Photos: Sadie Robertson, Instagram
Duck Dynasty star Sadie Robertson, now 20, took to Instagram and her blog, Live Original, earlier this week to give us a big old dose of body image TRUTH, and it’s one ALL our daughters (and let’s be honest, us moms too) need to hear. That truth: looking “perfect” is a lie made up of makeup, clothes, and good lighting (like the photo on the left), and “I woke up like this” actually looks like the photo on the right, not like a staged “all natural” makeup photo shoot.
Now you may say, “it’s easy for someone as pretty as Sadie Robertson to say that,”—and you’d be right. But what WASN’T easy is for the outspoken Christian to admit something very painful that she kept hidden for over a year after appearing on Dancing With the Stars—she bought into the lies she heard in Hollywood, and developed an eating disorder in her quest to look “perfect.”
“What I’m about to share with you is a particular topic I have always hidden,” she says on her blog. “I struggled with an eating problem connected to a negative body image for about a year. It was dark. It was ugly. It was insanely difficult. It was done in secret. It was hidden. I did not even tell my own mother until recently. I thought I had everything under control.”
She goes on to say that she would look into the mirror and see only flaws: fat and pimples. She describes how she would wrap her two hands around her thighs “at least 5 times every day” to make sure her fingers could still touch when stretched around her thigh. She was, in a word, obsessed.
Robertson says the pressure of society’s image-obession, made worse by social media, contributed to her wrong thinking about her body image. “I personally think our culture has created a perspective that is so far off from what we were created for,” she says. “We search a screen for someone’s heart, but all we find is comments, memes, sub-tweets, twitter-wars, articles and edited photos.”
“We’ve completely swapped out people for profiles, and my fear is we don’t even realize it or consider how a profile does not always display the things that make a human, human.”
I feel like what Sadie says there is the most IMPORTANT part for our daughters to understand today. They are growing up in a society and with peers who value IMAGE above all else. Selfies, cute poses, good lighting, Instagram, Snapchat FILTERS, anything but the REAL thing. We work so hard to hide what is REAL about our appearance from others…how can we act surprised when we begin to hate all the “imperfections” we’re all made with?
Robertson describes how her obsession with outer beauty made her insides ugly: her eating disorder led to great fear and anxiety as well. Finally, after a year or so of battling, things came to a head, and she cried out to God. “The day I prayed for the Lord to enlighten my eyes to see His standard of beauty, is the day my whole life changed,” she says. “But like I have said many times, in order to experience Gods beauty, you have to exhale your ugly.”
Beautiful mamas, let me tell you this: if a girl as lovely, successful, and God-focused as Sadie Robertson can give in to this wrong thinking about her body, can turn to the control of food to try to control her appearance, then any of us and our daughters can as well. I think Sadie’s coming forward is an EXCELLENT chance for those of us who have girls who admire her to broach this topic of conversation with them concerning body image, eating disorders, and their TRUE worth as women made by a loving Creator.
Finally, let me make a couple of suggestions to help our girls along the way.
1. Hold them off of social media as long as possible
I’m not saying your child needs to abstain from social media until she’s 18, but it’s my opinion that social media should be delayed for all kids until after middle school. Robertson’s above comments about social media should NOT be taken lightly. My own mom tells me I was at my unhappiest with myself when I was in 5th grade, the grade my daughter is in now. I personally remember getting contact lenses at age 13 in 7th grade and thinking it would SURELY make me look the way I WANTED to look…I cannot imagine the pressure I would have put upon my tween self if I constantly had a constant stream of beautifully-filtered and perfectly-posed peers at my fingertips. I shudder at the weight of that comparison, and I don’t want my own child to experience that at an age when self-confidence is naturally fickle and body changes occur approximately ever five seconds.
2. Talk often at home about what makes your child valuable
Recently my daughter did not get a callback for the middle school play, and she was devastated (she did eventually get a small part.) With tears in her eyes, she lamented, “I just wanted to be like you,” referring to my former success as a lead in junior high and high school plays (which did NOT, I might add, take place in 5th grade where she is now!) I took the opportunity to tell her that I didn’t want her to be like me, I wanted her to be the best HER she could be, and that is true. I told her the things I admired about her: how truthfully, she is much KINDER and more LOVING, and more accepting of others than I have EVER been in my life. I told her that her value wasn’t in being like her mom, or in getting a part in the play, but simply in the fact the she was created by a God who loves her SO much that He made her like HIM –in HIS image–and gave His own Son so that she could live free from sin, free from trying to please others, or herself, or her mom, free in knowing that she is fully loved and accepted just the way she is. (If you are not religious, talk about what values your family holds dear. The golden rule, I think, is great for everyone.)
3. Tell them you are their safe place
Sadie Robertson talks about the fact that even long after she had stopped the unhealthy food-related behaviors that she struggled with for over a year, she still didn’t even tell her own mother for quite some time. The Robertsons have made much of their closeness as a family, and I have no doubt it’s true, but still, Sadie was afraid; she says she was ashamed. And we have to show our kids a thousand times how much bigger our love for them is than their shame could ever be, before they will believe it. So, mamas, start now: tell your kids even when they are little, that there is nothing they can’t bring to you, no problem so big or bad that it would ever eclipse your love for them. Tell them no matter what consequence they might be afraid you will give them, that the ones the world has for them are much, much worse. Say it in times of happiness, in times of peace, so that they will remember it in times of conflict. And pray, Mamas, pray that they will take your words to heart.
Something I believe wholeheartedly but I don’t say often enough is this: Spiritual warfare is REAL. Satan wants to win our children’s hearts, and body image is an easy inroad for him to do so every time. Help your kids put on the FULL armor every day mamas, by doing this one thing: Don’t be afraid to talk about the hard stuff before the battle begins. Talk to them about it before the Enemy starts whispering, so they will be able to discern the lies from the truth.