Today’s post comes from Joy McMillan, author of XES: Why Church Girls Tend to Get it Backwards…And How to Get It Right, and Friend of the Newsletter™ Intimacy in Marriage. If you struggle with body image and trying to feel sexy and comfortable in your own skin, you’re going to want to read this.
I stood at the door feeling quite lovely in my summer dress, giddy at the thought of dancing the night away with an older boy.
As his car rolled up, every googly-eyed, toe-popping kiss scene I’d ever watched scrolled dreamily through my mind.
Surely this would be the most perfect night.
But somewhere between the gate and the front door he stopped, glanced up and, without missing a beat, declared, “Seriously?!? You’re wearing…that?”.
He needn’t have said anything, though. His face clearly communicated his disgust.
Illusion shattered, my shoulders sank as a hot flush flooded my cheeks. Apparently I had missed the “formal wear” memo and was ridiculously underdressed for the event. Or else this guy was just a total jerk. The jury is still out.
While this confidence-shattering event may have been just a small smudge on the big picture of my life, the shame I felt in that moment embedded itself deeply in my soul. It further cemented what I had already suspected; that something about me was unacceptable.
On occasion this shame beast comes out to play. And you should know, it doesn’t play well with others.
The unkind and critical things others have said – even in complete ignorance – have a way of bleeding over onto the lens through which we see ourselves. We can hear 10 positive things spoken over us, and yet one single negative comment will seed itself so securely in our memories that it overshadows every positive.
We can go through the motions and flesh out our lives, but when our self-image is broken or buried under the weight of how society says we should look, everything in our world feels the ache.
This is especially true in our bedrooms, when our clothes come off.
Never has our confidence been so under attack. And nowhere is that deficit felt more than in the tender underbelly of our sexuality.
A few years ago, as I slipped into bed after a quick shower, my hubby confronted me. “So, umm…why can’t I see you naked? I’ve got a license, you know. Why not show me a little skin?” His observance caught me off guard.
I pulled the duvet closer in, feeling exposed by his acknowledgment of my routine. You know how it goes…woman slips out of clothes while simultaneously slipping behind the shower curtain. It’s seamless. Shower on, shower off. Hand slips out, grabs towel, curtain opens to woman tightly encased.
From there I’d slip into the closet where I’d get dressed in private. Like a secret agent, I had it down pat.
My husband, on the other hand, would walk around completely uninhibited in his birthday suit for entire minutes before the shower was even turned on, and would linger afterwards, sans fig leaf, while shaving, brushing his teeth, and faffing.
It would seem he actually liked being naked.
And it would seem, I did not.
No, his body isn’t perfect, but he’s comfortable, and that’s sexy. No, my body isn’t perfect, but he finds me ravishing. Shouldn’t that be enough?
He loves me – all of me, including the parts that have grown and stretched. But as long as my critical eye shreds my confidence by lingering on every stretch-mark, or zeroing in on anything that sags, I deny him the gift of myself.
It’s a gift I long to offer, but never feel adequate enough to extend to him.
I buy into the lie that perfection is the only gift worth giving, and so I withhold the beauty that is mine to give. And nobody wins.
When we feel uncomfortable in our bodies, remodeled compliments of our children, or ashamed of the stretchier skin we’re in…we run for cover. We bundle up, we push away, and we hide.
But the good news is that the opposite is also true.
As women we were created to appreciate beautiful things, and when we feel beautiful ourselves, we’re more apt to offer our beauty to others. More specifically, to our husbands.
We have a choice, sweet friend.
We can choose to hold onto shame, and allow it to destroy our confidence – and our sex lives along with it – or we can step into grace and the freedom it gives birth to.
Shame says, “You’ll never be enough. Don’t waste your time trying.”
Grace says, “God gave that – all of that – to you…now enjoy it while you bless him with it.”
Even sexier than our girly figure in the bedroom, is our Godly confidence in the bedroom. The gray matter that sits between our ears is our most powerful sex organ. The way we see ourselves – and then present ourselves – hugely affects our ability to intimately engage at all.
It also gives us the power to choose.
May we choose well, wisely and often.