I read a blog post shared on Facebook by a friend last week about feeling “Too Fat” to be in pictures. The author had a near death experience, which brought her to the epiphany that she needed to stop worrying about being too fat to be in photos with her family, and understand that allowing life to be captured as it was happening was a much more important focus than waiting until she felt worthy of being in pictures because her appearance was acceptable to her. It’s a good read and I highly recommend you read it, too.
As I pondered the deeper issues that make up our photophobia because of appearance, I realized that this issue goes much deeper than what it looks like on the surface. And that it affects more than just those who may have a weight problem. I hear people all the time dodging the camera at events, saying they’re too fat, too unkempt, have too much acne, too little makeup. . .and the list goes on. And honestly, I don’t know for sure why so many of us feel this way. . .but I have some ideas.
First, human nature is the opposite of contentment. We learn from a very young age that there’s always something better around the corner. As kids, we’re always looking for the next new toy. . .as adults, the next new gadget. If we have curly hair, we want straight hair. . .if we have brown eyes we want blue. We’re too tall to be a gymnast, too short to play basketball, too plain to be a model, too young to do all the things the grown-ups do, too old to play like a child. . .and the list of “too” goes on.
Second, we’ve become a culture of “too.” We’ve forgotten how to be content in our own skin. There are thousands of products on the market to help us not look too old, or too young. . .I’ve heard so many women tell me that they won’t go anywhere until they put their “face” on that I’ve lost count. And the media doesn’t help in this area. They tap dance on our “toos” to sell a product, grab an audience, create a fad. . .because we are looking for a way to fix our “too-ness.”
Third, for those of us who profess Jesus as savior, this world is not our forever home. There is a longing in our hearts that is a homesickness of sorts. It is filled on some level by fellowship with other believers, worship and prayer, but until we someday reach that place where there is no more pain, suffering, injustice, etc. that longing will remain in many ways. The danger is that many of us don’t recognize that longing for what it is, and decide to try and fill it by searching for complete contentment on this earth. It can lead us down a dark path where the grass is always. . .and never. . .greener on the other side.
As I write this post, I’m really thinking out loud. I’m on a journey of becoming, as are all of us. I’m learning to embrace imperfection. To surrender to brokenness, and to learn as much as I can from my failures and mistakes. Not only as a mother, but as a person. So when I challenge myself to stop trying to focus on my “too-ness,” I’m not excusing myself from seeking to change and grow. But I AM working to understand that it’s okay to not fit “normal” in every way.
My mother-in-law often says, “Normal is a setting on your dryer.” And that’s a philosophy I want to embrace. When Melody comes to me and says her friend says she’s weird because she still likes cartoons, I want to be convincing when I tell her she’s not weird, she’s just different from her friend. When Jubilee is perplexed because she’s too little to put her own toothpaste on in the appropriate amounts, I want to find a way to help her understand the reasons, and to learn. Not to feed the mentality that she needs to be something else to be “normal.”
So I’m challenging myself to stop focusing on the “toos.” This Christmas season, the season of a thousand pictures, I’m going to flash my best crazy morning-haired, sleep-marked, pajama-clad smile for the camera. I’m going to stay in the middle of the playing kid pile while Gramma snaps candids, instead of fleeing to the corner in shame because of my “too-ness.” Not just because my kids deserve to have pictures of me to pore over in their old age. Not just because future generations of my family deserve to see what genetic stock they come from. But because I’m making a decision to stop being too. I am who God made me, for better, and occasionally for worse. And I will change as He molds me. But in the meantime? In the process on the Potter’s wheel? I will choose to just be me. Because He says I’m worth it. And my kids deserve that example of contentment. Because they’re worth it.