One of the most obvious contrasts between Haiti and America is the culture surrounding women. Upon returning to the states in late November, I immediately noticed the clothing the women were wearing, and the message it was sending. I was bothered by it, but reminded myself that I had just come from a culture that is pretty modest when it comes to how women dress.
Throughout my time in the states, I found myself worrying more about my weight, what I was eating, how I looked, acne, my hair, etc. I was concerned about speaking in front of churches without the right attire or hair color, or makeup. I did not want to come across as lazy, unprofessional, or any other negative connotation I could come up with. I found myself battling my self-image and feeling ugly...and I felt more this way each passing day. I did not even realize it for the first few weeks, but the longer I stayed it became apparent.
When returning to Haiti, I had to once again adjust to not wearing makeup, not doing my hair, and being okay with the fact that I am not a size 6 - or less for that matter. I had to come to terms with the way that I look, the acne that I struggle with as an adult, and the extra weight around my mid-section since having 4 kids. I had to once again learn to accept that I will not look like a teenager or regain the shape my body had before having kids. I had to remind myself that it is okay to never be a size 6 again.
This got me really thinking. If the American society is telling women that it is ugly and not acceptable to look like you had children, no wonder so many struggle! Those of us who do not retain a pre-maternity figure struggle with trying to get it back. Meanwhile, others may decide it is just better to not have children so that they can keep the figure they have. Some will go to great lengths - even dangerous ones - to look "better." It disgusted me as I realized this, and saw the part I played in it and how I bought into it.
Then, Gami had a conversation with a friend here. He asked him point blank why American women are so insulted if someone says they are big. He said it is one of the best compliments you can give a woman in Haiti, and he just could not understand why American women are so upset by it. He knew that they did not like it, but could not understand why. Gami explained it to him, and reminded him that we do not necessarily think it is right - but it is how our culture is.
I realized the power this has over so many women in America - and in many other cultures too. It gave me a new burden for women who are facing this struggle and this cultural norm. It is simply normal in America to assume that a woman should be able to lose all the "baby weight" and still be super skinny. It is perfectly normal to assume that a woman who leaves the house without their hair done and decent clothing on is lazy, or "sub-par." It is perfectly normal to assume that a woman who does not have the perfect makeup must be lower than those who do.
I want to tell you - these are lies from the devil!! Please do not let them have a hold on you. Be comfortable with how God made you. Be healthy, active, and let your internal beauty be what draws people to you! I have found that I never could wrap my mind around that phrase in America - not truly. I felt I had to let my internal beauty shine through while also making sure I looked the part. This is not at all what God's word says. He says your beauty is ONLY what comes from within. He says not to even bother with the outward adorning - because your heart is where your focus needs to be. So, fellow women, let's start there. If you struggle to find time with God, but can spend 30 minutes, an hour, or even more each day to "get ready," I challenge you to fast from that! Take a fast from the appearances that we fight to keep up, and focus on the heart. I recognize most women who struggle with this will probably read that and think, "But I can't..." and finish the sentence with plenty of reasons why "I have to look that way." The reality is that many women are falling into this trap. We can easily spend an hour or more "getting ready" for the day, when that time would be much better spent getting our hearts ready for the day! My heart breaks for all the women who feel trapped in the "normal" culture that is devaluing women in America, and around the world. My prayer is that you would see the beauty within that God sees, and that you would feel empowered to let that be your priority - above the outward adorning! This does not mean that I do not enjoy doing my hair and makeup and looking nice. Once again, it is all about the heart. If it takes priority, default to the time with God!
Many blessings ~ Cathi