Back in December, I bought this dress on Amazon.
I loved the vintage silhouette, the color, the ruching, and the price, so I checked my measurements, consulted the manufacturer’s size chart, and dutifully ordered a medium.
Two days later a plastic mailer arrived (hey, hey, Amazon Prime). I ripped it open and held my bounty aloft.
It was gigantic. I could have fit myself and all three children in there, along with a full contingent of well-loved stuffed animals. While I silently rejoiced that perhaps I was skinnier than I thought, we had a cocktail party in five days. I needed a dress. I could order a smaller size and return the first one, hoping for the best, or I could try on the original and see.
I went with option two, fully expecting the fabric to cascade downward in a giant, mumu-shaped wave.
But no. It clung to my shoulders like a burgundy rubber band. I tugged. I shimmied. I pulled the dress all the way to my knees, only to discover it fit.
And because I excel at irrational numbers:
Dress that looks huge + dress that is not actually huge = body that is actually huge
Disgusted, I threw the dress in a corner, pulled on leggings and a tunic, and stomped downstairs to make a salad of my self-loathing.
For the past fifteen years, I’ve been trying to lose five pounds. These are not five pounds that I need to lose, mind you, but rather an obsession with waist size and thigh circumference that keeps a tape measure at the ready.
I’m a melancholic perfectionist, and while I’m not always moping around like Eeyore, I do have a tendency to fixate on my flaws. A little voice reminds me I’m not good enough, and so I end up avoiding mirrors, agonizing over baby weight, and developing complex mathematical formulas for calories in versus calories out.
It’s easy to decipher what the voice is saying to me, but the question is: what is it saying to my husband and my children?
What is it saying to God?
“I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works!” (Psalm 139)
You’ve probably heard of Tami Kiser: author, speaker, and coordinator of the Catholic Conference 4 Moms. She’s also the genius behind Smart Martha, a ministry dedicated to helping mothers organize, prioritize, and generally rock Christian motherhood. As a volunteer contributor here at CatholicMom, I had the honor to preview Tami’s newest video series: Relationships: Catholic Reflections 4 Women. The series consists of twelve presentations by Catholic women in every stage of life, offering advice and encouragement for developing happy, healthy relationships.
The email announcement was in my inbox at 5:45.
By 5:46 I had zeroed in on Kate Wicker’s video: Your Relationship With Your Body: Seeing Your Body as an Instrument of God.
My body as an instrument of God?!?
I’ve fangirled over Kate for years. I’ve known about her book, Weightless, since its release, but the fear of emotional turmoil (and, ironically, change) kept me from seeking it out. As I stood in my kitchen and stared at my computer screen, I had to make a choice:
I could wallow in my own self pity, or I could hand Kate a crowbar to pry open my heart.
I reached for the toolbox and clicked send.
Like many other hardcore perfectionists before me, I threw myself into everything but that which would feed my soul. I put off viewing the presentation for weeks until finally, staring down a deadline and a gallon of vanilla ice cream, I sat down and pressed play.
I’m glad I did. Kate Wicker spoke to a part of me smothered under unrealistic expectations, the one with a love/hate relationship with Psalm 139. I’ve always adored the notion of being fearfully, wonderfully made, but at the same time I’ve despised my inability to embrace it. Kate pretty much called me on the carpet, pointing out that I’m “questioning God’s taste” when I surrender to self-loathing. She placed the emphasis not on the pursuit of perfection within myself, but toward a perfect union with Christ. As Kate reminds us so eloquently, it is our love which is called to be perfect, and that includes our love for ourselves.
What I loved the most about Kate’s presentation was her warmth and authenticity. By sharing her personal journey with negative self worth, Kate bridged the gap between speaker and viewer. I felt as though I wasn’t attending a presentation so much as I was listening to a friend. In other situations, my pride would have bristled at her instructions for abandoning extremes. But this time, Kate’s natural, loving attitude made “living a reasonable life” much easier to embrace.
The Catholic Reflections 4 Women series was developed for viewing in a group setting. Kate’s video fits perfectly within this plan, as she recommends finding a good friend for help in uniting one’s body image to the beauty of God’s creation. The last minutes of Kate’s presentation provide five tips for learning to see one’s body as God’s instrument: they are the perfect setting for discussion questions, sharing, and communal prayer.
Three months later, the infamous red dress hangs limply in my closet. The voice still whispers words of discouragement in my ear, and I still cringe sometimes when I look in the mirror. But after letting Kate’s words crack the vault around my heart, I’m slowly learning to love myself again. It will be a long journey, that’s for sure. But it will be worth it. And I’m grateful I won’t have to do it alone.
Copyright 2017 Ginny Kochis