(Welderbeth here: A friend has written an anonymous guest post for today. I think the post is great. She is great. This is all great.)
I was around third or fourth grade when my friend Cindy’s grandmother looked at me and said, “It’s about time you covered those with a bra!” If I had any awareness of my chest or changing body before then, I don’t remember. But from that point on, I began a hate/hate relationship with my chest.
I was always very athletic and I remember watching videos my dad made of me on our trusty twenty-pound camcorder playing basketball or running track. My dad would be cheering me on, complimenting my form or whatnot. I don’t remember hearing much of what he said because I was silently staring in horror at my chest bouncing up and down, thinking to myself over and over of how many people were at the sporting event and how sorry they must have felt for my horribly awkward developing body.
By junior high, the popular girls had enough boob to not get teased for being “flat”, but not so much that they drew any real attention. At this point, I was settling into what would be my wardrobe for several decades: baggy shirts, layered tops, speedo type swimsuits with coverups, and minimizer bras. I was a solid D cup in 7th or 8th grade and did everything I could to make sure no one else knew.
At church, we got lots of purity talks. There was plenty of focus on the responsibility girls had to not be a “stumbling block” for boys. We needed to dress modestly and appropriately so that boys would not lust over us. I think these convos were meant for girls who were wanting to draw boys’ attentions by letting it all hangout but I was not one of those girls. I just didn’t want to feel my face blush from shame when I would inevitably catch people looking at my chest. I began to feel like it was my responsibility to make sure my chest didn’t make other people feel uncomfortable.
That general feeling has followed me throughout all my adult years. At one point or another, I have caught most of the men I know looking at my chest. Cashiers, strangers, friends. If I just look away and don’t acknowledge it, I feel a rush of shame. If I do make eye contact with them, I see the blush in their face and I feel guilty. I mean, what do you expect? People are humans and my chest is very large. It’s just how it is. Or at least this is what I have told myself for years on end: try to hide them and then for heaven’s sake don’t make people feel awkward for looking them over. I should also mention by this point my posture had become horrible because slouching is the best way to keep the boobs from sticking out so much. The thought of sitting up straight with my shoulders back is always a hard pass.
Several months ago, I came to a conclusion: I have to change the way I feel about my chest. Even if it’s going to take a while to undo decades of dysfunctional thinking, there has to be a better way to love what God has given me.
It started last summer when I bought a flowy green tank top with pink flowers. I loved it. It was comfortable. I loved the color. It was very flattering. But it was lower cut and hung more fitting over my chest. I decided to keep it and wore it out. We went to get ice cream that night and I was deep in conversation, having a great time with my kids when I looked up and saw a dad at the next table smile and look down at my chest. And at that moment, a thought crossed my mind: I don’t want to throw this tank in the back of my closet. I want to wear it and it is going to be someone else’s problem now. If you are going to stare at my chest, the awkwardness will be on you and not me. So I stared that dad down until he made eye contact with me and then he turned red and looked away. And something inside me rushed with pride. Not a mean, vengeful pride. But an “I don’t feel shame about my body in this moment” type of pride.
As I’m still working through what this means for me, I ask myself “What will I teach my daughters about their bodies and modesty?” I feel the weight of that very heavily. I want them to be at home in their own skin, confident of the way God made them. I don’t want them to feel either validated or shamed when someone looks at them. I know in the world of social media and filters and plastic surgery, the pressures will be great. I will try to impress these words on them from Romans: “Does the clay say to the potter ‘why did you make me like this?’ “, or from Isaiah: “But now, oh Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” I take great hope that God formed my body carefully like an artist does with a lump of clay. I didn’t just fall off the wheel onto the floor and sent out into the world with some inferior, shame deserving shape.
Are there girls who dress to earn shallow, sexual attention from boys? Of course. I don’t think they should be shamed either. They are desperate and longing for a sense of connection and acceptance that they haven’t gotten elsewhere.
And for the girls who have been convinced that their bodies were something to hide or be embarrassed by, God wants to showcase His work in you. He would put you naked on a shelf in the front window. Not for lust purposes, but for pride. You are made in His image. The sexualization other people cast on you is their own journey to deal with and not yours. Let the tables turn for you. I don’t think this means you go to your kid’s soccer game in a bikini. But wherein you are ashamed of how God made you be free. Strut yourself around in the swimsuit that makes you comfortable. Don’t plan outfits or sitting positions or where you will go that day around how you will most make other people feel about your body.
You are enough.
The artist of Creation says so.
Let’s make this our anthem and the battle cry of this next generation.