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February 24, 2009

Renewing the View of You

Three months ago, I learned a new word. I think. Honestly, the meaning is still vague, but when a conference speaker sketched a simple box with four quadrants that she called a rubric, it struck a nerve. It's an assessment that shows how well we meet our standards. If your dot is plotted in the upper right box (the higher the better) your assessment matches the standard; your confidence soars, and you're queen for the day. The opposite is true if you land in the lower left quadrant (the lower the worse), leaving a sinking feeling of failure that permeates pretty much every aspect of your life.

As she spoke, my mind drifted. A mental checklist - not as a leader, but as a woman - overtook my thoughts. The musing went something like this:

The day starts at 6 a.m. with a calorie-disintegrating spin class, a liter of water, and a protein shake. Lunch is a salad and another eight ounces. By seven, my favorite pair of jeans and fitted black turtleneck slip on flawlessly, a good hair day gets better and with a dab of lip gloss, I can't wait to cozy up in a dark booth and enjoy the intimacy of a night with the girls. For a reason I can't define, but also can't deny, these evenings are made sweeter when I like how I look. This is a magic, upper-right-hand-quadrant kind of night. The standards are high, but my assessment's a near match.

And then the rubric makes a violent shift.

When I arrive, I see a woman I don't recognize - a friend of a friend whose striking appearance dampens my mood. It isn't until charm and intellect exceed her beauty that I actually start to hate her. Only it's not her I hate, it's me. My mirror morphs into carnival glass, and in an instant, I'm freefalling to the lower left side of the rubric, hanging on by the skin under my nails. I have to resist the urge to let go.

Driving home, the real self-loathing begins. Not because I didn't measure up (although, I fleetingly imagine plastic surgery to be a justifiable option), but because I know better. I know that comparison is a black hole of inadequacy, that there is not a more beautiful identity than fearfully and wonderfully made, that being bought at a price is the greatest expression of worth the world has ever known. I know that Jesus sacrificed so that the standard for which I intrinsically strive would be erased as a gift of grace, and his ultimate assessment of me will be couched in merciful, unconditional love.

And yet it never ceases to amaze me how we - smart, capable women - screw this up.
So this is the part where I present the seven steps that make you fall unconditionally in love with your flaw-filled image, right? I hate to disappoint, but my conclusion is fairly anti-climatic, one that reminds me of a newscast that boasts a revolutionary breakthrough in weight loss: eat less and exercise more. Hmm, well, we kind of already knew that.

In The Rabbi's Heartbeat, Brennan Manning says, "Define yourself as one radically loved by God. God's love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life."

I'm pretty sure we already knew that too.

In a world full of impossible standards, renewing our mind proves difficult when the refresh button is only a click away. But when we choose to be transformed by the Truth, those lower left days won't send us tumbling into darkness. Maybe, instead, they go something like this:

At 6 a.m. I turn off the alarm and let the calories accumulate on my warm, flannel sheets. Breakfast is coffee, and lunch the nearest drive-thru. Gray shows through hair that hasn't been colored in six months and my jeans are tight. I sit in a booth with friends, unconscious of anything but the community of his beloved, and when the new girl makes a joke, I laugh - and I mean it. I cheer silently because my rubric was left behind for the night. Then I pray I won't find it for a few more days, a few more weeks, until one day, the transformation is complete and I forget I ever learned what a rubric was in the first place.


What an interesting story, and so well written! I loved your metaphor of your mirror as carnival glass. Thanks for sharing!

Love that you don't try to solve this for me, I know what I need to do but just don't seem so able to do it! So here's to sitting in that booth one day and forgetting about the rubric. Thanks for the insight into my own heart.

Thank you for your honesty and ridiculousness of how we grade ourselves based on if our jeans fit that day. I like the idea of leaving the calories on my flannel sheets.

Thank you for reminding me of a greater beauty that comes from leaving the box behind. Especially when there seems to be a distorted comfort in dragging that box around with me everyday.

Great article! Thanks for not trying to sugarcoat anything. Sometimes I roll my eyes at the bulleted checklists of how to make everything better in so many simple steps. Let's face it: some days are better than others! Thanks for your honesty and candor.

I loved your article as it gave me what we as women sometimes need most - knowing that others are experiencing the same thing we are - the lows and the highs. We are not alone, and we are, every one of us, supremely loved.

Your article brings to light what sometimes I feel like as being a stay at home mom. Some days you feel great,look great, children are great,and all with having a clean house. Then there are those days you wake up and feel like you were better off staying in bed.

Thank you, for the humorous reminder that I am precious to God... Just the way I am.

Suanne, The focus of my work is in developing leaders for the future. In such a role, I often work with younger leaders. Your article made me think of the times their skin reminded me of the complexion I once had in my twenties. Their flowing hair reminded me of when I used to wear my hair long. I must admit there were times their youth and perfect body shape made me long for my yesterdays. But then I remind myself that life is filled with seasons. So I'll work on getting fit but meanwhile, I'm ok with having an image that fits a different season. God helps me to manage my expectations. He focuses me on the weight I've put on in other areas that constitutes a good thing, such as a greater weight in experience and wisdom. Thank God there are joys in every season!

Your comments bring a smile to my face at the same time they move my heart. You are women who KNOW, which reminds me that God never stops pursuing our hearts.

Joanne, I am with you! Some days I do, indeed, wonder why I bother. Yesterday, in fact, was one of those days. But alas, today is not, which is why we keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Anita, thank you for your wisdom. I have no doubt you are a blessing on those you lead, as the rest of you beautiful women! Thanks for taking the time to interact with my article!

Suanne, Thanks for your insight. I am interested in the rubic assessment for
future women's retreat.

So glad I'm not the only one who feels this way!

My husband told me a joke the other day-
A woman walks into a boutique to buy some clothes for her daughter. She says to the clerk, "My daughter has always been around 90-100 lbs and finds it difficult to get nice clothes. What can you offer her?"
The clerk replies, "Nothing, but jealousy and comtempt!"

Precious Father, thank-you that You love us anyway!

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