Friday, May 30, 2014

Focus on Inadequacy

I needed a head shot. What I got was the photographer's take on a woman's sense of inadequacy.

A head shot is a close-up photo of a person's head used for publicity fliers and business cards. I was attending a Christian writers conference, and Mary Denman was the photographer. Mary's studio had a blue backdrop, lamps, and one of those black umbrellas that directs the light just right. She told me to sit on the four-legged metal stool set up in front of the backdrop. I obeyed and waited for her to tell me how to tilt my head so she got my good side.

But before I could say a word about which side that was, she stepped up to me, took my hands in hers and looked me in the eye.

"Wendy," she said, "every woman who has walked in here today has apologized for her looks. Every single one has criticized herself and focused on what she considers inadequacy. So we're going to pray together, okay?"

I hadn't expected this introduction, but I nodded and bowed my head.

"Lord Jesus," she prayed, "let Wendy see the beauty you have created in her. You have made us all beautiful, inside and out. Help us to remember that you are the Great Artist, and You create only beauty when you shape our faces and souls. Amen."

Mary proceeded to adjust the lamps and went to work with her digital camera. A few days later she emailed me ten photographs suitable for my business cards. I had encountered a servant of God who took quality photographs and delivered them along with truth and affirmation.

I got her good side.


Ever complained to a photographer about your looks? Why? Leave your comments below or on Facebook. Let me learn from YOU. Find Mary Denman at Sign up at left to receive emails when I have new blog posts up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Pick a Fight

The  Islamist terrorist group, Boko Haram, has kidnapped
hundreds of Nigerian girls.     

What does that have to do with this blog?

 My goal is to remind women that their value is based on being God's creation, made in God's image. The kidnappers' low view of women provides a stark contrast. Refusing to educate girls is just one manifestation of their twisted belief system.

But even in countries that have made progress on women's rights, we still hear whispers of similar messages.

"Your value is tangled up in how you look. A man's desire for you is directly proportional to your worth."

Consider the local strip joint. Behind the flashing lights, pulsing music and cigarette smoke, a woman is treated like an object, and her body is bought and sold. And it's not just on the seedy side of town. It's on the grocery store magazine rack, on the Internet in your home, and, dare I say it, in our beauty pageants. Our daughters may be safer here than in Nigeria, but they are not safe.  See the difference?

What to do? There are many ways to deal with the culture. Since I opened the can of worms, maybe you should talk to your friends (or daughters) about pageants. What do they promote and what messages do they send?

Of course, kidnapping is a much more serious problem than beauty pageants. But is there a connection between the attitudes that give rise to both? I know. To pageant lovers, them's fightin' words, and maybe that's not your battle. But it's time to pick some fights. Where's yours?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Maternal Messaging

Who's to blame  for a woman's struggles with body image?

Cosmopolitan Magazine?
The Internet?

No, the most dangerous enemy is much closer to home. When you were young, she probably lived in your house, cooked your meals, and taught you how to shave your legs.

Mothers are the No.1 cause of body issues for girls.

Did your mom affirm your inner and outer beauty, or did she criticize your shape?
Did she focus on your achievements, or zero in on your appearance?
Did she praise your looks, but criticize her own? "Sweetie, you look beautiful. It's a good thing you're not fat, like me."

The way your mother addressed this issue may directly influence the way you're handling it now.

Are you still carrying around baggage Mom packed and placed on your back? Or was it a mixed bag -- some positive messages and some negative? First, separate the truths she told you from the lies. Believe the truths.

If you have a daughter:
  • Focus on her accomplishments, not on her appearance.
  • Encourage healthy eating and exercise, not diets. Don't focus on your own weight or shape.
  • Discuss messages she hears from the media.
And, if necessary, forgive your daughter's grandmother for things she said and did to you. That may be a process and not a simple act. Some wounds are deep, and we need God's help to forgive. Don't forget to thank your mother for what she did right.

On Mother's Day, send her some flowers or take her out for Sunday lunch.

And thank her for teaching you how to shave your legs.