Ladies! What is our problem?

I know, I know.  You’re not supposed to speak when you’re angry.  And I’m guessing that applies to blogging as well.  But I confess I am, so bear with me.

What IS IT with us women hating ourselves? Now, I might be out on a limb on this, and if so, I apologise.  But over the past few days I’ve talked and met with some incredible, beautiful, talented, strong and wise women, women who are wonderful mothers, daughters, friends, sisters and people.  But despite being from different backgrounds and walks of life, they had one thing in common – a deep, paralysing sense of not being good enough.  Of being uniquely useless – or as one put it, uniquely sinful. Because here’s the saddest part – it’s not just unbelievers.  It’s Christians!

Ladies, why can’t we ‘get’ grace?

You see, this is the part where, after saying how sad it is that some women can’t see how lovely they really are, I talk about how, as a Christian myself, I’ve found total self-acceptance in the love of Christ.  But whilst I know this as a truth in my head, I find it so difficult to feel it.  And it’s not for lack of good teaching.  In fact, some of my biggest struggles where when I was studying full-time at theological college and had a ‘successful’ ministry teaching the gospel to others.

And that’s not to prioritise experience over systematic truth.  We’re not how we feel.  But at the same time, God has made us as whole people, and our emotions are a part of that.  I want to worship Jesus with all of me, not just my mind. I want to see myself and others as He sees me, to be satisfied with His love, to know who I am, not as a self-construct or reflection of other people, but as He has made me.

So who we are in ourselves? Well, let me kick it off…

Even though I’m technically both a woman and a wife – I’m not very good at either.  Recently my husband and I did the ‘Star Wars personality test’  (yes, we have far too much time on our hands).  Anyway, he came out as being most like Princess Leia, whilst I was the Emporer (who, for those of you who don’t know the film is not only a bloke, but the bossiest, nastiest piece of work in the galaxy).  Even at school, the careers computer said that not only did I have the personality of an adolescent boy, but my skills were most suited to being a prison warden.

Now as well as being a bloke trapped in a woman’s body, I’ve more than a sneaking suspicion I’m failing on the whole wife thing too.  Our kitchen sink is so grubby its practically got a personality of its own, our fridge (and my husband) is stuffed full of ready meals and I’ve killed everything living in the garden, including a cactus that was supposed to be indestructible.

And while I’m on the subject I may as well tell you that I’m also a deeply superficial person, whose living room and brain is filled with reality TV. Which might mean that my husband’s shirts are never ironed, but if anyone in the parish needs to know about Jordan’s love life, then I’m your woman.

Why am I telling you all this?  More self-hatred?  Possibly.  But, as my nan always said, when you meet someone for the first time it’s only polite to tell them a little bit about yourself. But what about you?  If I was to ask you  – who are you?, what would you say? And on what basis?

The whole existential ‘who am I?’ thing might feel a bit heavy for a Saturday night,  but like it or not, it’s a question we are all faced with, even before we leave the house.  In a sense,  it’s behind everything we do and every decision we make –  what we wear, where we go, whether to walk or drive or even get out of bed.  So how would you answer?

It’s not an easy question – even more so, because there seem to be millions of right answers.  As I look at all the magazines around our house or switch on the TV or go shopping, everyone seems to be saying something different.

Recently we watched the programme, ‘Who do you think you are?’ which concluded that people are their families.  Which is lovely if you were born in the Waltons, but not so great if, like most of us, you’ve spent a large part of your life trying to jump out of the family tree.  And perhaps  that family tree just needs to be spruced up with a bit of paint work.  Or a new wardrobe . You see, those bulging carrier bags represent not just a fashion forward addition to the wardrobe or bargain skirt.   They’re the new, improved,  Emma.  After all, the old one seems to be a bit of a disaster.

So where was I?  Ah yes.  The new clothes.  Lovely. Now all I have to do is fit into them – for as Gillian McKeith says, I am what I eat, right? And with a little bit of surgery I can not only chop bits off but add them on too.  (This will come as good news to my mum, who informed  our wedding guests that , ‘with that Wonderbra, she should be arrested under the trading standards act’).

But hold on a minute, isn’t all this a bit superficial?   After all, if Michelle Pfeiffer can say  ‘I’ve got big lips and a bent nose.  My face is completely wrecked.  I have never been confident about my looks’, then there’s not a lot of hope for the 98% of womankind who are uglier than her.  Who cares  what’s on the outside?  What’s important is who you are on the inside, right?   If I can only peel back the layers, ask the right questions and get in touch with the inner me, then I’ll know who I am.  Well thank goodness for that.

But here’s a question – what if, when you peel back the layers, there’s nothing there?  Even worse, what’s there is someone you don’t want to get to know, someone who’s done a bit of good stuff, but who is also really messed up.  Because maybe you’re different, but that’s me.

Complete the following sentence…my life would be perfect if I could just have….what?  A perfect body?  A different job?  A partner?  A family?  Money?  Good health?

Would that really make a difference?

3 thoughts on “Ladies! What is our problem?

  1. Hmmm, the identity question is such a hard one!

    I think as women we are often conditioned in our upbringing to be either the good one or the wild child. Both bring struggles with them- the good one must be good all the time or else she is a failure; the wild child feels like she’s stuffed it up anyway so may as well continue, no matter how self destructive.

    For the Christian woman, there is often then the sense of secondary guilt. We *know* we are precious children of God, beloved in his sight, bought with the precious blood of Jesus. Yet we feel cruddy and dirty and hopeless. How do we bridge that gap? Do we fake it till we make it? Do we quash and quell our feeling because they are wrong and not what we are supposed to feel? Or can we somehow, by the work of His Spirit let the truth that we know transform and change us. I’ve often thought that in this self-hatred, I need to take every thought captive tonChrist. Not to beat myself up for thinking it, but to allow the grace that I know to chip away at and change those thoughts. But one of the hard things about that means that we need to name those thoughts for what they are. No more hiding behind a facade of having it all together. But real, genuine speaking the truth in love. Avaunt the struggle so that we can call out the wrong thinking and allow God’s word to shape and change us. It’s a long, slow process. One that I’m not very good at, but think that it is part of the key to being whole.

    And I think that for some women, there is some really tragic things that have happened to them that mean that simply declaring God’s truth and telling them to think differently is so very damaging. For women who have been abused and mistreated for instance, that gap between truth and how they feel can be huge. And being told to reflect on the truth is a bit too simplistic and can lead to a lot of unnecessary secondary guilt. It’s not to say that they don’t need to ear the truth and to grasp all of what Jesus has done- they do! But they also need the gentle acknowledgement of the brokenness of this world and the way that the sin of others can strip us of our sense of self and blind us to the joy of experiencing Christ’s love to the full.

    For me, I think I’m so acutely aware of the mess within that I can’t ever think of what would make life perfect unless I wasn’t me any more! But often I fall into the trap of thinking- well, if it is this bad like this, at least if I am outwardly together, thin, fit and achieving well then it will look like it’s ok to everyone else and that will make the mess inside easier to deal with. Except it doesn’t quite work like that …

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