Beautiful Lie #2: You are Not What You See in the Mirror (can someone help a girl out here?)

We’ve got girls wanting to retouch their thighs … and their eyes … and it’s all based on lies. 

Jen as Barbie for the 35th anniversary of the doll, 1995

If there is one chapter I hope women read from my books, it is Beautiful Lies, The Second Lie:  You Are What You See in the Mirror.

I won’t attempt to write it better than I did the first time:

Nina wraps the measuring tape around my waist, cinching it closed with the clink of her porcelain nails: 28″

She pencils the numbers on her notepad.

Breasts: 36″

Waist: 28″

Hips: 36″

Sliding the silver weight of the scale, click, click, tap: 141.

Height: 6′

“I’d like to see you lose two inches in your waist, one and a half inches in your hips, and get down to 125,” she says matter-of-factly. 

“How is she going to lose fifteen pounds? Where can she take two inches off her hips?” my father asks, as if someone is going to pipe up and agree with him.

Five summers later I am standing on the scale in the gym in Milan, having now signed with eight agencies around the world. Carefully, I tap the silver bar to the left, to the left, to the left, transcending Nina’s number by a longshot.

“There you go, Nina,” I whisper. “Happy now?”

I look over my shoulder to make sure no one sees me and sneak into the steam room. I run my hands over the hollow curve of my empty belly and along the undergirding of my rib cage. I can feel each bone but still pinch the stubborn flesh clinging around my bellybutton.

People keep telling me I should eat, that I look skeletal, that a man couldn’t possibly love me like this. But I don’t care. I don’t want to eat. I’m not hungry. I’m not.

But I am. I am famished for none of this to matter, for the flesh around my middle to be all right. I’m so hungry for someone to look into my eyes and tell me I’m beautiful—not because of what they can see, but because of who I am. I’m so hungry to laugh and eat and play and for no one to care how the clothes hang on me.

I need to get into the mindset of an anorexic girl, even though I was one. I Google “diary of an anorexic,” and their blogs pop up. Like Alice descending a tubular slide, I tunnel into the worlds of girls with eating disorders. I am bombarded by images of hollow tummies framed by ribs and bikini bottoms, undernourished arms, and too-thin thighs. One girl even has the impossible body with a picture of Barbie pasted over the face. The caption reads, “Happy Now?”

The images are their goals. The bodies are their aspirations. Their “likes” tell me so much about them.” What they don’t know is there is not a scale on earth which gauges the weight of who they are.

I remember going to sleep hungry. I remember the darkness, the rebellion, the distance I put between myself and goodness. 

It is eighteen years later and I am writing this book. I am studying anorexia and reading the blogs. I am wanting more than anything to offer answers to the hurting.

At this time there has been a circumstance in my life that has spun so out of control, been so painful, and become so challenging that I have not been eating. I, who have this ministry; I, who teach on women’s beauty and bodies and identity and value. My pain is manifesting itself physically, as it did back then.

This is my weakness: I want the world around me to be perfect and it’s not, and people are not, and somehow I think if I can just be perfect I can heal it. It starts this time by fasting for spiritual reasons; it ends when I step back and see myself teetering on a very dangerous tightrope.

Maybe if I just get skeletal everyone in my world will bend to my demands, I think. Maybe if I stop eating altogether, if I go on a hunger strike, God will once and for all give me what I’m asking for. Maybe someone will pay attention.

Shane is holding me in front of the mirror, analyzing the width of my body next to his. He is brushing his hands over my ribs in concern. He is telling me to see a doctor. He is holding me and he cares.

I am a fighter, and I have more truth in my head than lies. Yet we all crawl through mud sometimes before we stand on a hilltop; we all cross deserts and feel parched midway.

When Shane stands up and fights for me, I am relieved; I am loved.

Mother Teresa once said, “The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.”

We are faced with a generation of girls afflicted by the lie that they are their bodies, they are what they see in the mirror. We cannot ignore the lies and hope they will go away. We must look those girls square in the eye and feed their soul hunger.

 

The “homework assignment” for Ch. 3 of the Beautiful Lies Study Guide is to speak into the heart and life of a younger woman or girl who needs to know her value. Let’s all do that this week!

I thank God every day for the people who did that for me then, and still do that for me now.

Love,

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