How to Feel Comfortable in Your Own Skin (A November to Remember — 11.22.2014)
When was the last time you looked in the mirror and smiled at who you saw? When was the last time you were comfortable in your own skin?
I can honestly say, “Today.”
But ask me again tomorrow.
Because it can be hard to feel comfortable in our own skin, especially when the message of the world screams: “You’re falling short, and let us show you just how much.”
The world is trending with photos of the latest star to “reveal all.” In the Target checkout lane, your eyes are assaulted by the photo-shopped unreality of a woman’s body. The ads between your favorite shows are designed to make you think you’re doing it all wrong, and for $49.99 a month, they’ll fix you.
Mirrors are false indicators of reality. So are magazine covers, bathroom scales, and Kim Kardashian’s backside in your Facebook feed.
Mirror, Mirror Off the Wall
Do you remember when Anna and I gave up our reflections for Lent? For forty days last spring, we covered every mirror in our house. We covered the mirrors with words like PreApproved, Beloved, Cherished, Enough. I was tired of the self-degradation that we engage in as women. We tell ourselves that we’re not enough—or we let our bathroom scales tell us that we’re too much. We often see ourselves as a series of parts and “thigh gaps,” or lack thereof.
Now—perhaps more than ever in human history—we are bombarded with opportunities for literal self-reflection in places like Instagram and Facebook. We feel less comfortable in our skin than ever before. Plastic surgeons now report that selfies are encouraging more people to go under the knife. Get this: One in three facial plastic surgeons saw an “increase in requests for surgery due to patients being more self-aware of looks in social media.”
If you don’t want to go under the knife, but want to be “InstaFamous” (that’s a thing now), you might be tempted to make use of an app that will skinni-fy you.
Or … you could try a better way toward feeling comfortable in your own skin: You could show yourself some overdue self-compassion.
Right before I covered my mirrors last spring, I really took my reflection in—the whole of myself, not the parts. And that time, I didn’t feel sorry for the woman in the mirror. Not at all.
I didn’t frown at her. I didn’t chide or criticize her, and I resisted the urge to fret over the fact that she had a rather large pimple on her nose—at age 42. I found what I liked. I saw lines around my eyes — the crinkles of a woman who loves to laugh. I saw my soft belly as the place where two humans miraculously grew. I saw my legs, strong enough to carry me far, far, far down this road of life. I looked at my reflection, and felt more tenderly toward her than I usually do. I thought to myself, I need to love that woman better.
And maybe you do, too. Maybe you need to love your mirror-woman better. Let me introduce you to two women who can begin to show us how.
Erika Morrison: Rocking the Hawk
I have long admired Erika Morrison from afar, how she seemed so comfortable in her own skin — not just the physical skin, but her soul-skin.
She was all … her. She seemed so …. unafraid.
But turns out, Erika’s a whole lot of us — where the inner “us” begs to break free, but gets caged up by an inner critic who says people won’t approve.
It also turns out, that Erika just does it anyway — even when she’s afraid. Even when she fears judgment.
Last year, Erika’s best friend found out she had breast cancer. When her friend’s hair started falling out as a result of chemo, Erika shaved her head nearly to her scalp — an act of solidarity. “The whole thing produced this urgent ‘I ain’t dead yet’ feeling in me that made me decide to have more fun in life and be a little more free.”
So she did this:
Stunning, right? And completely “her.”
A week ago, I emailed Erika a few questions about identity:
“How does a woman get to the place where she feels beautiful in her own skin, in her own style, in her own mohawk, in her own unique wholeness?”
First, of all, she says, she’s “in process.” “But in the meantime, I’m grateful to be at a place within the identity pilgrimage that allows me to not only know some of my unique dimensions, but love the ‘thisness’ I carry, too.”
Erika is reading a book called The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life. In chapter two, the author writes about a research study, which revealed that contemplatively meditating on the love of God has more healing influence on the brain than any other practice or effort we put forth to reach a goal of identity wholeness.
Says Erika: “This idea resonates with my own experience of actively and persistently pursuing the Spirit throughout the process of my own healing. I can unequivocally and confidently say that the hours I spent lying on the bare floorboards of my living room with tears and snot dripping down my chin while begging God to ‘teach me how to love’ and choosing to stay in that space and meditating on his love until I understood just a small measure more of it, changed my body, mind and soul more than any other part of my identity journey. All the questions we answer and books we read and retreats/exercises we do on the road to ‘self discovery’ don’t hold a candle to having consistent contemplative sits with a loving God.”
Amy Tilson: The Color Purple
Yeah, she says, some might call it a mid-life crisis, this crazy-fun thing she did with her hair. But this isn’t a mid-life crisis, she says. “It’s more like a mid-life, finally-embracing-what-I’d-not-been-brave-enough-to-do for far too long.”
Amy colored her hair purple. A.Dor.A.Ble.
“I finally decided to color my hair an actual color, and not just cover the gray, for my 44th birthday,” Amy said. “I decided that it truly was just hair, but that it was a blessing from God and a pretty good indicator that I was healthy and NOT losing it due to cancer. That’s cause for celebration right there. If I was going to celebrate, I should seem like I was joyous. Hence, purple hair.”
Something magical happened when she made her hair the color of royalty, the color of a party.
“I actually caught myself smiling in the mirror. It struck me that I never really smile at myself in the mirror — ever,” Amy told me. “Then it struck me that … most other people don’t smile at themselves either. We look in the mirror with a critical eye, searching for what needs to be fix. That’s a shame.”
Smiling at yourself is a form of self-compassion. It’s like a sticky-note to your own soul to say, “Hey you’re pretty swell.” Be all you today, because you’re the only “you” the world gets.
A Must-See Video: How Comfortable Are You in Your Own Skin
In Christ, we’re all the right kinds of beautiful, and if you don’t trust your mirror, trust your Bible.
Check Psalm 45:11: The King is enthralled by your beauty.
Today’s Scripture — 11.22.2014
“The King is enthralled by you beauty.” ~ Psalm 45:11
This post is part of our month-long series, “A November to Remember: Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes.
If you want to follow along, visit us here every day. Consider subscribing to my blog by clicking here to get these reflections in your email inbox.
(Download for printing from Google Drive)
Let this be the November that we remember who we really are: Loved. Preapproved. His.
Find all the posts in the November to Remember series by clicking here.
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Jennifer, you weave stories together in a way that is unexpected beauty. It flows straight from the beauty in your heart. Thank you for sharing that wonderful video and for binding me with you and Erika. We are totally PREAPPROVED, aren’t we!
Love! Of course Amy and Erika are beautiful and confident which is exactly what I saw when I was at Allume! God’s eye is perfect and when He created us, He sees a beauty and blemish-free person that is His image bearer. It is only the world that looks on with criticism. I must say that I am saying these words for me as much as anyone else. Thank you for the reminder today and thank you for calling out that pre approval is God’s gift to us.
Jennifer, so grateful that you’re addressing this. It’s a constant struggle for many of us. Case in point: I just tried on the dress I’m planning to wear to our holiday parties, and it’s too small. But that makes me no less valuable or beautiful or precious in God’s eyes. Glad to have found your blog, friend.
I LOVE this video so much, Jennifer! Thank you for sharing.