Self-Esteem & Modeling Journeys

Although images and styles change, there has always been pressure to be slim and beautiful — even as far back as the Victorian and Roman periods. And yes, historical writings reveal bulimic and anorexic behaviors as well. But to give an example that more closely affects our current culture, Twiggy popularized the ultra thin look from 1966 to 1976. In the 1970’s, having a flat stomach was a big deal. Showing a muffin top would have been horrifying. However, the current generation is doing something right in response to these pressures. Society is finally saying it is not acceptable to call people inappropriate names and that we should embrace our individuality. I realize we still have a long way to go but at least it’s vocal recognition of a problem.

Learning about and appreciating who God created me to be was a long journaling process. Journaling brought out thoughts and feelings that would never have surfaced through normal conversations. It actually put structure and definition to my thoughts and feelings. When reading through my journals, I noticed that after several pages of self inflicted guilt and accusations; I finally came to the realization on November 29, 1993, that I was driving myself crazy with negative self talk. I had just read the story of the imperfect prodigal son and the father’s unconditional love and forgiveness (Luke 25). It was a moment of recognizing my worth through God’s eyes, not my own. In my journal, I finally cried out to God saying: “help me rest in your care and feel your unconditional love. Everything else I have run to for comfort and meaning has only kept me from you.”

Having a healthy self-image starts with a healthy self-worth. I had been acquiring my standards from the wrong place. My standard should not come from the messages and illusions I get from the media, it should come from what the creator and designer declares about me (Ephesians 1:3-14).

The twins had their own encounter with the world that capitalizes on outward beauty. Since they have tall slender figures and like to sing and act, we decided to respond to offers from professional acting and modeling schools. The girls were accepted into the John Robert Powers School of Modeling, took the classes, and then we paid for hundreds of comp cards. We even drove to Chicago for a final casting call. During that visit, the promoter was using a young brother and sister singing and dancing team as an example of “this could be you.” We couldn’t help but notice how the kids responded like scared puppies when the promoter gave them orders. It made us feel sad for them.

As an example of what the business will do for young girls, here is a normal high school picture of the twins and then a modeling picture from their comp cards:

When I asked Jessica how she felt about her modeling experience, she said: “The world that is driven by greed, vanity and selfishness is a slippery slope. It was hard to resist the temptation to be ‘one of them.’ I learned what some people can be like when they don’t value what’s inside themselves and others. In the end, I am thankful that I was able to step outside that world and see how easy it is to get sucked into the promises of fame and fortune.”

The girls did some local promotions but we soon found out that in order to make much money, they would need to do it full time and move or travel to one of the big cities. Beauty and self-promotion would have become their entire way of life.

I am thankful that the girls had a strong identity in Christ and recognized what was more important in life. Jessica summed it up well by saying: “I thought of modeling as fun and didn’t want it to be a career or big commitment. Modeling helped me learn how to take care of my appearance, use proper etiquette, and build good communication skills.” As a mother, I have to say the acting classes were most helpful in building their self confidence.

Later in life, I came to realize that if I were to criticize who I am and how I look, I’d better first consider He who made me “in His image…male and female He created them.” Then, if I even dare to judge God’s handiwork, I need to remember how He sees me… “God looked over all He had made, and He saw that it was very good” (Genesis 1:27-31). And, to top it off, the Potter created me to be unique among millions of people. It is humbling to think that I was created by the same one who made the majestic eagles, towering redwoods, and the beauty of sunsets and rainbows.

Learning to appreciate myself from the inside-out was a huge step in helping me move forward in my spiritual, emotional, intellectual and even physical health. In next week’s post, I will talk about my next step towards simplification.


Hope for a Young Mother — part 8

That 11 year-old girl who prayed for a Christian home in part 2 was now 27 years old with three-year-old twins and a new baby.

Although my husband’s income was limited, I am glad I was forced to stay home during the girls’ early years. To make ends meet, I was able to earn extra money by typing resumes, selling jewelry at home parties, and later, working nights at Subway. Then, when the girls were a little older, I did day care in our home for almost 10 years.

Even though I had to count every penny, join the WIC program, and buy most things second hand, God always provided what we needed. And, He used my journaling to help me through the stress and confusion.

Since doing day care kept me in the house all day and my evenings were filled with work, I didn’t get to socialize much. That made it pretty lonely. As I recorded in my journal March 1992, “I have been working 3-4 evenings a week at Subway and taking care of Jake, Zach and Megan for daycare. I obviously have too little time to spend on friendships. How, Dear Lord, do I find the balance? If I quit Subway, I would not be too tired to have friends over. However, we need the money. I just have to invest what time I can into relationships and patiently wait for experiences to bond us together.” In my journal the next day I asked “how does God fill that feeling of loneliness?” and my answer was “diving into God’s word allows Him to talk to me and I get to talk to Him in prayer. We are sharing and He is strengthening me with His presence through His word. I can feel the void being filled.”

Coming out of a background of unhealthy relationships, not only was I learning how to develop healthy relationships, I was also trying to figure out healthy parenting. I don’t know what I would have done without the free development classes and studies at the church.

By the summer of 1992, the isolation at home and lack of accomplishment drove me to look for a creative outlet and I started to sell Tupperware. My journal at that time reads: “I have come to know myself now. Even though I’ve played the house wife for the past 7 years, I am not a barefoot, dowdy, quiet woman. I can serve my husband’s and family’s needs while yet being who I truly am.”

God blessed my business. Within one and one-half years, I recruited 20 members into my unit and earned a van. However, before I knew it, the job demanded more and more time away from my family. I had vowed that if Tupperware ever fought for priority in my life over God and family, I would quit. That is why, one year later, when I was told that I had to work even harder and put in more hours to keep my managerial position, I gave the van back and quit (Matthew 6:19-24).

I was still moving forward, however, and I adopted Philippians 3:13-14 as my life verse: “forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling (me).” In order to be the healthy and positive mom, wife, daughter and friend that I wanted to be, I started caring for my health. Then, when the girls were all finally in school, I decided to go back to school to get my Bachelors degree.

Before going any further, however, there was still another piece missing in my life. Not only did I have a half-brother on my father’s side (see additional “comment” on part 1 of my story), but I always knew I had a half-sister on my mother’s side. However, we had never met her. She was taken away from my young unwed mother when her schizophrenia began. In my next post, I will tell how our sister found us.

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