Beauty and the Culture
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Vicki CourtneyVicki Courtney is a speaker and the bestselling author of many books and Bible studies. She is a past ECPA Christian Book Award winner and a trusted resource among parents. Vicki and her husband have three grown children, a son-in-love, two daughters-in-love, four grandsons and a granddaughter. They live in Austin, Texas where they are blessed to have their children and grandchildren living nearby. More information can be found at VickiCourtney.com.
How does your daughter view herself? Vicki Courtney talks about the harm constant comparison causes, and she encourages moms to teach their daughters their true worth can only be found in Jesus.
Beauty and the Culture
Bob: Does it seem to you like your daughter is, maybe, inordinately preoccupied with her appearance?—she is spending too much time focused on how she looks. Vicki Courtney says that is something that, as parents, we need to be paying attention to.
Vicki: Again, it goes back to identity because, for so many of our girls, if the answer/if what they run to is: “I want attention from the opposite sex,” or “I want to be known for what I look like,” “My worth to be based on what I look like.” I’m here to tell you that: “At some point, it all revolts against you; so if our worth has been defined in that way, that’s a hard day to come to terms with.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, March 20th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I’m Bob Lepine. You’ll find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Helping our sons and daughters understand the real source of their identity—that’s one of the key conversations we need to be having with our children throughout their preteen and teen years. We’re going to talk more about that today with Vicki Courtney. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So, this week, Dave, you and I are on moratorium. We have been—we have been sent to the corner and told to keep our mouths shut. [Laughter]
Dave: It’s hard to do; you know? It really is.
Bob: We’ve got Vicki Courtney joining us this week on FamilyLife Today. Vicki, welcome back.
Vicki: Thank you for having me.
Bob: Vicki is an author and a speaker and has written a number of books. The books we’re talking about this week are updated and revised versions of books about conversations we need to be having with our sons and daughters. Really, Vicki, it’s the same five conversations; but we have them very differently if we are talking with our boys than with our girls; right?
Vicki: Yes, yes.
Bob: The conversations are about how the culture defines you, about the need to guard your heart, about having respect for sex and making sure that you approach that with a biblical framework, childhood is only for a season, and you are who you’ve been becoming.
Since we’re talking about having those conversations with daughters this week, we set some ground rules and said that Dave and I would just back off and let you, Ann, have the conversation with Vicki. That was very hard for us.
Dave: I’ve been watching some NFL replays over here. [Laughter] Bob, I don’t know what you’ve been doing.
Bob: Been Words with Friends over on my side of things. [Laughter]
Vicki: Well, while we’re talking, we’re doing some online shopping; so—
Dave: I bet you are. [Laughter]
Bob: So we’ll hand it back over: “Where do you want to steer things today?”
Ann: Thanks; I’d like to talk about beauty—beauty in the culture—because we, as women, feel this intense pressure to be beautiful, physically. Is that different now than it was even a century ago? Were women consumed with how we looked back then?
Vicki: Oh, absolutely; in fact, it’s interesting you asked about just even a century ago. One of the things I talk about in the book—I source an author, Joan Brumberg. She wrote a book called The Body Project. It’s been out for a while; but it was fascinating because she researched girls’ diaries and journals from the late-1800’s to the early-1900’s to track the shifts in attitudes regarding appearance.
What she found is that pretty much, before World War I, girls rarely mentioned their bodies in terms of strategies for self-improvement or personal identity. They talked a lot about the need to have virtue in their lives—they talked about kindness and how to cultivate that—just character qualities.
One of the other things she mentioned in the book, that was also fascinating, is that we’re talking about a time before the bathroom mirror was a staple in every home. Not really everyone had even a bathroom necessarily, much less a mirror over a sink, where they could actually see their image. You think about how that would change how we view ourselves if we weren’t seeing reflections of ourselves each and every day.
In addition to that, scales were not, necessarily, something you had in your home. If they weighed themselves, it was at a medical appointment or the state fair, where you put the coin in the machine and tried to guess your weight; you know, that was about it.
Vicki: Even clothing sizes, there was no such thing as standardized clothing sizes because most mothers were sewing their children’s clothing and to fit their particular shape. A young woman or a girl didn’t feel like she—she wasn’t constantly comparing herself to someone else, because she didn’t know what size she was; she was custom-fit for each outfit.
Vicki: All of these things changed the way women view themselves and compare themselves to each other—just with the onset of, well, of course, mirrors and scales. A lot of us are like, “I’m happy to give up my scale”; right?
Ann: Yes; but even social media,—
Ann: —and movies, and advertising, and marketing.
Vicki: Oh, and you think about even their smartphones and the whole trend of taking selfies.
Vicki: They are constantly—back in our day, if you wanted to take pictures, you did not waste your cartridge of 12, 24, or 36 pictures, holding your pocket camera in front of your face with your friends. You just didn’t risk that; there are other pictures you wanted to take.
So girls, today—they have filters to correct things that they view to be flaws. Then they are seeing other people’s filtered pictures—thinking/ they look, then, in the mirror—and they say, “Well, wow; I don’t look like that filtered image of my best friend.” You know, there are so many pressures that we didn’t even face in our day.
Ann: What has changed? Why do we have that constant comparison now and the external being so important for a woman of the way you look? Is that men’s fault? Should we point to the men?
Vicki: I think we do blame them. [Laughter]
Bob: Hang on!
Dave: Don’t blame us.
Bob: This is where we are coming back in. [Laughter]
Vicki: They were being so good; they were being so good. [Laughter] We were just making sure you guys were still awake over there.
Ann: That’s right.
Dave: You couldn’t stand it; could you?
Ann: I just had to drop it out there just to see if you guys were awake. [Laughter]
Vicki: You know, I think, to some degree, that women will dress in a certain way if they know that they might get attention from—male attention. I think that’s always been around at some level. Again, this is why it’s so critical that we talk about: “True worth is who you are in Jesus Christ;—
Vicki: —“it is not what you look like. It is not what other people think; particularly, what the guys think.”
Just in my ministry over the years to middle school and high school girls, I know this is a real and present problem with any generation. I/we can’t blame it all on the guys—
Vicki: —because I think there is a lot of pressure that girls put on each other.
Ann: Exactly; probably more so from each other.
Vicki: Oh, I’ve heard women say, “I dress for my peers”; you know?
Ann: Right; exactly.
Vicki: We—you know, we complimented each other’s outfits when we—did you notice?
Ann: Yes; first thing; we did.
Dave: I did notice that.
Vicki: Yes; so it’s just something—I don’t know/I don’t know if it’s something deep within us, or if it’s been cultivated over the years as more of an environmental factor—just subject of the times.
Ann: Well, it’s interesting. I didn’t grow up in the church. Around our family—not my family specifically, but a lot of relatives—porn was in use, and it wasn’t hidden. As a young girl, growing up, I thought, “Oh, the way to attract a guy is to wear less.”
Ann: I got into college—a brand-new Christian—and I was being discipled by this girl from Cru®. She sat me down; I could tell she was super nervous having this conversation with me. She said, “Ann, I’d like to talk to you about your clothes.” I’m like, “Oh, okay.” She said, “You know, what you’re wearing is causing guys to look at you.” I said, “Isn’t that the point?!” [Laughter] She said, “Well, I…”
I had no background—
Ann: —and no conversation about modesty. I just thought, “We’re all in competition with each other. I’m trying to get the most looks,”—which is embarrassing that that is what I grew up with; but I thought, “The less you wear, the more attention you get; and that’s the point; isn’t it?”—having no idea that I was getting my worth through attention from other men.
To have that conversation—I think that conversation was so hard for her; but as she’s talking to me, she’s realizing: “She has—this girl is clueless. She has no idea what the Bible says about modesty. She has no idea who she is in Christ now.”
Ann: I think that’s a big thing—of realizing, “I am enough in my relationship with God.”
Vicki: Yes, I think that is powerful. I will say, “I do believe this generation/this younger generation is doing a better job at this.”
Ann: I do too.
Vicki: I feel like they are more comfortable in their own skin. A lot of that is, I believe, that they have witnessed the fall-out in the previous generations that you mentioned—especially coming out of the ‘90s and early 2000s, where Britney Spears hit the scene. It just became the suburban norm to bare midriff and everything that came with that. So, now, those days, if they wear those things, it’s not—I don’t know that it is necessarily to attract male attention—but it’s more of: “Hey; this is who I am, and…”
Ann: I think where that can go is where girls can be more provocative is online in their social media.
Vicki: Yes, yes.
Ann: That’s a danger to that.
Dave, what were you going to say?
Dave: I was going to ask—I’ve got two moms here. If you’re sitting with your daughter, and she’s struggling with her identity; let’s say she’s 13-, 14-, 15-years- old. You’ve already talked about the culture, and a lot of that they are getting through their phone. Maybe, you walk in her bedroom at night—I’m creating this scenario—and she is in tears, because she feels unworthy. She doesn’t measure up to what she is seeing; she was made fun of at school—whatever reason.
What’s the conversation look like, as a mom?—and this could be for dads as well. What are you going to say to her to help her understand true identity, and how do you think that’s going to get through?
Vicki: I think, again, you go back to sharing a personal experience with her—not just a personal experience from when you were her age—but even now.
Vicki: When we are honest with our daughters and saying that: “We still feel certain pressures that are out there,” or “We find ourselves grumbling at our reflections in the mirror as we’re noticing grey hairs or these wrinkles that appear around our eyes,”—or whatever it is—“We become critical of what we see. That it is a real struggle for us as well.” As we are reminding them, we’re letting them know we’re also reminding ourselves.
Dave: That’s good.
Vicki: One of the things I did with my daughter, when she was little, and she used to make fun of me—and now, I’m pretty sure she’s doing it with my granddaughter; but I don’t know—[Laughter]—but I used to, from the time she was tiny—as early as one or two years old—I would stand her up on the bathroom counter. Right there, looking at herself in the mirror, I would tell her: “You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Do you know that, Paige? You are fearfully and wonderfully made. His works are wonderful. I know it full well.”
We would go on to unpack it as she got older—that the problem is a lot of girls don’t know that full well, like the Scripture tells us—to go a step further and share: “I was that girl. I was that girl, who struggled to know that, even after I became a Christian at 21.” Sharing your own story of the struggle in the past, and even in the present, it helps her to understand, “Okay; this is something that may be a lifelong struggle, but I know truth.” We know that the only way to defeat the lies is to replace it with God’s truth.
I think sometimes we put pressure on ourselves: “Oh, I learned that a long time ago. I should know this; why do I keep messing up?” I don’t know about you guys; but for me, it’s a constant relearning, relearning, reminding myself of these truths.
Again, it goes back to identity; because for so many of our girls, if the answer/what they run to is: “I want attention from the opposite sex,” or “I want to be known for what I look like,” “My worth to be based on what I look like,”—because Ann and I are here to tell you this: “At some point, it all revolts against you.” [Laughter]
Ann: It all goes downhill at some point.
Vicki: It all goes south, literally.
Ann: It does; yes.
Vicki: Literally; so if our worth has been defined in that way, that’s a hard day to come to terms with.
Same thing is true with—I see/you know, we’ll get into this when talk more about sons—but it’s true for daughters too. When we make our identity our accomplishments, our achievements, our gifts, our talents—these can be wonderful things—but we struggle with that too; don’t we?
At some level, we are buying into the same lie. If I have a book that’s not doing as well, I feel like a failure. Then I have to stop and I have to take that thought captive and have to remind myself that God does not measure my worth by the world’s standards. Maybe, I wrote that book for ten people or twelve people, if that’s how many bought it—hopefully, it would sell a few more than that—but even as adults, we struggle with buying into the culture’s lies.
Ann: I think it’s easy too, as parents, to praise our kids for what they’ve done,—
Ann: —what they are doing, what they look like, how they are doing in school. We just naturally do that. I think we really need to focus on who they are and what God has put into them. I know that, when our boys were little—and I am doing this now with our grandkids—I’m finding that our kids today need something bigger to live for;—
Ann: —it’s not just about themselves.
I think God—to remind them that: “I see the things that God put in you; and I can’t wait to see how He uses those things to impact the world—how you’ll use those things to love people.” I started that with my three-year-old granddaughter, just saying: “Look at you. Look how you care about others, and you’re empathetic. You’re so compassionate when people are hurting. Olive, how is God going to use that to impact other people?”
It’s giving them a bigger vision other than: “How did I do on my test today?” or “How did my hair turn out today?” or “How many ‘likes’ did I get?”—because people are dying around the world without Jesus; and they need something bigger to live for.
Ann: Let’s talk about Conversation #3: “Have a Little Sex Respect.” I know that you speak all over the country on this. What do we need to know, as parents? What’s important? I think that we feel so scared and bombarded with this generation; how can we help our daughters?
Vicki: Sure; well, first, let me share the good news.
Vicki: This generation is having less sex than any generation before them—so, maybe not; I’m sorry—I say from like the ‘60’s up until now. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that one of the reasons they think for that is because they are on their devices, which they are replacing it with things like pornography and other sorts of things. We say pornography is something you would go access—and it’s under that category—I hope you wouldn’t. We talk about that in the book, but it’s really out there everywhere now. It’s a Netflix® show; it’s what’s on primetime TV; it’s whatever.
Ann: And more than ever, girls are engaging in this as well.
Ann: You have a statistic in your book—that it’s 33 percent?
Vicki: I believe that’s correct, and it is increasing. Every year that goes by, they are seeing a greater increase, among females now, that are seeking it out. One thing that is absolutely heartbreaking to me, in regard to that, is they don’t really view it as something that is wrong, necessarily.
Again, we’re faced with this challenge, whether we’re having a conversation with our sons or with our daughters—and certainly don’t eliminate this conversation if you have a daughter—because of what you just shared, Ann. I mean, this is—we are seeing an increase, yearly now, in girls seeking this out.
The—one of the statistics that just blew me away was—it was a Barna study. It asked teenagers to rank actions. Out of certain categories, this current generation of teenagers to young adults ranked pornography at number nine. All generations prior, it was way up in the top—like in the top four. Number four was not recycling—
Vicki: —to put it in perspective. Not recycling was number four. Overuse of energy consumption was number six and viewing pornography was number nine.
As parents, we need to know that because it’s not just about having the porn-talk, like: “Hey, you may stumble upon these websites. You may not be looking for it; it may come find you.” You’ve also got to have the conversation that: “By the way, it is wrong; and this is why it is wrong...”
Bob: You know, for the most part, we have limited this conversation with our daughters to be a women’s conversation. It’s important for dads to be having some of these conversations with daughters as well; right?
Bob: I mean, this is not just a mom/daughter thing. Mom may carry most of the weight in this area, because she probably has more face-to-face time with her daughter and with her sons; but how critical is it for a dad to step in and say: “I want to talk to you about a couple of things,”—whether it’s relating to body image, or relating to technology, or relating to just your identity: “How you see yourself?”
Vicki: —or dating and the kind of—
Vicki: —guy you eventually settle down with. It is critical/of critical importance. I really feel like my daughter—in regard to even saving herself for her husband—she was picky, because my husband was intentional. He talked about, at her rehearsal dinner—reminded her about, from the time she was four years old, once a year, he took her camping. He did this with our sons too—each one of them, individually—brought them on their birthday. He would take her out fairly regularly on dates and talked to her about the importance—I mean, just by modeling to her his godliness and his care for her: “Why would she settle for anything less than that?”
It’s heartbreaking to me that not every girl gets to have that kind of father/daughter relationship; but at the rehearsal dinner, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. She got married in 2011; and he, at the age of four, gave her a locket. It had a picture of him, and it had a picture of her with a four-year-old face. Then, at the rehearsal dinner, he handed her that necklace—I swiped it from her jewelry chest, with that locket on it—and a new locket with her picture and her husband’s/her soon-to-be husband’s picture.
Again, none of us could keep from just sobbing; because he hugged her tight and said, “I have prayed for this day, where you would marry someone who loves you as much as Christ loves the church. That was my highest prayer, and I’m seeing that prayer answered, Paige.” It was just—the investment is profound; I don’t think we would even be able to measure it. It is incredibly powerful for a daughter to have that type of relationship with her dad and her dad to be able to talk about these things and why they are important.
Dave: I would just add, as we are sitting around here, all of us know how quick the window goes.
Dave: You blink—because we all have, now, grandkids—
Dave: —and I would say to a young mom/a young dad: “Don’t miss this opportunity—
Vicki: That’s right.
Dave: —“to have these conversations.” You’re going to blink, and you’re going to be sitting where we are, going: “Oh no! They are not here.” Now, you’re still going to have these conversations as adults; but this window is closing fast. Cease the day.
Bob: There’s a good opportunity in your book, Vicki, to help moms and dads think about how important these conversations are and what kinds of conversations to have. This is a training manual that you’ve created for us, as parents. We’ve got copies of Vicki’s book, 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, to find out how you can get a copy of the book.
Let me just mention—Vicki is going to join us, again, next week to talk about 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Sons. We’ll look forward to continuing the conversation, again, next week.
One of the things we are committed to here, at FamilyLife®, is trying to help moms and dads know how to connect, heart to heart, with sons and daughters around these challenging issues. David Robbins, who is the president of FamilyLife, is here with us; and this is the kind of coaching I needed when I was raising my kids. You’re right in the middle of it. This is helpful; isn’t it?
David: Yes; first of all, I really appreciate Vicki saying that she still feels the pull to measure herself by a cultural standard of beauty. I mean, one, just the vulnerability and honesty is really refreshing and encouraging; because we all feel the pull in some way; but two, it just sets in the reality—that if a mature disciple of Jesus, who has raised her own kids and done enough research to write a bunch of books on the topic, feels the pull—then, of course, our kids are going to feel it also.
We simply can’t insulate them from the pull and power of the culture, and we have to proactively engage to help our kids see the difference between the false standard of our culture and the truth of what God says about the beauty in who they are and what they are worth. It literally can be life-saving for them. We don’t have to be the experts or have every answer, but we do need to show up. Our kids long for connections and conversations with their parents, even if they are faking being too cool for it.
Bob: Here, at FamilyLife, we have worked hard to try to provide parents with tools they can use to facilitate some of these conversations. We’ve got Vicki’s book; but we also have the Passport2Purity® resource that we developed, years ago, that tens of thousands of parents have used to begin a lot of important conversations with their children during the preteen years; so you get them ready for adolescence/for the teen years.
In fact, this week, we’ve been making Vicki’s book and the Passport2Purity resource kit—making those available to FamilyLife Today listeners who can support this ministry with a donation. The reason we’re able to have these kinds of conversations is because listeners in the past have said, “This is important,” and have made donations to keep us on the air on this station and on our network of stations all across the country.
If you can help with a donation today, you’ll be paying it forward so that future conversations like this can happen and more people can listen. We’ll say, “Thank you,” by sending you a copy of Vicki’s book. If you have sons, she’s got a book, 5 Conversations to Have with Your Son—you can ask about that—or if you have daughters, 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter—and we’ll send you the Passport2Purity resource so you can plan a couple of days to get away with your son or daughter during preadolescence and start to engage on some of these important subjects. Again, you can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to donate at 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
With that, we’ve got to wrap things up for this week. Thanks for joining us. I know this is going to be a different weekend for many of us who are used to going to church on Sunday and this weekend probably watching church online. Be sure to reach out and stay connected with the people you love. Stay connected with friends and family members and keep loving and serving one another over the course of this weekend.
Be sure to join us back on Monday. We’re going to have a conversation on Monday about how we can raise sons who respect girls; that’s a pretty important conversation to have in our day. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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