Last week, I packed up half of my closet and put in in a box to send to my mom in Texas.
The clothes I selected weren’t old, they weren’t ragged, and some of them had only been worn a handful of times. So why would I send my clothes to a mom whose in her sixties?
Because they were her style of clothes…..but they definitely weren’t mine.
Why did I buy clothes that I didn’t like in the first place? Why would I own clothes that weren’t even things I wanted to wear?
CHURCH CAMP SWIMSUIT PROBS
Let’s back up a few decades to an adolescent girl at Christian summer camp, awkwardly navigating the landmine of emotions that come with puberty. As most of my friends were whispering to their moms to buy them training bras, this lanky and long 13-year-old could only have hoped for such a scenario. Instead, I was dealing with bullying chants like, “Roses are red, coal is black, why is your chest as flat as my back?”
Yeah, not fun. Especially when the boys only went for the girls with training bras.
Awkwardly skinny and very, very long, I was usually taller than most boys until high school. So finding a size small one-piece swimsuit to stretch the long expanse of my torso wasn’t always easy, and it usually meant the leg holes rode far up above my hip bone, making me look more like I was trying to imitate the waif-like lifeguard from Baywatch than cover up.
I remember standing with my cabin mates at the pool, all of us trying to act natural inside our changing bodies that didn’t yet feel like home. We were all shapes and sizes, some chubby, some athletic, some with boobs, some with booty, and then there was long and lanky me. As if the insecurity I felt from my flat chest and knobby knees wasn’t enough, accompanied by my pasty-white skin and freckles, a well meaning counselor pulled me aside to make things a whole lot worse.
“Christa,” she said sternly. “Your swimsuit rides up too high on your legs. And you know it’s your responsibility not to make the boys stumble.”
I almost choked up a laugh. You think I look good enough to make a boy stumble right now?! THAT IS AWESOME, but I’LL PRETEND TO THINK IT’S HORRIBLE!!! You think I’m actually trying to be sexy, instead of trying to survive the insecurity of puberty? You think I’m intending to have a perma-wedgie because I can’t find a small enough swimsuit with a long enough torso to cover up the bodily disaster I’m forced to live in?
And you’re telling me it’s MY responsibility not to make boys want to have sex with me?????
Yes, yes, yes she did. She believed, just as she had been instructed, that it was our responsibility as girls to police our clothes under scrupulous watch to make sure boys minds never went to sexual places when they looked at us (as if that’s even possible, especially during puberty!). These weren’t suggestions with explanations behind them, or a conversation about sex drive and purity, the differences between males and females, or an understanding of the mind of a young boy. I was given a mandate, very sternly and with a side of shame—and it was now my responsibility as a member of the female race to keep the minds of men pure.
Because I was a good Christian girl who tended to listen to her leaders, I listened and obeyed for years and years.
Cover up your body, Christa. Cover it up….because your body causes people to sin.
THE INNER DILEMMA
You have to understand, two people can do the exact same thing but with entirely different motivations.
Imagine two girls wearing a pretty long dress with flowers on it. The first girl chooses the dress because she feels downright beautiful in it, but the second girl wears the same dress because she’s glad it hides her frame. Both girls might look exactly the same on the outside, but there’s a world of difference going on inside.
The inside world is what I’m talking about here. The internal world is what I’m always trying to get you to look at.
From that moment at the pool as a little girl growing into a woman, my clothing selections were not motivated by the love of beauty, the value of being a woman, or the pursuit and celebration of femininity….
My inner motivators were fear and shame. Fear and shame. FEAR AND SHAME.
And fear and shame always tack on a host of other problems while you’re navigating a growing body…..mainly the problem of little boys.
Like many little girls, I wanted little boys to think I was pretty and pay attention to me—which definitely wasn’t a problem. It was normal. But because my brain always looked through the lens of fear and shame, I worried constantly about how I could be attractive enough to make them want to go out with me….but not attractive enough to make them want to have sex with me in their minds while we were going out.
Got it. I think.
Dear Jesus, please help me.
TALK ABOUT PRESSURE
You live according to what you believe. I promise, you do.
And though it would probably have helped my perspective and understanding if my counselor had taught me how it’s devaluing to be sexually objectified by men, or let me know that using lust to try and get love doesn’t really work…..that’s not what I heard at the pool. I heard that the long legs God gave me made guys sin. And the boobs I so desperately wanted were going to make guys sin. And the cause of this whole stumbling/sin problem was a body He had created—a body I couldn’t peel off and escape. Every time I got dressed in the morning, an inner subconscious chant rolled through the corridors of my brain, reminding me that if I really loved Jesus, I’d hide what he had created.
My long legs look great in this skirt, which is awesome because I want to have a boyfriend and get married—which means he’s going to need to want to have sex with me.
SHAME: But do my long legs make men want to have sex with me right now? And is it my fault if they do?????
Hide. Hide. Hide.
My body looks amazing in this dress, which might attract a guy today. SCORE.
FEAR: But does my body look good enough to make guys think about taking my dress off?
Hide. Hide. Hide.
I would ping and pong back and forth between the natural desire to be attractive, and the fear of being too attractive that it turned on married men. I would long to catch the eye of a guy, but blame myself if they seemed to be looking for the wrong reasons. Every time I picked out an outfit, a shirt, a skirt, a swimsuit, the small inner voice of my summer camp counselor reminded me of my responsibility—my obligation—my duty to the entire male species.
You are responsible for the minds of men, Christa. You are responsible for their lust—because apparently they’re so visual they can’t control themselves. And your body makes them think bad things.
Talk about a horrible existence fueled by fear and shame—to be ashamed and afraid of the body you live in every day—the body God created to be beautiful, feminine, attractive…..even sexual.
Talk about a mountain of pressure I was never intended to carry.
CHRISTIAN SPEAKER APPROVED
I’m an accidental author. No really, I am. I started a blog while touring as a musician for the Jonas Brothers (where my prescribed attire consisted of tiny skirts and skin-tight leather—and yes, I was nervous about what Christians would think about that wardrobe!). My blog on tour that year did so well that readers asked for a book. When you have a book people ask you to speak, and the main people asking me to speak were churches.
No more mini skirts. No more rock-n-roll. I was in Jesus country now, and I knew what that country did to girls in mini skirts.
Now, Christians, you’re my family members, and I have a sibling love/not-so-crazy-about relationship with many of you. And I had seen firsthand what we do to women who look TOO good. I got kicked off the worship team one time because my skirt didn’t cover my knees (because apparently knees are SUPER sexy). The day I woke up and realized I had somehow become a Christian author/speaker, I was well aware that my leather mini-skirt days were over.
It was time to go buy a blazer. It was time make sure things were high, loose, long, and maybe a size too big. I was afraid if my wardrobe wasn’t conservative with a side of cute, I would be judged, gossiped about, shunned, punished, and not invited to come back.
Baptist, Lutheran, and Church of Christ churches asked me to come speak. Conservative Evangelicals, liberal Methodists, and non-denominational churches gave me a platform. And every time I looked at myself in the mirror before speaking in front of church groups, I didn’t look at my body with love and acceptance, excited to radiate beauty. I didn’t let my inner femininity have a voice, embracing the fullness of my female essence. I looked at my body with absolute fear, petrified of offending people.
If I was too attractive, men wouldn’t hear what I had to say because (I had been told) they would be too busy picturing me naked. Plus, I didn’t want their wives to be threatened. I was ashamed of my thin physique, hoping to cover up my favorite parts to avoid inappropriate thoughts. Every day I chose clothes out of fear, and not out of love. I chose clothes out of shame, and not out of acceptance. And because I began all of my decisions on the wrong foot….I woke up one day with a closet full of older looking ‘Christian female speaker approved’ clothes that made everyone happy.
Everyone, that is, except for me.
BACK TO MY HALF-EMPTY CLOSET
If you go to my new website, you won’t see any speaking events in the future. None, zero, zilch. I cancelled the rest of my events for 2017, politely declining the rest of the invites. I woke up last year staring at my Christian-speaker-lady-closet, screaming on the inside……
Whose clothes are these, Christa, because surely they can’t be yours!
This wardrobe was for a girl ashamed of her body.
These clothes were a woman trying to hide her beauty.
This closet was for someone afraid of being attractive.
And to be honest, that someone is tired of being afraid of the power of her femininity.
As I’ve looked deep into my heart this past year, I discovered a root that made me very, very sad. It was a massive root of fear—pretty much a fear of everything.
Fear of disappointing parents, friends, even strangers.
Fear of being punished if I mess up or make mistakes.
Fear of being wrong.
Fear of being criticized when I’m authentic.
Fear of rejection, of abandonment, of betrayal.
Fear of my body.
Fear of my natural sexual being (that God created).
Fear of my divine femininity.
When I began to examine how many things in my life began with a root of fear—even good things like my faith—I was absolutely heartbroken.
I decided it was time to make a few changes, change my fear into love.
I am learning to love being a woman.
Being a woman means my core is radiant.
It’s not something I have to become, it’s something I can relax into—learning how to just be.
Being a woman means I’m attractive, created to radiate beauty.
Being a woman means I am naturally nurturing, compassionate, fierce, and wild.
Being a woman means I am created to be sexual–and I do not have to be afraid of my sexuality. (My hubs is CHEERING on this discovery!)
I am created in the image of the feminine side of the Godhead….
And I will not be afraid of that feminine power anymore.
I will embrace it.
I will accept it.
I will learn to love it.
And I won't dress like I'm ashamed of it—I will dress like I am proud of it.
When you realize you’re afraid and ashamed of many aspects of your femininity—mainly your female body (for more reasons than mentioned in this blog….but we’ll get to those later!)—there’s a few things I did that immediately helped break the shame and fear cycles.
- Get Present
Take a second and breathe consciously. Take in two deep inhales, and two deep exhales, becoming present inside of your physical body. If you have a hard time getting present in the now, look down at your body and try to feel yourself sitting on the chair, or actually feel your feet on the floor. Get present. It’s where you encounter God.
Self- Awareness sheds light into dark places, and turning on the light can perform all kinds of miracles. As you’re present in your body, ask your heart this very important question:
(Insert your name here), are you ashamed of your body? Are you afraid of your body? Are you ashamed of your beauty, or that you think you’re not beautiful enough? Are you afraid of your beauty and sexuality, or afraid that you’re not beautiful or sexual enough?
God, are you ashamed or afraid of my body? Is it something to hide? Is it something to fear?
(Sidebar….being created to radiate beautiful and trying to elicit sexual attention are DIFFERENT. Remember the girl in the long dress? I'm not JUST talking about clothes here…I'm talking about the motive behind CHOOSING the clothes!)
- Own That Junk
For decades, I had been trained to deny what actually IS. “Have more faith! Quote more scripture! Don’t be angry, sad, afraid….don't be what you are right now!” There’s a very big problem with denial of what IS….you never accept your weakness enough to let God be strong inside of it.
When I started combatting the shame and fear I had of my body, of being a sexual being, and of being divinely feminine, I would feel the feeling of shame as I looked in the mirror. And I would drop into my body and FULLY FEEL IT. FULLY OWN MY REALITY.
Most of the time, we’re running from a feeling, or judging it, or shaming it, or trying to get away from it. But I found that when I owned what was my TRUTH, then fully being present with the shame and fear I felt about my body and being a woman…..
A funny thing started to happen.
I kept meeting God in the midst of my shame. I would feel peace in the midst of my storm. I kept meeting Presence in the middle of my fear. So instead of trying to change myself, I started letting love change me. I let love do the casting out.
My wardrobe has changed this year. It's more feminine. It's more beautiful. It's not afraid of radiating beauty, knowing my heart is to never coerce sexual lust from men, but to give them a pure picture of what the feminine side of God looks like. I get up in the morning and actually love what I'm putting on these days because my heart is different. My heart feels beautiful, so I feel beautiful.
Ok friends, this is getting entirely too long. But I’d like to teach a bit more on this subject.
This Tuesday, June 6th, I’m going to teach a live webinar called “Get Your HEAD Swimsuit Ready.” Notice I didn’t say body. I know a lot of beautiful bodies whose minds are neurotic on the beach. I want to teach you some prep-work I have learned to do before I stand with small amounts of cloth on my body in front of strangers. I also want to teach you more practical ways to embrace the shame and fear you might already feel for being a woman……
And as you learn to embrace and love ALL of you, a funny thing happens. Things heal. Things bloom. Things change.
Love you all.
You are enough.