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Painting Pictures of Egypt

Hey, ladies. Yes, I’m talking to you.

Have you ever looked at old pictures of yourself and thought, “Why did I think I was fat?”

This whole new Facebook “See your memories” thing has brought it up a lot for me lately.

For example: the picture on top is the second time I ever saw the stud who became my husband, in January 2008. We had met on a blind date in November 2007, and I was struggling with weight-related self-image issues, like I had my whole life.

I have always known I am pretty, but that hasn’t stopped me from thinking, “If I weighed less, I would have more friends…be more confident…accomplish more in the world…”

I truly believed that I would be a better person if I shed the extra poundage I carried then.

I look at that picture now, knowing the happiness and pain that await ‘skinny me’ (the happiness outweighs the pain, but the pain is still there).

The picture on bottom is us last week, 6.5 years of marriage and 3 kids later. I compare my current body to my 2008 body and I catch myself thinking, “If only I could go back to that size…Why did I think I was fat? Look at me now…”

But, no. Wait. Stop right there, mama. Let’s look at the assumptions wrapped up in this line of thinking:

  1. Weighing less means being a better person. Which I know–at a factual level–isn’t true. But at a gut level, that lie is still there. We have all felt the pressure to continually strive to be a better person, and for me the issue of weight management is in the “be better at” compartment. But my weight has little-to-nothing to do with how good a person I am.
  2. Weighing less means being more beautiful. Which I kinda know at a factual level isn’t true, but it is definitely a lie that I believe in my gut. So many images of beautiful and thin women bombard my vision. I have to go out of my way to find beauty portrayed in the media in people of bigger size.
  3. Weighing less means more people will like me. As I type this out, it feels like I am still in high school, with assumptions like this. Surely I know that my friends are not focused on my appearance, right? But I still believe this deep down. And I want to be liked. So I feel pressured to weigh less.
  4. Weighing less means fewer wounds for me to carry. Now this one might be legitimate. Let’s talk more about this.

 

Fewer pounds = Fewer Wounds?

I have told myself (and that this message reinforced by movies, tv, music, and social media) that weighing less will mean a healthier, happier, hotter me. Surely a lot of my wounds do come from feeling out of place in a skinny-worshipping world, judging myself by other people’s standards and coming up short. There is a feeling of insignificance and insecurity that plague me with the temptation to believe that I am a lesser person because I am overweight.  This is not true. 

Even when people eschew the ‘skinny’ language and replace it with ‘healthy’ language, I am still affected. Because I am not focusing on eating healthy and losing weight, I am not on the path to the good life. I carry a lot of shameful feelings because I am still eating wheat, drinking soda, and not scheduling regular exercise. But I’ve been reading some Brené Brown and I know that while shame is a powerful thing, it is not a good thing. I want to be through with the shame of being overweight. And therefore I have to throw my assumptions about being skinny out the window.

So, for some truth:

  1. I can develop into a better person regardless of how much I weigh. The choices to shape my character, to love myself and others well–these are not dependent on whether I am fat or skinny.
  2. I am beautiful in my current body. It is true. I am attractive. I am lovely. The gifts and creativity and love and kindness that flow through me make me lovely. I am also pretty.
  3. People may or may not like me, but I am likable. This has nothing to do with my weight and everything to do with being myself. Some people won’t like me because I am assertive, confident, and truth-speaking. But that has nothing to do with me being fat or skinny.
  4. People of all sizes and shapes carry wounds, big wounds. If by some chance I do lose weight, I will not be wound-proof. Wounds are inevitable as we walk through this pilgrimage called life. If the wounds I carry are related to being overweight, I can address them and seek healing.

So when I am tempted to long for the days of “skinny me,” as if going back to a certain size could change my life for the better, I remember that life was not all peaches and cream back then. Pain and joy still awaited ‘skinny me’ and they had nothing to do with how much I weighed. My desire to go back to that time is what Sara Groves calls “painting pictures of Egypt.”

I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future looks so cold and I want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And that road was closed off to me
While my back was turned…

In 2008, I could not have imagined the challenges and the joys that lay ahead of me. I have grown and learned so much. I have gained so much trust, confidence, love, and weight. But honestly, I would not change it. The journey I have walked has shaped me, and I embrace the shape I’m in because of it.

My body tells my story. It’s a beautiful story and I will not be ashamed of it. 

I’ll leave you with one particular song that gives me courage to keep walking forward, leaving shame and regret behind, and embracing who I am now and who God is for me all the time.

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 10.28.24 AM.png

Click the picture above or here to watch the music video for “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves.

If it comes to quick
I may not appreciate it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

If it comes to quick
I may not recognize it
Is that the reason behind all this time and sand?

 

 


4 Comments

  1. egwolfephd says:

    And that road was closed off to me
    While my back was turned…

    I’ve had that experience with work issues, debating moving back to Waco if by some chance a position opened at Baylor. Almost all of my friends have moved away, of course, apart from those who are members of staff or faculty. But although my church has changed significantly, there have been times when I’ve seriously thought I could still find a place to fit there.

    Well.

    One night a few years back, I had a dream that I’d gone back to try to find a job with the Baylor libraries, working in ILL. But when I went down the hall in Moody that leads to the ILL office, I discovered that the door was COVERED with bats. As in Mexican freetails. Now, we used to have a colony of bats living in my high school, so they don’t bother me per se; but there was no way past them. I don’t remember much about the rest of the dream, but I do remember waking up having understood its point loud and clear: You can’t go back.

    I don’t actually miss Waco per se. I do miss Baylor. But that’s not where God wants me anymore. So… I keep riding the horse with no name, wait for manna, and hope it’s not too many more miles to the Jordan.

  2. Melissa says:

    It’s funny, every time I hear this song, I think of you! I’ve even thought about sending you a link to it because I didn’t know if you listened to Sara Groves (she is my all time favorite artist, i just got out of the shower listening to her on spotify haha). Anyway, I’ve thought about you and Zachary and your journey to the Catholic Church, having to leave Longview, etc. every time I hear it. And it resonates with me as well, as I continue my journey of leaving Protestantism – “the places they used to fit me cannot hold the things I’ve learned…” That about sums it up for me.
    But I never thought about the song in terms of your struggle with weight, it’s really neat to hear the song from a different perspective and hear that it speaks to you on a different level.
    I have recently come to realize the extent that shame plays in my life. Recently I was late picking up Abby from preschool, and so the director (with as much kindness and grace as she had, I’m sure) said they would have to tack on a 10$ late fee on our next payment. Which was fine. But for the rest of the day I had a knot in my stomach about it and i kept thinking, “good thing we won’t live in Lexington long term, I’ll be able to start somewhere else with a clean slate.” And this is the first time I realized, hey! I’m experiencing shame! I always feel this way when I make mistakes, but had never realized that is what shame is.
    I wonder how your awareness of shame in your own life affects your parenting? Trevor and I have been on different pages when thinking about the role of punishment in discipline, whether we should even use punishment at all, and I realize that where I’m stuck is not wanting our kids to experience shame…

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