Hello, dearest friends!
Goodness gracious, it has been a whirlwind lately! What with school starting and some other fun projects (story for a later time, but I’m working on writing a historic novel), I’ve barely had time to catch my breath…but I guess six online classes will do that to you! 😉
Last weekend, I finally had time to take a break from discussion boards and quizzes, and my family went to see Toy Story 4 at our local historic movie theater. They get movies in a little later than most theaters, but it’s well worth the wait, in my opinion. The old Hollywood atmosphere is to die for, and free popcorn refills are just the icing on the moving-picture cake. 😉
Toy Story has always been a huge favorite for me, partially because one of my siblings is named Andy, and his life timeline lined up pretty closely with Andy in the movies. He went to college the same year Toy Story Andy did, and I distinctly remember my mom and I watching Toy Story 3 and bawling our eyes out in the scene where he give his toys away. Honestly, though, I think that the movie helped me process my emotions at the time. As a little sister who was super close to her brothers, having both of them move to different states—suddenly making me a virtual only child—was kind of crazy at first.
Needless to say, I had a high mental bar set when I went in to see Toy Story 4, and although there were definitely aspects I didn’t think were perfect, one character in particular had me thinking long after I went home…
What? You thought I was going to say Woody or Bo Peep? ‘Fraid not, sugar-pie. Your girl here loved the talking spork.
I suppose part of why Forky spoke to me was because he was a homemade toy, of which I had many when I was little. Shoutout to Botty (yes, I spelled that right), my doll made out of a balloon with a Sharpied-on face who entertained me for literally days on end (until he fatally popped one day). It’s funny how sometimes the simplest toys could mean the most to me…which I suppose is much of what this movie was trying to convey.
However, the thing that made Forky stick out to me the most was actually the song that plays during his big montage scene: “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away.”
I realize that much of this was meant to be taken literally (I mean, Forky was actually trying to jump into a trash can…repeatedly), but since when does Grace “Metaphor” Watts take things literally? 😉
At the time, my mom leaned over to me and whispered, “Wow, that’s a powerful song.” I only nodded and went back to eating that glorious popcorn, and it wasn’t until later that week that the lyrics came back to me.
I was formal dress shopping, and against my better judgement found myself criticizing the way I look. I tried to shake it off, but the feeling persisted—for some reason, in that moment, I didn’t think I was pretty enough or skinny enough or generally good enough. Anyone who follows the blog knows that I always preach the message that this mindset is toxic—and thankfully my mom helped me snap out of this before our shopping trip was over.
But I couldn’t help thinking…if I had that mindset all the time, I would be throwing myself away, plain and simple—just like Forky was trying to do. (Yes, I’m making a comparison between myself and an animated talking spork…what of it??)
As much as I would like to tell all of you that I always practice what I preach and I never doubt myself, I can’t—because I would be lying like Westley did in the Princess Bride when he said that the iocane powder was in only one of the wine glasses.
I’m only human (unfortunately, I’m not a fairy godmother), so I do have moments of self doubt—about my weight, my face, my hair, and even my personality—and sometimes those moments grow into very real, weighty feelings. I’m just grateful I have an awesome support system in my life like my parents, my brothers, and of course, my Savior, to remind me that I’m fine just the way I am.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve met far too many girls who don’t have this support system, and I’ve watched friends, peers, and coworkers throw themselves away because they care so much about their bodies or their faces. Now, to be clear, I’m not talking about avoiding junk food or soda because you’re trying to be healthier—I’m talking about crash diets and eating disorders that send you into a shame spiral.
This semester, my developmental psychology class has been talking a lot about self-esteem as people age, and this week I was assigned a 200 word discussion post about body image in adolescents. I sat down at about noon to write and two hours later, was still furiously typing like Katherine Pulitzer writing about the Newsboys’ Strike of 1899, well past the 1,000 word mark. In a surge of righteous indignation, I downed the dregs of my pumpkin spice tea, (gently) slammed my color-changing unicorn mug on the table, and hit the publish button.
Here’s the thing, though. I’m pretty sure we can all agree that things like eating disorders are bad, and that they are essentially throwing yourself away—throwing away your happiness, your peace of mind, your mental energy, your physical energy…you name it.
But you know how much Forky loved being in his trash can in the movie? He cuddled up the pieces of trash and wanted to be in there more than he wanted to be playing with Bonnie.
A lot of the time, we don’t realize that we’re throwing ourselves away because it feels good. Often, we love our trash. It’s familiar, it’s comfortable, and it’s almost a part of us. As Forky so eloquently puts it, “It’s warm, it’s cozy, and it’s safe.”
Because of this, our trash isn’t always obvious (unlike eating disorders often are), and throwing yourself away can take a lot of different forms.
Personally, I started wearing makeup at about age fourteen, and for a while, I felt like I absolutely couldn’t go out if I didn’t have on the whole shebang of concealer, foundation, eyeliner, and mascara. Then one day, out of necessity, after a particularly crazy day of home renovations, I had to go to a store without any makeup on. It was really weird at first…I felt kind of paranoid, like, what if I see a bunch of people I know? What if Mr. Darcy or Donatello the Ninja Turtle or Gilbert Blythe suddenly shows up to propose to me and I have on no makeup?? What if the Hallmark Channel appears out of nowhere looking for girls to cast in Christmas movies and I look horrible???
Then a funny thing happened. My mom got me in the habit ever since I was little of smiling at people wherever you are. Obviously not in a creepy way, but if you’re maneuvering your shopping cart around someone or waiting behind them in line, why not smile? On this day, I was on the sunglasses aisle of Walmart and someone made eye contact with me, so I smiled, purely out of habit, and they gave me a huge smile right back.
In that moment, I realized that I didn’t need to wear makeup all the time. Sure, it was fun to wear, and could make me feel special, but it didn’t impact what truly matters about how others see me. I finally understood that I wanted to be known as that friendly redhead girl, and it didn’t matter if not everyone thought of me as that redhead girl with good eyeliner. In fact, if that was all folks remembered about me, I would probably be doing something wrong.
For a while there, makeup as an absolute necessity was my trash—and I didn’t want to give it up. I wanted to jump back into that trashcan and hold onto my highlighter and eyeshadow as tightly as I could. It felt good, it felt familiar, and it was my security blanket. It took going without it to snap me out of this and make me realize that what I thought made me comfortable was actually more like a prison—and it was trapping me from feeling beautiful for who I really am.
Another way I see so many girls throwing themselves away is by thinking that they need to have a boyfriend to be happy. I can’t help but laugh when I see how much our society preaches girl power and independence, then churns out kids’ TV shows where girls are kissing and dating boys while they’re still in middle school. I’m not saying all boyfriends are bad (looking at you, Gilbert Blythe), but I am saying that our culture needs to internalize at the ground level that relationships can turn into a vicious cycle if we’re not careful. Whether or not you have a boyfriend does not define you…period. *Frank Sinatra stops singing “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” and sinks into the background embarrassedly.* God has a plan for your life, and He will bring the right guy to you when the time is perfect. As one of my favorite Christian influencers once said, you’re not wandering out in the wilderness waiting for your prince to come, you’re resting under the protection of the King, safe in His castle.
Personally, I’m not afraid to admit that I often throw myself away because of thinking I need to be perfect all the time. Just this week, I freaked out for a whole evening because there was a grading glitch on a quiz in one of my classes that caused me to get a really low score. Even though it was fixed later, even one temporary bad grade made me doubt myself like crazy. The mental process for me often goes something like: bad grades = bad daughter = bad friend = bad person = ugly = dumb = worthless. In retrospect, that’s a really faulty way of thinking, right? It’s also really un-Biblical. God doesn’t love me because I’m perfect—He loves me because He made me—imperfections and all. One bad grade on a quiz would absolutely not be the end of the world, but being perfect is often my trash like that—it’s the thing I hold onto to make me feel good about myself. I’m trying my very best to break that habit, and every time I’m not perfect at something (which is a lot of the time), I’m trying to freak out less and less about it. We’ll get there in time, Lord Willing. 🙂
So, here’s my question to you…what’s your trash? Is there something in your life that’s causing you to throw yourself away? Does it make you feel safe and comfortable when it might actually be a prison?
Anyway, back to Toy Story 4…you know what my favorite part of the movie was?
It was this scene, when Woody and Forky are walking along the side of the road and Woody keeps trying to get Forky to understand that he isn’t trash any more—he’s a toy and Bonnie needs him.
Forky just doesn’t get it, until Woody explains that Forky makes Bonnie feel safe and secure and self-assured. This finally makes it click for him. He does for Bonnie—the girl who created him—what trash does for him. Suddenly, Forky stops trying to jump into trashcans and realizes that he has a bigger purpose.
Now, I realize that I might be going off the deep end of metaphors here, but often, once we find our purpose in serving our Creator, we can stop throwing ourselves away, too.
This summer, when I was working 24/7 for eleven weeks straight with kids with chronic medical conditions at a camp, I realized that I didn’t worry about my body or my face…not even once. Sure, I put glitter on my face and giant bows in my hair every morning—I was working with kids, for goodness’ sake 😉 —but I never for a minute found my mind drifting to whether or not I was pretty enough. I was too busy spending every waking moment giving some incredibly strong kids the best weeks of their summer, filled with singing and dancing and sparkles and s’mores and hot air balloons and just generally a honkin’ lot of joy.
In fact, post for a later time, but I spent time with so many amazing young girls this summer who utterly and completely redefined for me what it means to be truly beautiful. I knew that God was working in these kids and in me every single day, and grateful praise filled my mind when I looked in the mirror—not anxiety over how skinny/fat I am or how I have this weird little bump of skin by my nose or how loud my laugh is.
When I was immersed in something I knew God had called me to do, I realized that there was more to life, just like Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”
I mean, there you have it, straight from Jesus’ mouth: life is about more than food—or a lack thereof. Your body is worth more than how clothes fit you. You are valuable because you are made in God’s image, not because of your skinniness or your academic performance or your Instagram aesthetic or your position at work or your relationship status or…fill in the blank. By the way, in case you are struggling with body image right now, I highly recommend reading all of Matthew 6:25-34, because it is so incredibly applicable and relatable for all of us, but especially teenage girls like me.
If you clicked on this post because you wanted to read a review of Toy Story 4, and instead you got this 2,000 word discourse on how an anthropomorphic spork relates to self esteem, sorry about that, chief. 😉 In all seriousness, though, I really hope that this post encouraged you and maybe helped you realize that, unlike Forky, we don’t have to introduce ourselves by saying, “I’m trash.” Whatever might be throwing you away right now absolutely does not define you. Honey darling, you are more valuable to this earth—and to God—than you will ever know.
So, dearest readers, today I challenge you to go out into the world with confidence, knowing that God has a plan for your life and you are exceptionally beautiful just as you are. Oh, and, you know, don’t go jumping into trashcans.
After all, I can’t let you do that—throw yourself away, I mean. ❤