My Dear Girl:
Where did the time go? I just saw your picture on Instagram and could hardly believe how grown up you look. You are not that precocious five-year-old girl to whom I used to sing the Dora the Explorer song. You are technically an adult now. Wow!
But, as I stared at your picture, I wished one thing more than anything else. I wished I could Photoshop a sweater right over it!
Tonight my heart hurts as I analyze your image, one I know most of your 843 Instagram followers will also see. This photo tells a different story than the words I’ve seen you use of late. You say that sexual freedom has liberated you from the encumbrance of man’s opinions. You can freely play the field, getting physical affection wherever it’s offered because you are confident. You don’t need a steady kind of love.
But, that form-fitting bustier (I’d call it a shirt, but more cleavage is exposed than hidden and I see your nipples) and that segment of stomach peaking out above your jeans . . .They paint a different picture. They scream that you want men to notice and that the juvenile substitute of sex as love hasn’t filled the vacant hole of identity like you thought it would. You long for affirmation, to be wanted, and to know that you are beautiful.
You believe that looking hot leads to all you desire.
Please don’t hear any condemnation in my voice right now. I love you and I understand your choices because, once, not so long ago, I made the same. I wore the hot outfits hoping that the right silhouette would lead me to lasting and unconditional love. If, somehow, my body could please a man, then I would feel an acceptance I had never before experienced. I just knew it.
But it didn’t work.
It was never enough. The men who wanted me for my “hot” body had the attention span of a mosquito. They’d land, suck love’s lifeblood from my heart, and then move on to their next victim.
I thought giving more of me meant gain and showing more of me meant approval.
Instead, it yielded quite the opposite.
After a night of physical passion that to me signaled the certainty of deeper commitment in our relationship, one of these mosquito men had the audacity to say, “Heather, you’re comfortable. We have fun. You know we’d never make it in a real relationship.”
The message I internalized: Do better, try harder. You must not be hot enough to get the committed type of love you crave.
My dear girl, I’m not going to give you clichés like “Modest is Hottest” or that you should dress more conservatively because that’s what men really find appealing. Hot is greatly esteemed in our culture. Average, appropriately clothed figures hardly stand out in our hyper-sexualized part of the world.
Instead I want you to understand the power of your body and the messages it communicates. It’s mosquito men that go for the exposed skin, treating you as an object willing to be used.
Hot and modest sound like two ends of a spectrum. But, they often have similar goals because we are all wired the same. We each have an innate craving for love, the unconditional kind–a love that thinks we’re great but won’t leave when we prove our greatness has limits.
The difference: Hot is in a hurry. Hot wants a man to notice, to admire, to appreciate right now. Hot worries that the majority of her greatness can be seen on her person and feels most secure keeping the attention there.
Modest doesn’t mind the process taking a little longer. Modest knows that her greatest assets aren’t physical. She wants love too, but attracts the kind that doesn’t require her to stay a certain size to keep that love.
In some ways, I hate that I see things so much more clearly at forty than I did at twenty-five. I’m embarrassed to look at the clothes I wore, the mosquito men I fell for, and the desperate ways I tried to use my body to find love.
I wanted love so badly. I didn’t fully understand that there was someone who already loved me. I knew the words, but my heart couldn’t comprehend it. I thought a physical kind of love would be more satisfying—that a flesh and blood man to affirm my beauty would heal my brokenness.
But it didn’t.
My sweet friend, I don’t want to watch you go down the same heart-breaking path. I want you to respect, not objectify, yourself. Dress cute, look nice, wear pretty clothing. But, don’t sell yourself short by working to be hot. It just draws the mosquitos.
There is one, though, who can fill your greatest need for love. He doesn’t require you to starve yourself, dress like a porn star or keep up with our culture’s impossible standard for looking hot. His name is Jesus and he wants you to know how valuable, lovable, and accepted you are.
Read this next: Should a Christian Woman Wear a Bikini?
Ready to dump your body image issues and beat the comparison game once and for all?