I Don't Buy Things At Victoria's Secret

I don't buy anything at Victoria's Secret. Not one little thing. Nothing. Never. I haven't for 12 years.

I'll tell you why and I'll tell you my story: I used to buy various things there. In high school and in college, I actually loved buying things there because I thought that somehow purchasing items from that particular store would make me more sexy, more beautiful, more of what a woman ought to be. I wouldn't have admitted to that, even to myself. But the belief was there in me, inside of me. 

My favorite perfume scent in the whole world is actually from Victoria's Secret: it's called Love Spell. I think it is one of the best smells in the whole world, and most other perfumes spell a little gross to me. But I haven't worn Love Spell in 12 years.

When I was in the final years of college, Jesus started talking to me about what it means to be a woman, and what it means to be beautiful. He even started talking to me about the word 'sexy.' I had thought for most of my life that in order to be beautiful, I had to be like a woman on TV or a woman on an advertisement. I had thought that sexy could only be the world's definition of sexy- inappropriately unveiled, fashionable, tons of makeup, really done-up hair...I never imagined that beautiful, and sexy, and what a woman ought to be was just the way I was, without trying to BE or BECOME anything else. 

As I said, Jesus started teaching His way, and He started changing my thoughts. Little by little, He introduced me to new ways of thinking, like, "I already AM beautiful. Just the way I am. The true equation is 'me plus NOTHING equals beautiful, even sexy (Can I say that publicly on my blog? Yikes!), and just the way a woman ought to me.' It's all because I've been created by Someone. It's not me who chooses about the way I am. I've just been made that way."

As I learned those things, I started realizing how honestly wrong stores and pictures and advertisements like Victoria's Secret are. There's lots of reasons why they're inappropriate and downright wrong, but let me just share a few. Let me start with the precious woman who is the model in the picture in the window. She is precious. She is made by God. She is valuable and worth so much. And yet, through her picture, through her inappropriate unveiling of herself and her beauty, she is treating herself, her body, and her beauty first of all like it needs all kinds of enhancements and that the equation is 'her plus a ridiculous this and this and this' to equal beauty. It's just wrong. And sad. For her as a person, as a human being, as a soul, it's so broken. Second of all, she is treating her beauty like it is cheap and worthless because it's available for the entire world to take and see and use. Her beauty is meant to be honored, to be cherished, and instead it's sold. By a company. For their benefit.

Another reason Victoria's Secret is so wrong in what they're doing and how they're doing it, is because not only is the woman believing a wrong equation about herself, but she is helping to blare that equation out to every woman and girl who passes the store, who sees an advertisement, who knows about that establishment. It's a place that is screaming at the world the lie that women are not beautiful or sexy or 'woman enough' as they are. They need to be this sexualized object simply to be beautiful or sexy. And worse than that, they're doing all of that for money. I am wishing to say that it's the height of exploitation of women, preying on their desire to be beautiful (and behind that desire, to be loved and wanted and chosen and powerful in their beauty), but there are even darker realms in the exploitation of women, so I can't really say it's the height. But it's UP THERE.

And maybe worst of all, Victoria's Secret, and places like Victoria's Secret are screaming messages, without words, to the next generation, to those whose minds and worldview and perceptions are still being established and formed: to our daughters, to our sons. Her image says to our daughters, "Use your sexuality like this to become beautiful...pay us to become what you long to be...you need to be more to be good enough..." Or to our sons, the image calls out, "Come to me, I will give you what you need...satisfy yourself in me, in images like me." It's heartbreaking. And we walk right past the store, not knowing what to say or how to say it, and all the while, her messages are screaming, screaming, screaming messages to our children walking next to us.

So that's why I don't purchase anything from Victoria's Secret. I've made a commitment to myself that I never will for the rest of my life. Sure, I still have the desire to, because I still, to this day, dearly miss the scent of Love Spell, and I've never found a perfume I like as much as that one. And I'm sure their things are pretty. But those 'sacrifices' are a small price for me to pay. It's not worth it, not WORTH IT ONE BIT, for me to use even a penny to endorse the way they've chosen to portray women, and the messages they send out to the world about the way a woman should be and has to be. I will never support that endeavor. 

#restGIRLhope

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Running For More Than My Rear

I have two daughters. They’re both mine biologically. So that means I physically carried them both in my body...and my body carries the tell-tale signs of those two pregnancies. I don’t feel (or look) 16 anymore. 

After my second daughter was born, for a long time, I wasn’t happy with how much weight I had gained in the pregnancy and how much of it still remained on me after she was born...and crawling...and walking...and talking. And I’m going to confess something: I felt shame about that extra weight. 

I’ve been reading a couple of books recently by a woman named Brene Brown, who’s a researcher who became somewhat famous after doing a TED Talk  (a 20 minute talk on ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’) that went viral in 2010 about shame and vulnerability. She defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.” Yep. That’s exactly what I felt about being a different size postpartum: unworthy of acceptance and belonging. I felt embarrassed in social situations, like everyone knew that I was failing at an ‘essential’ part of who I am. I felt not good enough.  

So guess what I did? I decided to do something about it. I jumped into an exercise routine. I started attempting to incorporate a lot more fruits and veggies into my diet. “Great!” you might say. In the past few months, though, I’ve realized that it’s not so great. 

I’m realizing something about the way I exercise that I want to share with you. I honestly don’t tend to exercise to be healthy and care for my body. I exercise to chisel myself into being good enough. I felt shame (remember? ‘not good enough for acceptance’) when I was at my ‘unacceptable’ limit of what I weighed. I thought my extra fat on my hips made me unworthy of love. So I started exercising as a means to prove my worth. As a way to save myself from the pain of not being accepted and loved. 

As a side note, do you know how I can tell what my motivations are about exercising? It’s how I feel, and what thoughts are going through my mind when I’m doing it, and how I view my body afterwards. When I’m running to mold my body back into shape so that I can prove my worth, I feel driven. I feel like I have to run harder, gofurther. Or I might feel prideful if I did a good run. I’ll think thoughts like, “This will really help how my body looks.” Or, as I’m running, “I’m literally running the fat on my rear end off right now.” I don’t feel gentle or kind or caring to myself. I feel more like, “Make it happen. Fix it. Prove it.” 

Wow. Talk about an internal striving for something much more than just taking care of my body. The exercise turns into a means of obtaining the ‘False Savior’ of being skinny and having a toned body. It promises me that I’ll have safety and status if I’m skinny. I won’t have to feel the pain of rejection or or the vulnerability of not belonging because it will save me. I’m using exercise to achieve something for me that it can’t. It can’t rescue me. 

Now that I’ve realized what’s been going on in my heart, I’ve been wondering what repentance would like. How would I practically turn away from ‘skinny’ being my hope for salvation?

My honest answer is that I’m not quite sure yet. I have some ideas. But I’ve grown up in this culture that’s told me my whole life these terrible lies that I have to be skinny to have worth, and that people who lose baby weight in the blink of an eye are better than those who don’t. I know the answer isn’t to eat whatever I want and to boycott lunges and squats for the rest of my life. It’s got to have something to do with my heart. Where deep inside, I reject our culture’s push and let God train me in a new way of thinking. And it’s got to have something to do with taking care of my body in a way that’s mentally and emotionally kind and gentle to myself. I focus on other benefits of exercise and eating right: the ‘therapy’ that running is for my thoughts and emotions, the enjoyment of moving my body and pushing it to work hard, the way my body feels better when I’ve eaten in a balanced way. 

I’ve heard people talk before about ‘eating for the glory of God,’ and I guess that would be the difference: to do even exercising and eating as an outflow of being already loved and accepted and belonging to God, instead of doing them as a means to secure my salvation among my peers. It’s like doing the exact same actions, but with a very different mentality. I definitely don’t have all the answers for what it can look like, but I’m hoping that God will continue to teach me...as I run. 

#restGIRLhope