The Red Coat
"Zip it up, zip it all the way up."
This thought filtered through my head on a daily basis for several months during my freshmen year of high school. For a period of time I wore this red coat, very simple looking, nothing remotely cool about it. What was appealing to me about this article of clothing was the fact that it was straight cut, showing no figure, and therefore it accentuated absolutely nothing about my body. It stopped at my hips, covering half my tush, thus hiding it almost entirely. That's what I loved the most about it. It hid what I was insecure about. It concealed my tummy, that wasn't flat like the rest of my friends, my booty, which wasn't as small, and the hips that were forming with it. My bland, yet brightly colored coat, was a coping mechanism, a security blanket of sorts, that helped me feel more comfortable in my own maturing skin. Even when it was clearly warm enough to not warrant winter wear, the coat remained in place, close and comforting.
During this time of my adolescence, though I exuded much confidence and honestly loved who I was, I wrestled with body image issues and comparison. I even went through a short-lived phase of anorexia/bulimia because I felt as a late bloomer, that all my friends were prettier, skinnier, and more attractive and I just didn't "fit" with my group. It was an (unhealthy) way for me to have control because I didn't feel like I had much. My parents hadn't yet allowed me to shape my super thick brows, or wear makeup like the other girls, and I didn't know how to straighten my big, wavey, often frizzy hair, well. Oh, and I had braces. I probably would've still had hairy legs at that time had my sister not told my mom that I came home crying one day, utterly embarrassed after some kids at school made fun of me for not shaving yet, back in seventh grade. This season lasted only until puberty hit, I matured, ditched the red coat, and then I faced dealing with attention in ways I never had to before, which was probably even more daunting. Girls can be cruel and guys can be crazy. It's amazing isn't it? How much importance the outward appearance seems to have? It's even more amazing how much it can affect the inward life and vice versa.
Looking back now, I realize that these times in my life were definitely training grounds for dealing with self image issues out here in LA, especially when I was pursuing acting and modeling, and now being in the fitness industry. It's so easy to get sucked into the black hole of comparison, insecurity, judgement, and self-hate. It's easy to pick apart every flaw or try to overcompensate through flaunting our bodies, often from a place of seeking approval or attention. It's an easy trap to fall into judging other people by picking them apart for their features in an attempt to feel more secure in our own "imperfections." And, it's heartbreakingly frustrating being on the receiving end of those judgements. There were times during the audition processes that I longed for my red coat, just to cover up what I didn't think was "perfect". Times when I walked into a room with so many other girls that looked similar to me and sat there trying not to size them up or tear myself apart. Thank God for grace, love, and the renewing of my mind to see myself as made in His image.
Learning to love myself more, imperfections and all, has made loving others better, so much easier. It adds more value to those around me. My experiences of being made fun of and feeling ashamed about certain parts of myself has created a tenderness for others and a greater capacity to relate. To consider their heart and mind, their possible emotional condition, before I make assumptions based off their appearance. It has taught me that we all deal with something--- we all have little things about ourself we probably would like to change. Men and women alike, we all wrestle with feeling truly confident in our own skin, some more than others. We can say that it's an issue that only females deal with, but that is a lie. Even if the outward appearance looks like sheer perfection, I guarantee, there are little imperfections that can't be seen that people cover up inwardly with their own little red coats. Zip it up. Zip it all the way up. Don't let them see what's beneath.
But, we don't need anymore "red coats". No more cover ups. We need exposure, transparency. We need to know truth. We need to understand, all the way to the very core, that God made us all beautiful, in His image, perfectly and purposely. That we were never designed to be exactly like anyone else, we are unique. And that physical differences are beautiful. Diversity is BEAUTIFUL. Learning to appreciate and accept ourselves is beautiful. Is that an excuse to not care for the outward appearance? Nope. It's a charge to take care of the body you have, to treat it well and with respect. To love the temple you have been given but not to worship it. It's an exhortation to learn to love everything about yourself, to dump the red coat, and to learn to love others in all their differences in the process. For me, it's a conviction to not be so darn critical of myself. To not ride myself so hard and demand "Perfection" to the point it becomes unhealthy. It's a reminder to be thankful for the healthy, strong body I have and not take it for granted. To honor God by loving what He's given me to take care of by not viewing my "flaws" as "failures" on His part. And to treat my mind, heart, soul, and body well-- to be holistically healthy, and to reject negative ways of thinking.
So guys...Unless you're doing it for a fashion statement, let's agree to ditch the red coats and stop hiding. God is perfect. His ways are perfect. You are made in His image therefore the way you have been made is perfect. If you have a "Ditch the Red Coat" story you would like to share, I'd love to hear it! Let's encourage each other on the journey.