Happy Fat Tuesday! Or, as Tyra Banks would call it, “Fiercely Real” Tuesday.
Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of the season of Lent. Starting tomorrow and lasting until Easter Sunday, Christians the world over will remove certain things from their every day lives (read: “fast”) in an effort to bring God back to the center of their focus.
Does it work? I don’t really know. I always fast something for Lent, usually a food item. But it really doesn’t ever make me think more about God as much as it makes me think more about the thing I’m fasting.
“Ughhhhh I can’t wait till Lent is over till I can have caffeine/soda/fried food/ice cream/whatever again.”
Shouldn’t Lent be a bit deeper than that? I mean, if we’re shifting our focus to God and, more specifically, the time Jesus spent alone in the desert being tempted by Satan, shouldn’t Lent really be a time to dig deep within ourselves and remove harmful vises? If we are really equating Lent to Jesus’ temptation in the desert, shouldn’t Lent be more than just saying no to french fries for 40 days?
Last year, Lent really did change my life for the better. I gave up all beverages except water and, after going to the ER with the worst caffeine withdrawal EVER, I swore off caffeine for good, which helped me kick my insomnia as well. So for the past year I’ve been really stressing over what I’d give up for Lent 2011. I recently gave up meat independent of Lent (after reading this goodbutseriouslyjarring book) so, apart from that, I was stumped.
About a week ago, my friend (and fellow self-love warrior) Lauren posted on my Facebook wall to inform me that she was giving up talking bad about herself for Lent. I thought that was incredibly brilliant.
Now, to some of you, that may sound silly. We choose things to fast that are meant to be sacrifices. That way, we can have some iota of an idea about what Jesus went through when He was tempted. And so, you may be thinking that one giving up talking badly about themselves is hardly a sacrifice.
But for self-love warriors and women in this society, it very much is.
People are marketed to based on the simple concept that we are not acceptable as we are. Each and every day we are subject to MILLIONS (not thousands; millions) of messages in advertisements/articles/blog posts/commentary/TV shows/movies/magazine covers/whatever else that convey the idea that we have to change ourselves to be beautiful. And not only must we change to be beautiful, but we must change to be acceptable. To be normal.
So, naturally, after a while, these terrible messages start coming out of our own mouths. At first, it feels weird. At the beginning, it doesn’t feel right to say something like, “I hate my thighs and I wish they were smaller,” or, “I hate the way my hair has a crazy cow lick on the left,” or, “I hate that I was born a brunette. I wish I was naturally blonde.” But after a while, it doesn’t feel weird anymore. It feels natural and normal to bash ourselves.
And then, one day, we realize that we actually believe the things we’re saying.
So we turn to the products who told us these lies in the first place. We run out and buy diet supplements. Face creams. Girdles. Appetite suppressants. We subject ourselves to crash diets. Eating disorders. Self harm. Hair dye. Colored contacts. Flat irons.
Then, everything is backwards.
Someone (your boyfriend, husband, best friend, mentor, favorite blogger) comes along and tells you that you’ve been spouting off lies to yourself for x years and that you should look at yourself in the mirror and say what’s true.
“I love my thighs because they are so strong and take me everywhere,” or, “I love the unique way my hair flips up on the left,” or, “My brown hair is so unmistakably gorgeous and sleek.”
So you say these phrases. But then, you feel just as weird as you did at the beginning when you said you hated yourself. You’re back to square one because now, seemingly all of a sudden, the truth feels weird to say.
The truth feels like a lie.
The fact that Lauren is giving up talking badly about herself is absolutely a sacrifice because society makes it that way. She’s sacrificing believing the lies that society has beaten into her brain since she was young. She’s sacrificing what it means to be a “normal” woman in today’s world. That is, a woman who can’t love herself. It takes a strong woman to do that these days. It really does. I’m so proud of her.
Now, after all that, I’m sure you’re just dying to know what I’m giving up for Lent.
The answer? My hair straightener.
When I was in middle school and saw Clueless for the first time, I realized that my hair wasn’t straight like Cher’s and, therefore, wasn’t beautiful. Ever since then I’ve been using my flat iron daily in an attempt to make my hair some way it was never intended to be, that is, straight and blonde like Cher’s.
For the next 40 days, I’m going to let my hair do what it wants to do naturally in an attempt to learn to love it the way it is.
I’d like to encourage you to try this, too. Maybe you don’t believe in God and so fasting something for Lent isn’t really your bag. That’s okay. But for the next 40 days, what can you remove from your life that will help you learn to love yourself a little better? Maybe it’s a hair straightener. Maybe it’s your make up. Maybe it’s talking badly about yourself, like Lauren. Maybe it’s talking bad about other people. Whatever self-hate vise you’ve got (and let’s be honest, we’ve all got them) can be sacrificed for 40 days in an effort to bring you back to the reality that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
(You know, on a totally religious note, how freaking awesome would it be for God if His children decided to love themselves just the way He made them, even for just 40 days?)