The admiration of men

I’m thinking a lot at the moment about how women’s views of themselves can be affected- both positively and negatively – by the men in their lives, or the men in society as a whole.

And I’ve thought back to the nice things that have been said by men to me, but I also feel the pain of the not-so-nice words; ones that have stuck with me even since childhood.

I have formed a new habit of watching men watch beautiful women on the tube. They just can’t seem to help themselves! And I wonder how having all eyes on her affects the Beautiful Woman. But I also wonder what effect it has on the women who are painfully aware that they are not being looked at.

Women care what men think about them. And men play an important part in how we feel about ourselves.

There’s been a lot of talk in popular psychology about the effect that fathers have on their daughters’ self-esteem. There’s a really touching blog post from US pastor Sammy Adebiyi about feeling an overwhelming sense of helplessness about his young daughter’s view of herself.

He prays:

“Please God. Spare my daughter from the battle against insecurity.
I never want her to not feel pretty/good/beautiful/smart enough.”

Good fathers feel the responsibility of ensuring their daughters feel good about themselves.

I did a survey earlier this year to find out what women feel about their own bodies. And I was struck by the fact that a large proportion of married women, or those in long-term relationships, felt good about themselves because their husbands often told them they were beautiful.

I am single; and I unconsciously fall into the trap of believing that I have to look the best I possibly can in order to attract a husband. So I was really intrigued to realise that the beauty issue continues even when you’ve ‘bagged a man’.

I’m reading Rachel Held Evans’ brilliant book A Year of Biblical Womanhood at the moment, in which she critiques controversial US pastor Mark Driscoll’s view (for which he has since apologised) that women need to stay as hot as possible to keep their husbands’ attention.

He wrote, following revelations that US evangelist Ted Haggard had admitted “sexual immorality”  in 2006:

“It is not uncommon to meet pastors’ wives who really let themselves go; they sometimes feel that because their husband is a pastor, he is therefore trapped into fidelity, which gives them cause for laziness. A wife who lets herself go and is not sexually available to her husband in the ways that Song of Songs is so frank about is not responsible for her husband’s sin, but she may not be helping him either.”

I love Rachel’s dismissal of the sentiment. She writes:

“Both husbands and wives bear the sweet responsibility of seeking beauty in one another at all stages of life. No one gets off the hook because the other is wearing sweatpants or going bald or carrying a child or battling cancer. Any pastor who claims the Bible says otherwise is lying. End of story.”
So, married women and women in relationships: do you feel a responsibility to be both holy and hot for your husband or boyfriend?
Do you find that you seek his approval?
Do you long for him to tell you you’re beautiful more often?
Or do you long for him to shut up about how beautiful you are?!
All other women: do you seek the admiration of men?
Why do you think that is?
How have the men in your life affected how you see yourself?
Over to you…
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8 thoughts on “The admiration of men

  1. As a married woman I dont feel my confidence/self esteem/value/beauty are dependant on my husband’s compliments, which is a good job as his main way of being loving is to do jobs for me. Having previously been married to a horrifically abusive man, I know the significance of how words and being devalued can damage a person, however my value is no longer dependant on external views of me, whether my husband or anyone compliments me, but on the truth that I am valued by He Who Is.

  2. I have never had any confidence in how I have grown up as a person. I started looking online for my self worth from men, from older men who would tell me how beautiful I was and how much prettier than their wives or girlfriends, and it got really graphic. I felt disgusted with myself, but when it came to being in a relationship myself and my partner would tell me I was beautiful, I’d always have in my head the phrase ‘yeah but who else are you saying that too’. It’s become an addiction that plagues me everyday, but I’m breaking through with the help of a persistent boyfriend (and nosy- hacked onto my laptop to get to the bottom of my issues!), and with God showing me that there’s beauty outside of sex, and I’m getting more confident.

  3. Re: “I have formed a new habit of watching men watch beautiful women on the tube. They just can’t seem to help themselves! And I wonder how having all eyes on her affects the Beautiful Woman. But I also wonder what effect it has on the women who are painfully aware that they are not being looked at.”

    I think women may well be too tired (after work), too busy reading a book or newspaper, watching handsome men or thinking about all sorts of stuff to realise that they are not being watched by men on the tube. I think if a woman is painfully aware of not being watched then she can remind herself that there are only certain men who she herself will watch on the tube (there are men who will be painfully aware that they do not get watched on the tube I’m sure). Plus, it’s not always obvious – both men and women can watch quite discretely and may even stop watching if they suspect that the person they are watching has/will spot them.

    Re: “I am single; and I unconsciously fall into the trap of believing that I have to look the best I possibly can in order to attract a husband. So I was really intrigued to realise that the beauty issue continues even when you’ve ‘bagged a man’.”

    I think that physical attraction is a factor when it comes to relationships so I understand wanting to look one’s best in order to attract someone. However, I also think that it is not such a good thing to look as best as one possibily can. I have this idea that if someone looked their absolute best when they first met a person then they’ll have to look their best every time they meet that person or else the person might realise that they don’t actually fancy them. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way suggesting that looks are the only thing that count! It’s just that we are focusing on looks in this particular post.

    I do think that both husband and wife should not let themselves go once they’ve ‘bagged a woman/man.’ I think it is good to make the most of one’s looks for oneself and for one’s partner but I certainly do not agree for one moment that not looking after one’s appearance is any reason for one’s spouse to cheat.

  4. At the moment, I can’t say I feel a responsibility to look ‘hot’ – I’ve spent the last year either pregnant or with a young baby and you kind of forget about how you look when firstly, your body’s changing more than it ever has before and secondly once the baby’s arrived, you feel constantly exhausted! I remember when I was heavily pregnant and my husband told me how great he thought I looked one day – I was pleased and happy, but it wasn’t something that I was obsessing over. When we were first dating I really used to seek his approval and was very anxious about the way he saw me, and the way men in general saw me. I had very low self esteem. This changed a good few years ago and I find that I’m now really unbothered by all that. I feel secure in our relationship; I know he finds me attractive, I don’t need to hear it every day – but it’s nice if he takes the time to tell me!

  5. I’m SO sorry I’m just now seeing this. You tweeted me on the weekend of my one year wedding anniversary and we were away.

    I love this and know what it feels like to never be “looked at” as beautiful. Because of this not much has changed since I got married, except that now the only person which I care about (my husband) tells me I’m beautiful and I believe it 🙂

  6. As a single woman I have a desire to be seen and to be recognized as beautiful by a man that I love and loves me.

    But I don’t know how much I need the admiration of men that I am not in a relationship with. I mean its nice to know that you are attractive, especially as you approach 30. However, I really don’t care to hear I am beautiful from men I have started to date or are interested in me, or are being nice. I dismiss the compliment. I know I’m beautiful. So the compliment coming from men I am not in an intimate relationship with has no power.

    What is intriguing to me is the power of being called beautiful. This hunger that needs to be filled by the men in our lives. I hear constantly that men should tell their daughters that they are beautiful because there is a fear that they will seek beauty out in sex with bad men or grow up with low self-esteem. Is this true in all cases?

    My beauty story is that my father encouraged intelligence and good character. And my self-esteem was based on these things. I was the smart and intelligent girl. I liked boys. But I wasn’t interested in them until university. And I didn’t care too much about being beautiful versus being fashionable, But then I met a man. And then this hunger to be seen and recognized suddenly developed….

    Lovely post. 🙂

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