The World According to Tiff Sniff

Meandering ponderings and wonderings on the state of things.


On the recommendation of my roommate and Kasey, I bought and am reading Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge. John wrote a well-known book called Wild at Heart, about the nature of men. This is a complementary book, about the nature of women. Both books put our gender roles in a faith context that, to me, is fresh and new, and not constricting and repressive like most of the books that tell women how to be better Christians. (Or tell Christians how to be better women.)

Now that the book review is done, on to the important stuff.

A lot has changed in my life lately, and very quickly. In fact, it's far from over. There is a huge, life-changing possibility in my near future. I don't want to talk about that now, although it is relevant. I don't mean to be cryptic (I'm just superstitious), but until I'm pretty sure it's going to happen, or that it's not going to happen, I don't want to mention it.

I'm too used to disappointment, and I don't want to have to tell you all that it didn't work out when I thought it would. I've had to do that too often in life.

Throw all of these continent-shifting changes together, add in a couple of recent emotional encounters and some deep-seated resentments resurfacing, and you get what I am on this Tuesday: a worn-out, happy-but-not-satisfied, little bit wiser girl.

I have always struggled, and will always probably struggle, with my self-esteem. I know that I am smart, kind, funny, and pretty. But there is a part of my voice that tells myself that I'm just not quite smart, kind, funny, or pretty enough. Enough for what? Who knows. But this is the fear I live in.

Growing up, my parents always encouraged me in my academics, athletics, and music (I took piano at a young age and for a long time). But somewhere in there, it always came back to comparisons. I don't fault my parents, or think they did a bad job. On the contrary, I love them dearly, am very close to them, and feel incredibly lucky to be from my family. But I was always coming in second, and they wanted me to win. For my own sake, I know, but it was hard. Why didn't I do the extra credit so I could be top in the class? (I was third overall in my graduating class, most likely to succeed, and had full scholarships to both college and law school.) Why didn't I work that much harder on my piano or basketball, so that I could be the star? (I was always second-string on the team, and my musical skills were never quite as good as the out-and-out prodigies I studied beside for a time.) If I was careful, and watched my weight as I grew, I would be as beautiful as any supermodel (I heard, "Don't get fat, or you'll never be as attractive and desirable as this girl.")

Part of my demons come from my family, but many of them come from simple life experience. I was well into college before a guy I wasn’t related to ever told me I was beautiful. I didn't believe him, and eventually broke up with him. My best friend is unbelievably gorgeous. I love her, and am so proud of her, but it can be hard to go out with her. I don't get asked out, don't get "the vibe" from many guys (and usually only from the weird ones), and don't get watched when I walk across the room.

I still struggle with a feeling of almost-ness, constantly watching my back in fear of some past mistake or weakness coming up from behind to steal what little glory I've earned and give it to someone more deserving, more beautiful, more pulled-together.

I know that this is a myth, an image that we flawed humans have concocted to give our lives reason - something to strive for. But it doesn't mean that this concept doesn't have power over us.

Here's the point: in the book, the Eldredges point to the time in the Garden, when man and woman were perfect and complemented each other. They make the argument that the very nature of the fall - Eve's pushiness and striving to make herself "better", Adam's fear of denying her or of taking the blame later - explain much of the pain each sex feels today. It has certainly resonated with me. In reading it, I've put a lot of my experiences together to see that, while I know I am all the things I listed before, I still feel I am not those things to the degree I should be.

The other thing that has started me to heal is the recognition that the desire to be found beautiful is an innate one that every woman shares, and that it is not something to be feared, thought weakness, or repress. It doesn’t mean that a woman is only truly completed by a man, but it does mean that our desire to be wanted is an honest and true feeling, and not just one forced onto us by our culture. To me, an affirmed feminist, this has actually been quite liberating. I don’t have to fear my femininity; it does not condemn me to traditional or stereotypical roles. Embracing it frees me to be a woman in my core – not just by my actions.

All of this is not to ask you to validate those things to me. You can't do it; it's too big and ingrained. I have to work through this myself, and with God's help and Jesus' healing, I will. I'm learning to look those nasty memories full in the face, see them for what they are, and leave them behind.

What you can do: tell the people in your life what you think of them - not in vague, emotional terms, but in concrete language. Tell your best friend that you love her because she is beautiful, but also because she is insightful, shares your same quirky taste in music and movies, and because she makes the best homemade t-shirts in the world. Tell your mom you love her because she encouraged you to be an intelligent and independent woman, and not to listen to the conservative environment that would discourage you from pursuing your career goals. Tell your dad you love him because he treated you like a friend, played games with you and talked to you about books and movies you both enjoy.

I feel a little guilty and nervous putting such a self-indulgent post up, but that is exactly why I am doing it, as an exercise in self-validation: I am a good writer, and my words and thoughts deserve to be read and enjoyed. If you don't enjoy them, just keep that to yourself, and let me have my moment.

The things I know about myself:
1. I am loved
2. I am very intelligent
3. I am a capable and effective leader
4. I am creative ( this is a relatively recent realization)
5. I can make my good friends laugh so hard they cry
6. I am a good friend myself
7. I am great with kids, and kids love me
8. I can cook with the best of them, given the opportunity
9. I am a terrible housekeeper, though
10. I have an insatiable thirst for story: books, movies, music, conversations, all of it
11. I have been blessed with amazing friends and family
12. I have the coolest eyes - dark blue with some green, and little gold flames around the pupils from time to time
13. I love God in a way I can't put into words
14. I have good fashion sense, now (although I can't often dress the way I want to, due to weight and money issues)
15. No matter what I thought back then, I know now that in high school I was pretty, talented, well-liked, and a whole lot more successful at life than I knew
16. No matter what I thought back then, I know now that in college I was looked up to, noticed, pined over, and fallen in love with
17. No matter what I thought back then, I know now that in law school I was as capable, funny, and attractive as any other girl there
18. No matter what I thought then, in the years between law school and now, even when I couldn't support myself, couldn't find a job, and just generally couldn't make life work the way I wanted it to, I was still everything I had always dreamed I would be at that point
19. No matter what I think now, I will look back in five years, in ten years, in fifty years, and see something I can't see now, and will be grateful for this time
20. I do not have these blessings and talents, these friends and memories and treasured moments, because I have earned them or deserve them. I am blessed simply because I am, and because the One who created me wanted me to live, and to have life to the full abundance.

5 Responses to “Beauty”

  1. # Blogger Eco

    Wonderfully written (but you already knew that, didn't you?)! I've heard a lot of good things about the book; our Sunday school class recently concluded a study on Wild at Heart ... after your post, I'll have to go out and get it. And I'm not sure if it helps at all to hear/read this, but the things you felt/feel are the exact emotions that I would bet many if not most women feel at some point in their life ... yes, even the skinny ones! Sounds like we've been on some of the same emotional growing trips here lately. Keep up the self-esteem growing exercises ... they're the most important kind.  

  2. # Blogger fabricsnob

    I love you. Our friendship is vital to me. I'm blessed to have someone like you who knows who I am and who I used to be.
    (PS- I think the HRS shirt must happen. I'll need help.)  

  3. # Blogger Rushton

    I read your blog through Rea's. Will you marry my son?  

  4. # Blogger R-Liz

    I linked to your site through JA's, and thought-- Hey! It's Tiffany from Harding!

    I know you've posted several times since this, but I had to say I was very moved by this post. It was by no means self-indulgent, but incredibly honest. I have also read the "Captivating" book, and although it wasn't a perfect book, it truly did capture so many of the struggles that are at every woman's core. And I loved how they pointed to what they believe to be the Biblical basis of these struggles. I also agree with you about how truly liberating it is when you finally acknowledge, "Yes, I do want to be seen as beautiful, I do want to be captivating!" Of course this can be manifested in so many ways, but the essence of the message is the same in every woman alive.

    Thanks for putting out the thoughts that so many of us are thinking.  

  5. # Anonymous Anonymous

    I used to work for Donut Den while at DLU (now LU) and I remember your birth and Ted's. Your parents were so very proud of you.
    You were a beautiful baby and a beautiful young lady (after having my children, I came to work at DLMS/DLHS) It is difficult to convince the 12-20 year old crowd that true beauty is not the creation of the media/Hollywood, but is a reflection of the love of our Creator.  

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