“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the spirit of God dwelleth in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16
I remember a woman over six feet tall speaking to us in a church years ago. I’m sure she shared a great talk, but all I remember is a story she told about how she began to stand up straight and have good posture. As a girl who was a little over six feet tall in jr. high she constantly slouched, scrunched, and tried to blend in. She said a professional volleyball player came to talk to their class one day and as her jr. high self exited the door the volleyball player lightly grabbed her arm and said, “my goodness girl, stand up straight and let your beautiful self be seen!” She said she never slouched again. I’m not tall, but on some level I knew I was slouching, weighed down with unnecessary expectations, desires, and deficits.
I recently read a statement hours after a phone conversation with a friend bemoaning jean shopping. I mean, not fitting your thighs into a great pair of jeans can absolutely destroy your day. Our conversation lead down the path where yet again we slipped into traitorous words against our bodies.
“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me: ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. Not one woman has ever said: ‘I am so proud of my body.’ So, I make sure I say it to Mia, because a positive physical outlook has to start from a very early age.” – Kate Winslet
I feel like my roots are maternal. When I think of my relatives, my family experiences, and the genealogical stories ceremoniously told to me they are all female rich. I have women warriors behind and beside me. Dimensions of their force however include stories of self – criticism and disapproval. I view them as powerful portraits of strength, generosity, and personality, but the external haunts we women feel were planted generations before me.
I remember my grandma, mom, and aunt hovered around a box of old pictures as I sat and watched. I was young. Many pictures were of my great-grandma who had cut out her hands of the picture (I was told she never liked how they looked). She had won a full scholarship to the University of Utah in Piano Performance, which she forfeited to have a family. Years later, her hands taught many children how to play the piano. In a few of her family pictures, she even cut out her face. “It seems gruesome”, my grandma assured while laughing, “but my mother had such a sense of humor, but what a pity she did this to her beautiful self.” They laughed and shook their head and their sentence “see, it’s in the genes!” bounced through the air.
Other anecdotes trail down my female line to my own grandma, mom and myself displaying similar themes. These threads of disapproval are seemingly innocuous. There was no physical self harm, psychiatric attention, or life inhibiting scars left as I know many other women warriors endure, but perhaps it is a even more dangerous disconnect between soul and body because it is the carbon monoxide of our gender. Seemingly harmless, but when it goes undetected or even used for validated bonding, irreverent damage to our mind and bodies ensue.
It is so easy to recognize the wasted potential and energy in other women who seem so flawless and beautiful in our eyes, but it is so easy to self criticize ourselves. Would we ever say the things we say to ourselves to a young child? We’ve been told that tobacco, drugs and the like defile our bodies. What about the great defiling of our spirit and light of unrealistic expectations others and ourselves push on us through hidden curriculums around us? I see disconnect in our dialogue and doctrine amongst friends, mothers, and in our church. We esteem the Word of Wisdom and the law of chastity, yet hate our bodies – which we are told is our temple. Do we preach self-acceptance and worth alongside virginity? Do we connect our divine potential to loving patience of our physical differences? If not, we should start.
Like the painting, we become so accustomed to having something weigh us down that we don’t even realize we are hunched over inhibiting our life and light with something on our back. It is our job as women to perpetuate the grandeur in our bodies and souls instead of the “never enough” school of thought. We must start a vaccination of discussion, and thought, allowing our body to become a temple of peace. Light always shines out of temples. Mothers will shine outward for their children, friends to friends, spreading a more holistic doctrine.
Do you relate? Is it worse now with media all around us? What do you do for yourself and your family to combat such expectations?