Mounting Pressure for “Mommy Makeovers”

The Mounting Pressure for "MOMMY MAKEOVERS" // "Look, let’s talk straight. I don’t know what kind of influences you’ve had in your life. I don’t know who’s told you what about the way that you look, but we all have our hang-ups in this area. We all have body image issues. Some more than others. But listen to me, and listen to me good…"

My blood began boiling over this issue a few years ago, when the (supposedly) “safe for the whole family” Christian radio station in my area began advertising “Mommy Makeovers” throughout the day, every day. The ad went something like this:

“Sick of your post-baby flabby midsection? Ready to treat yourself and your body to some ‘me-time’ now that the kids are back in school? Undo the effects of pregnancy. Call Dr. So-and-so and set up your Mommy Makeover today!”

Torn up by the thought of thousands of women feeling stress and self-loathing over the way their bodies naturally change after having a baby, I wrote a letter, begging them– as a “Christian” radio station– not to put this kind of pressure on women. I implored them to place greater emphasis on the beauty of God’s wholistic design of us as women than on the world’s aims for airbrushed external perfection. I sent it straight to the ad department through a friend who works for the radio, who had the same concerns I did, and (of course) never heard back the ad department.

This week, I saw this ad in our local county magazine: 2014-01-30 14.42.53

Let’s take this ad point by point, shall we?

  • First, the image. Let’s not glaze over it. Thin, blonde, smokey-eyed, perfect hair, fully made-up, with fake lip color, and as far as we can tell, naked. A naked, faked woman. (And– this is the nerd in me coming out– only in English would those two words not rhyme.)
  • The first message: “Earlobe repair.” Not sure why it’s starred… I’ve never ever heard of this. Maybe it’s an inexpensive way to get women in the door, so they can be introduced to (and feel more comfortable about getting) the more expensive elective surgeries?
  • “LOVE YOURSELF”. Stop right there. Who among us would say that the way to love our daughter is to tell her she needs to change her physical appearance? Would any of us look at our precious tender young daughters and say, “your body needs to be altered in order to meet a one-size-fits-all standard?” I hope we wouldn’t. The way we use that word “love” matters. Loving ourselves can not mean something different than loving our daughter would mean. It is not loving to hold a woman up to an impossibly perfect standard– not our daughters, and not ourselves.

Look, let’s talk straight. I don’t know what kind of influences you’ve had in your life. I don’t know who’s told you what about the way that you look, but we all have our hang-ups in this area. We all have body image issues. Some more than others. But listen to me, and listen to me good:

Your body does not need to be ALTERED in order to be APPROVED. 

Your God-given uniqueness is not comparable to a photoshopped magazine image.

You are BEAUTIFUL, right there in that normal, everyday HUMAN package.

OK, let’s keep going.

  • Look at the promises the ad is making:Look and feel more confident and youthful.

Child of God, you precious creation, the apple of His eye, uniquely formed in God’s image, YOU ARE LOVELY.

ID-10030737Your confidence does not derive from whether or not you have makeup plastered on, or if your breasts are a certain size, or droopy, or big enough, or not so big. Your confidence should not come from whether or not you have some extra fluff in your mid-section after having a baby.

Your confidence should not be based on whether or not you have the natural tiredness in your eyes that comes from having young children, hips that have opened up to allow children to be born through them, or wrinkles beside your eyes that give a lovely hint of all the smiles you’ve smiled in your lifetime.

Your confidence is the unshakeable, unchanging nature of God Who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

  • Is not your fear of God your confidence? (Job 4:6)
  • The Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught. (Proverbs 3:26)
  • We worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh. (Philippians 3:3)

You know what I saw, as we lived around the world in multiple cities and continents? EVERY CULTURE, even the skinniest ones, inherently knows that women’s bodies change after having a baby. A mom should not feel an ounce of shame about looking like a mom.

And, more importantly, do you know what the Bible says about your body?

  • “In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27) —> YOU ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD!
  • Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.” (Matthew 6:25) —> GOD CARES FOR YOU, YOU DON’T NEED TO BE ANXIOUS ABOUT YOUR BODY.
  • “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.” (Romans 6:12) —> OUR HEARTS SHOULD BE FOCUSED ON INTERNAL HOLINESS MORE THAN EXTERNALS.
  • “All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but I will not be dominated by anything. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.” (1 Corinthians 6:12-13) —> NOTHING SHOULD CONTROL OR DOMINATE YOU. Too many women– yes, Christian women, too– are being controlled and dominated by the idol of the perfect body. This was the case in the days of Paul, with the Roman empire as well– you can see it in their marble sculptures and the central location of the gym and colosseums. The pursuit of a perfect body is no new religion, but it is a religion that is different from one that finds contentment and joy in the Lord. Your body is not meant for sexual immorality, or for self-glory, but for the Lord.
  • “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So, glorify God with your body.” Christian woman, let me PLEAD with you. If you have been lured by worldly philosophies that make you think you need to alter your body in order to be acceptable, please realign your thinking.

Let God’s Word be your guide, rather than the wishy-washy, ever-changing rules of man about external beauty. Your body is a place of worship and honor for the Holy Spirit inside of you. It is given to you as a method by which you can GLORIFY GOD!

OK, back to the ad.

It points to “YOUTHFUL”-ness as a desirable trait. Ah, the American idol of youth. And yes, like you, I look back at pictures from high school and college and “can’t believe how skinny”/beautiful/etc. we all were. Of course I see those external facts. But I also know this:

By and large, do you really remember what we were like, as teenagers? (Apologies to any teenagers reading.) I think back and remember lots of zeal and swagger– I remember being passionate about things I knew little to nothing about. I remember skads of anxiety and nerves. I remember the petty cliques and criticisms. I remember feeling that I would never measure up.

Hmmm… kind of like how the ad image above is designed to make us feel.

Here’s what the Bible says about aging, gray hair, and youth:

  • “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.” (Job 12:12)
  • “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.” (Proverbs 20:29)
  • “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” (Proverbs 16:31)

Youthfulness is an idol in America, and sadly, in the American church too. But the Bible says that with gray hair comes wisdom, and with age comes honor & splendor. Many women would rather be dead than look old, but we need to recognize that this as an unbiblical attitude.

Demis marry Ashtons, and we admiringly call them cougars and watch sitcoms about similar scenarios. Women hide the year of their birthday on Facebook so people won’t know how old they really are. Botox, tight tops from teen shops, jeggings, and “mommy makeovers” give the promise and illusion that we won’t be as old as we really are, when the truth is, these things make us look even more ridiculous. The only thing worse than a 17-year-old in jeggings is a 47-year-old in jeggings.

We’ve all seen the “plastic surgery gone wrong” photos and they make us cringe. But we need to recognize that when we toy with these notions of “mommy makeovers” and making our appearance the main thing, we are contributing to the plastic surgery culture that says that NONE OF US ARE GOOD ENOUGH.

Look at this list:

  • Tummy tuck
  • Breast augmentation/lift
  • Breast reduction
  • Liposuction
  • Post Weight-Loss Surgery
  • Mommy Makeover Packages
  • and then they top it off with: “Financing available”

Not only do they want to wreck your soul & make you believe that you aren’t good enough— that you have to change your body in order to be acceptable and desirable and have confidence– (there is no unsurgeried part of your body that they will leave uncriticized)–  but they will help you get in debt over it too! Yippee-skippy!

Christian woman, the ads and doctors would have you look at your body as the defining characteristic that gives you value, but God looks at the heart.

Yes, there are seasons when we need to use exercise or food to be good stewards of the bodies He has given us, but REJECT THE CULTURAL MESSAGE that you should loathe the fact that your body has changed.

God is interested in the changes of your HEART.

 

Surgery images courtesy of VictorHabbick and Ambro/FreeDigitalPhotos

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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16 Responses

  1. Bambi Moore says:

    So, so thankful for the truth in this post! Rarely heard and needs to be shouted from the rooftops *by* Christian women *to* Christian women. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this.

  2. Cate R. says:

    Glad you’re bringing this up, friend. Good thoughts here. I have been dealing with periodic panic and dread over how flabtastic I’ll be after this baby, with how padded my body loves to be during breastfeeding. Its seems so cruel and intolerable to have to worry about this on top of how stressful it is to have a newborn and taking care of other young children. I’d like to point out feminism… again it strikes with its pathetic ironies. It just so happens that the fixation on physical beauty and perfection rose to an extreme when we’re at an all time high of “empowerment”. I never watch tv but the second I turned on a network channel recently I had to watch a commercial showing a woman looking longingly at an ice cream cone, then admonished to make the “better choice” with some fat free yogurt that probably tastes disgusting. Seriously, do we matter for nothing else besides how we look? Another thing… people talk about airbrushing (or more accurately for our current era, photoshopping) but the thing is, some women really do look like that; thin, beautiful face, high metabolism etc. She shouldn’t be criticized. But most of us would not make the cut at a modeling audition, and that’s not what matters anyway. Btw, I wear jeggings : ) I think its the way you wear what you wear.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Yes. You and I have lamented many times the fact that our bodies missed that oft-spoken “rule” that “your body will bounce back, if you breastfeed!” :-/ Hang in there. You’re moving into a season full of precious moments… hard moments… but precious ones, so formative and special in the lives of three little people. It is so easy (in our culture) to let this body image thing mar and ruin those beautiful moments; we have to war against it in our souls.

      You are right that some people are naturally beautiful… I don’t want to criticize that woman. Just want to say that it is an unrealistic standard of beauty to hold the rest of us to. :)

      And go on with your bad self, wearing your jeggings. There will not be a moment in my life when I will don them, but go on, you fashionista you. 😉

  3. Sheryl says:

    I appreciate this article and agree with it…in part. I never thought I would be interested in plastic surgery until after I had my babies. I had severe pre-eclampsia (and post partum eclampsia) with all three and the subsequent swelling of 30-50lbs in a few weeks time has left with me with a very stretched out flap of a stomach that hangs much lower than it should. I wear support garments that help, but it is very discouraging to need XL pants to fit my ‘tummy’ when without it, I would be a Medium. My husband and I are saving for me to have plastic surgery, hopefully within the next two years. I agree with you that our value/worth is not found in the shape of our body, but please don’t condemn women who do decide to pursue surgery.

    I wonder if you would express these same thoughts to women who go to the gym or diet after babies. Using your logic, these things would be equally reprehensible.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Sheryl,
      No condemnation here. Each of us has to do what we feel is right, and this article does not mean that there can not be a thoughtful, intentional use of surgery to steward our bodies well. The heart intention there is entirely different than to have a “me-time” focus, and “get your body back” and “get back in your size 2s”.

      And yes, I would express these same thoughts to anyone who has an unhealthy, obsessive focus on their body– whether through surgery, obsessive exercising, anorexia, bulimia, fanatic dieting, etc. I think our culture is RAMPANT with this unhealthy self-focus in the area of appearance.

  4. Amanda says:

    This is so necessary for Mamas to hear! Young and old. I have recently been working on this area of my heart – that is all too prone to compare, and despise things that my Creator has already declared perfect. My body is not my own. It is a tool made for reflecting the God of the universe, in whose image it was made, and for serving other image-bearers in love, as my Savior did. Thank you for the reminder, and encouragement!

  5. I really, really, really needed to hear this. I have five children (my youngest is 9 months old), and I’ve been kicking myself lately for not getting “back in shape” by now. I’m not against a mama taking care of herself, but when stewardship morfs into obsession and discontentment, we have a problem.

    Thank you so much for sharing this message! I wish every mommy could read and take it to heart.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Kristy- Ugh it’s such an ugly thing our culture tells us… caring for newborns, raising little ones, loving Jesus, and we feel guilty for not being “back in shape.”

      For my part, I want to steward my body well. Eat healthily. Be active. Choose more produce and opt for the smaller (and rarer) bowl of ice cream.

      But things are so out of whack! I think we have to intentionally fight against it or else we will find ourselves drifting along with the cultural stream. Thanks for sharing your thoughts & adding your experiences to the mix!

  6. K.M. Logan says:

    Love this post. I’ve struggled with adult acne for a decade and my self-esteem was rock bottom. I finally got to the root cause and my skin has cleared up almost completely, and yet my self-esteem hasn’t magically repaired itself. Our love of our appearance has far more to do with our hearts than what we see in the mirror.

  7. Cate R. says:

    Also, for those of us (Jess is blessed with this too) who have husbands that genuinely like us how we are and have never expressed dissatisfaction with our appearance… ladies we so need to appreciate this. I heap unnecessary fretting on myself while my husband is totally fine with me. So much of this is women competing against one another which is quite sad.

  8. Darren Marsack says:

    Jess – I’ll be your “male” input here :) I agree 100% with your thoughts and have often been concerned about those ads on that station. As a business professional, I understand the need to generate revenue in order to keep a Christian radio station running and not all of the beauty/cosmetic ads promote the “…you’re not good enough” message as strongly, but it still sings the same tune.

    As the husband to a beautiful wife, I see her each day for the beauty that God has given her naturally…I SEE IT…she may not always, but I do and it’s my responsibility to make sure that she knows it. As the father of two beautiful girls, it’s my responsibility to teach them that they are beautiful for who they are, no matter what the world says. Mel and I work hard to guard them, their hearts and their self image for as long as we possibly can, knowing one day we will be able to guard them no longer and I pray, in faith, that we have instilled confidence that allows them to rise above what the world says of them.

    • Jess Connell says:

      Hooray for some wife-loving male input! I agree, Darren.

      I definitely understand their need to get revenue, but then they have to understand that it adjusts my listening habits.

  9. Jeannie says:

    I really enjoyed this article and have a few things to add. Since the point of this article is to change the way Christian women think back to serving the Lord, let’s kick it up a notch. I had no idea what jeggings were…until I googled them. The pictures I saw didn’t seem very godly. Keeping our temples (body) holy has a lot to do with how we adorn them. Why are we trying to be fashionable and at the same time causing our brothers- in-Christ to stumble. Some of you may think, “Well, they shouldn’t look.” You are right, but if you really loved your neighbor(brother) you wouldn’t give him the chance to look. I used to have such a hard time dressing because I was torn between looking like everyone else (flesh) and dressing conservatively like a lady(Spirit). I am still working on making my temple holy, but these are some examples of the Holy Spirit making me a woman after God’s heart instead of my own.
    I don’t show cleavage or breasts
    I dont wear skin tight clothing (because men can see every little curve of my body, with all my imperfections covered)
    my shorts are a reasonable length(butt should NOT be hanging out)
    my clothes are loose fitting
    I don’t wear tons of makeup. If I decide to, then it’s just a little so I don’t look sickly.
    These are just some examples, and are by no means God’s standards, but they are much more conservative than what most Christian women are doing. I just encourage every woman to grow more and more in the Lord every day. Stop being miserable in those heels or wasting money on the latest trends and makeup. Dedicate your life to the Lord, deny yourself, and pick up your cross daily. This is our duty as servants of the Lord. We are children of God! Have a blessed day :)

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  2. January 28, 2015

    […] you carrying baggage and shame about your body? Do you need to reassess your body in light of what God says about how He made you, rather than the unrealistic images the world pushes in front of your […]

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