept up and settled in my bones. “I hate my stomach.” “I look pudgy in this.” “My butt is flat.” “Have I always had all this arm fat?”
After Day One of 32 items tried on and zero purchased, I returned home and fell into a funk. I’m not proud, but there may have even been thoughts of buying a tube of Pillsbury chocolate chip cooking dough, grabbing a large spoon, and drowning my discouragement in sugar and chocolate.
However, I did not succumb!
In fact, I’m a few days out from that whole experience, and I want to share what I learned:
1. I continue to struggle with feeling beautiful at times. I still have my moments of frustrations with my body, struggling with getting older, and not appreciating the masterpiece God made me to be. I’m not perfected on this point.
2. Those times are fewer and shorter-lived than before. Since actively trying to feel beautiful, I’ve done better. I recently listened to a sermon by James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel, and he noted we often think of changing as a steady decrease of our brokenness; however, the truth is we usually struggle with the same things as before, but as intentional Christians they become less frequent and shorter-lived. We recognize our moments of struggle more quickly and respond better with godly answers. I see that in my own life.
3. The scriptures I’ve memorized come to mind when I need them. When I slipped into my body-image blues, Psalm 139:14 came to mind: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And principles I’ve learned about God’s love, His provision, His care for me were all present in my heart, keeping me from staying too long in that bad place.
4. My husband helps me feel beautiful. Hubby was with me on Day One (that trooper!), and we made love that night. He doesn’t care that my tummy isn’t getting fitness awards or that my body isn’t as young as it once was. He simply sees the woman he loves, God bless that man.
5. Fashion designers don’t always “get” real women. Or maybe rarely get real women. We ladies commonly complain that we don’t know who they’re designing clothes for, because it isn’t for our bodies. So why did I expect it to be easy? That said, it is possible to find clothes that fit and flatter you.
6. Learn what looks good and stick with that. It took me many tries, but by the end of the weekend I had some things figured out. Certain styles would not look good on my body (as it is now) no matter what, and other styles held possibility. Let yourself experiment and figure out what works on the (beautiful) body you have. Then you can avoid grabbing something off the rack to try on that will not flatter and choose styles that likely will.
7. Keep up the positive self-talk. It really does matter what you say to yourself. After a while, you start believing it. At first, I didn’t do this well during my shopping trip and beat myself up for not looking goh-geous in everything I tried on. By Day Two, I had a different perspective and stayed far more positive. I was a beautiful woman, and my goal was simply to hunt down clothes that helped me show and feel that truth.
8. Rely on godly friends. Just a shout-out here to my friend “L” who stuck with me on the phone as I hunted down the right look. She even let me text her photos and ask for her thoughts. She helped with opinions, but also keeping my spirits up.* You might do better shopping with an encouraging friend, a family member, or your spouse. It certainly helped me.
Do I feel beautiful? Not all the time.
But it isn’t always about how I’m feeling. I know I’m beautiful, because I was crafted by an amazing Creator. I want to take care of the body He gave me, and that includes appreciating it, even when a shopping trip isn’t going my way.
I am still on the journey of feeling beautiful, but I’m getting better and better.
And since I’m sure some of you are wondering, here’s one of the outfits I came home with:
*Just a quick note that Spock (hubby) was with me on Day One. He really tried to encourage me, but he’s not a wordy guy and didn’t know what to say. His reassurance when we got home helped me more than we were out and about. And that’s okay. Your husband doesn’t have to be and do everything for you. I let Spock be who he is, and seek out friendships to support me as well.