Sabrina EpouI grew up hating my body. Most people would have guessed this was a result of the images in the magazines, TV, or other cultural mediums but that wasn’t the case for me. I grew up hating my body because of the place where I spent time the most – the Church. The hate of myself as a black woman originated in the church.
I grew up in the church. Church on Wednesday nights, church on Sundays. It was all good until I began experiencing shame and disesteem for my womanhood.
For me, middle school was the time where my body was figuring itself out, literally. During that time attending youth group and church, there was a woman within the church that was out for me and my emerging cleavage. Constantly telling me, in front of others, to pull up my shirt. I was embarrassed. I started walking around with my hands on my chest, I eliminated V-necks from my wardrobe, even turtle-necks didn’t seem to cover me up enough in my eyes. I felt so much shame from this woman, from the others she pointed my cleavage out to, and from the church. My mother started noticing that every shirt that I wore, no matter how “decent” it seemed to be in her eyes, my hands were always in that position to cover up my chest, and remained a tendency of mine to keep hiking my shirts up.
My shame translated to the worry that my relationship with Christ was going to be in turmoil as long as my cleavage was visible. I felt that as long as I was a woman with these parts, my main focus would be on hiding them. Shame moved from my cleavage to my whole body. I thought maybe if I was skinnier this wouldn’t be an issue, maybe if I was of a lighter skin tone this fact wouldn’t stand out as much.
I kept wondering which comes first my womanhood or my Christianity and if these two things could even coexist. When my view of womanhood was filled with insecurities, so was my relationship with God. Instead of letting my personal relationship with Christ influence the way that I dressed and being confident in that, my insecurities and my personal relationship with Christ suffered. Through these incidents I believed that in order for my relationship with Christ to be a certain way or at a certain level that I needed to dress a certain way to please him.
It took some time to delve into what womanhood and Christianity is and looks like for me. A woman may constantly wear turtle necks but still have a heart that is far from God or she can be in love with her body, the way that God created it to be, reflecting confidence and strong relationship with Christ. In this way, she looks at herself through Christ’s eyes DESPITE her cleavage. It is possible for the church to address womanhood without shaming women and causing them to drift from God and His love. I see aspects of the church nowadays that shame all that womanhood is and all that God has created it to be, that shame is directly correlated to women in the church who have diminished dreams and have taken a back seat to the power embedded in them.
Draw closer to God and every aspect of your life will reflect that, you, yes you, are a beautifully and wonderfully made woman of God.
Views expressed by guest writers do not reflect that of Black Sisters Network.