Part 2. (read part 1 here.)
What I have to say about insecurity.
I have been pondering female insecurities ever since I read Karin’s article highlighting her own raw feelings and roots about her body image insecurities, and how it relates to mass media messages and socially constructed ‘norms’ for women. As I read the 1990’s references that influenced her image of a beautiful woman, I found myself having a moment of enlightenment. I, too, was shaped by those same messages. I, too, remember Now and Then and realizing that I looked just like the pudgy girl. I, too, remember…all of it. And how I began to feel less than beautiful.
Now, it’s time for a confession. After work I manipulated my husband into watching an episode of The Bachelor with me. I still am not sure how this even came to pass. But, I had been intrigued because more than one of my friends had shared on Facebook an article titled “22 Things Every Person in America Wants to Say to Olivia.” It got me. I needed to know if I would ALSO want to say those 22 things to her, even though I had no idea who Olivia was. So, I watched, and sucked my husband into the episode, like Eve pulling Adam in with the toxic fruit. And toxic fruit it was. I didn’t want to stop watching. Like a train wreck multiplied by every new girl that Ben kissed—I couldn’t look away. And yes, I think I do want to say all those things to Olivia too…and maybe a few others. (But I think I am secretly convinced that she is being paid and/or the editors are totally manipulating who she really is. At least we can hope for that…).
There was a common narrative that ran through the words of (almost) every single woman on The Bachelor. Not just Olivia.
“I am so insecure. I have been hurt before. And I am scared for that to happen again.”
“Why in the world would you like ME when you could like any of these other girls who are so perfect and wonderful?”
“I NEED to know that he feels something towards me, because I just can’t handle it. I need just a little affirmation from him that I am special.”
“He is literally the PERFECT man.”
***Before you start watching episode 4 to find these exact quotes, know that these are not direct quotes, just summaries of what I heard.
These seemingly perfect women, who are all put-together, gorgeous, and original-Barbie-doll thin are revealing their brokenness. And, maybe that’s why we like it. We like to know that the image of perfection isn’t real; that they feel the exact same things I have felt in the past, and still do feel sometimes. It’s good to know that even though my body isn’t perfect, that they know the pain that I have felt. (Even if Olivia’s only physical flaw is the size of her toes???)
These narratives perpetuate a ‘norm’ that is incredibly scary to me. It gives a message that says it’s normal to depend on a man to complete me. It’s normal to think that I am ‘less than’ someone else that he could have chosen. It’s normal to desire his affirmation in order to see our own value. It’s normal to think that the perfect man exists out there somewhere. It’s normal to feel unworthy of someone else’s love.
This is opposite of the message that I hope every single teenage lady I work with hears. But how will they hear another message when this is dominating every TV show and movie accessible to them?
Listen up, Mijas, do not follow in the ways of Olivia and Ben (who you probably don’t know because ya’ll watch the Latina version of the show anyway, but you get the concept). Here is the truth. You are wonderful, beautiful, astonishing, and incredible. Because God created YOU. And he created you in HIS image, which means you are even more incredible than we can put into words. You aren’t perfect, but God offers you a story of perfection. And, guess what? No man is perfect either. Period.
You. Are. Worthy. Of. Love. Because. You. Are. AWESOME.
And, you are already loved.
Heartbreaks will come. But you can try to protect yourself from those too. Probably not completely, but partially. Every single girl on the Bachelor is terrified that Ben will break her heart, because they each have had it broken before. People say every heartbreak makes you stronger. I disagree. You can learn something from heartbreak, yes…because we have a God who makes things whole. But without God’s message of healing, the only thing you learn from heartbreak is to not trust someone else. That is what the women said on the Bachelor–they don’t trust because they have been hurt.
Not trusting people does not equate to strength–it equates to hardness, it equates to bitterness, it equates to believing that people won’t love us for who we are.
The lack of trust and the insecurities that accompany heartbreaks carry more pain into the future. A couple of my biggest heartbreaks didn’t even come from boyfriends, just crushes. I was crazy about them, but they didn’t give me the time of day. They had no idea that my 3rd grade, 8th grade, and Sophomore heart was breaking. The message I carried with me from those unrequited crushes was one that said, ‘no man will every really be attracted to you and like you.’ So, now, it’s crazy hard to believe that my husband does like me. That he is attracted to me. That he does want to choose to love me forever and ever (I say choose, Mijas, because love is far more than something you feel and I hope you experience that kind of love).
Insecurities that come from messages that we internalize from our own relational experiences are normalized by the media. Yep, we all get it. We all can relate to those women. But, let’s stop intentionally putting ourselves in situations where heartbreak and long-term insecurities are inevitable. Don’t focus all your waking energy on whether your crush likes you back, or whether he is going to snap chat you. Don’t jump into a relationship quickly, ever (no pointing fingers at me here, I can explain!). Take your heart, and its future seriously–your current relationship will definitely affect all of your future relationships. If someone disagrees, have them watch the Bachelor, or study NEAR science to learn more about how the body and brain respond to less-than-loving relationships.
But, all that being said, we need to hear some other messages that are not the ones being normalized by the media (think neither drama nor fairy tales here). We need make sure other stories are being told, so that we can hear them!
Let’s start celebrating and listening to a different love story.
A love story that doesn’t have to question whether my boyfriend/husband is making out with other people (cough, cough, Bachelor Ben…you really are only re-traumatizing all of these women who are carrying the baggage of insecurity). A love story that doesn’t have to be the source of affirmation and self-worth. A love story that can spare a woman as much heartbreak as possible, instead of intentionally setting her up for it. A love story that says you don’t have to be told by dozens of guys that you are ‘less than’ or ‘not enough’ before finding Mr. Right. A love story that shows true healing if that has been the story of the past. A love story that tells of the love that is deeper, richer, and more beautiful than the rest because it is rooted in commitment, forgiveness, messiness, trust, goodness, and sacrifice. Those are stories that I need to hear, and I want my girls to hear. Those are the stories that give us hope in this thing called love and won’t leave us anxiously waiting to see if we get a rose at the end of the night.
Melissa Wisner is free-spirited, adventure-lover who works with youth in the Vista Hermosa Community in southeast Washington. She loves hanging out with her husband, taking photographs, and finding things that are beautiful. She lives on an apple orchard, which is almost as dreamy as it sounds.
***And yes, Olivia was booted off the island, I mean, she was left on the island last night. (all the feels)