Friday, December 12, 2014

What is Beauty?

My brother Derek and me. You're beautiful too Derek.

Like most women, I've gone through phases in my physical appearance.

There was the "I want to be a punk" phase.

Then there was the "I wish I shopped at the mall all the time" phase.

And the "I wear stuff nobody else wears and I think I'm cool" phase.

And then I've gone through the "I'm a mom so I need to be comfortable" phase.

And now as I've gotten older, I've started to think a little bit more about what clothing means. There are lots of women I admire who are very stylish. There are lots of women I admire who aren't trendy. Who am I, and what does my clothing say about me?

We Americans have an interesting relationship with clothes and our bodies. Our society teaches us to go to one extreme, look a certain way and dress a certain way. Often, those who don't want to buy into this idea go to the other extreme. Clothes don't matter, we don't want to be materialistic, or take part in some "what did they wear" game.

But what if you allowed your clothes and grooming to be a reflection of the spirit that is inside of you? What if clothing was not about what other people think, but about your understanding of yourself?

Over the past few months I've been thinking a lot about clothes. How can you represent the spirit that you are by the way you dress?

The colors of your clothing. Most women I think probably already know what colors they look good in. I think in a lot of cases it follows a certain color scheme. It could be muted shades, or perhaps bright hues. A green to bring out your eyes, or captivating pink to compliment your skin. Stark prints or a bold statement. It's the shirts you are drawn to because you look "pretty" in them. I think the colors we are drawn to are an indication of our spirit. Are you a bright, cheerful person? Or someone filled with peace and calm? Although we all have different facets of our personality, there is probably something that is dominant about you that rings true to you which you should focus on. Your wardrobe should be consistent, and send a consistent message about who you are and how you feel about yourself.

The fit, feel, and shape of your clothing.  Bodies come in many shapes and sizes. I had an epiphany lately about the beauty of different body sizes. I've never had serious body issues (and by that I mean self hate, or problems identifying my worth), but like most women, I've struggled to find my place in society with the shape and size and body I have been given.

In my adult life, I've ranged from a size 10 to 14 through pregnancies and babies. I was a size 8 when I was 12 or 13. This is the body I've been given, this is the way God has shaped and created my body. Could I be smaller than the range I'm in right now? Probably. Do I need to be smaller than I am right now, would that be "more true" to who I am? No. I am not advocating upholding sugar or food addictions or ignoring exercise (both cautioned against in the Word of Wisdom), and both of which are things I currently struggle with. But even if I was completely healthy, there is nothing un-God-like in a little pudge or some cellulite. Satan is the one who has convinced us that these should be banned from our bodies.

I've been given a body in a certain size, and also a certain body shape. I have a pear-shaped body. That means certain articles of clothing really flatter my type, and allow the beauty of my spirit to show through. I have found this through research on my body type, and also trial and error. It's when we work with the body we have been given that who we are is apparent.

The shape of your clothing is important to revealing who you are. Does it drape or flow softly? Is it really structured with bold lines? Is it playful and happy? The shape of your clothing also needs to be consistent to represent that spirit that is tucked inside of this body you have.

The fit of your clothing needs to complement your shape properly, but also not be too clingy or too loose. If I am buying something I know will shrink (make that most things in our current clothing market), I will buy it a size up. If you are cost conscious, you also have to take into account how many times you will wash it, and how many years the material will hold its shape. I also try to take into account pregnancy, and keep from buying anything that won't allow room for a growing baby or postpartum body.

The feel of your clothing reflects who you are. The more I have explored this topic the more I find I am drawn to certain fabrics. Certain fabrics complement certain body types. Certain fabrics represent different personality types as well. As you explore and try on different pieces of clothing, it will start to become clear to you what is fabric consistent with who you are.

Lastly, modesty allows you to fully represent who you are. I want to be modest to respect my body. Showing too much of my body is like saying I don't care about this amazing gift I've been given. It says that womanhood is about showing off, and not about safeguarding our God-given gifts. I don't want my body to be the subject of unkind thoughts or untrue words about myself as a woman, and one way I can protect myself from such indecency is by keeping my body sacred and covered. The form of a woman is God-given and beautiful in every way, but my own unique beauty does not need to be shared or gawked at by the whole world. It's a gift and I want to treat it with respect.

Second, I want to be modest as part of my marriage covenant. In our church we covenant to share our body with one person and one person only, for the rest of eternity. Sexy is such a strange term to me. Why would you want anyone to see you look "sexy" besides your spouse? It is a special part of our marriage that I have no intention of sharing with anyone else. Part of what makes it special is that it is not shared, and that it is reserved for one person. I don't want anyone else to look at my shoulder, or my thigh, or any other part of my body the way that my spouse does. I cover these parts of my body not just because I respect this gift of a body that I have been given, but also because I hold in high esteem the person I share it with.

I think it's so important how we talk about and think about our bodies. So often when we are trying to convince somebody they need to "look nice" we make it about other people. Or we make it about pleasing our spouse. Or feeling good about yourself. If we focus on these reasons, we can still get lost in the hype and materialism. It could quickly become a game of who's "on trend" or "ahead of the trend," who's unique and who's not. It's a comparison game.

I've learned before that God does not compare. We'd do best to do the same, and be beautiful for the sake of our spirit, for the purpose of showing who we really are, and deeply understanding our identity.

It's been an interesting process that I have not expected. Some of you might recognize some Dressing Your Truth concepts, which stirred some of my thinking about this but I have felt were incomplete, and I have been building off of. I've been working on the modesty concepts for some time, and trying to change my wardrobe (which is definitely a process I tell you!). But I had an experience the other day when I was trying on clothes. I felt the spirit. I never thought God would be in a shopping mall. But as I pulled the sweater over my head and looked in the mirror, I thought, this is consistent with who I am. This represents my true self. God does care what we put on our bodies, and not just because he wants us to feel good about ourselves or to keep ourselves covered, but because he knows us, and he wants us to know ourselves.

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