On TV, the Duggar family may seem picture perfect, but in a new tell-all book the four oldest daughters Jana, Jill, Jessa and Jinger reveal even the squeaky clean daughters of this ultra-religious family are tempted by the sins of the secular world—such as sexual desires.
With the exception of “side hugs,” the stars of 19 Kids and Counting aren’t allowed any physical contact with men until they are married, but that isn’t to say they aren’t attracted to them.
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“God has created us to have a natural physical desire toward men. When these feelings arise, we thank God for making us ‘normal,’” the girls write in their recently released book, Growing Up Duggar.
“But during our single years, this physical attraction, if not carefully controlled, can also be one of the biggest sources of temptation and struggles.”
To tame these temptations, the girls control not only the situations they put themselves in, but also their thoughts, according to the book.
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“It’s easy to put yourself into physical and moral danger and give into these emotions or sensual thoughts that promise pleasant, but only temporary, fulfillment,” they write. “By censoring our thoughts through the filter of God’s word, we will be able to recant any wrong thoughts or temptations that try to sneak in.”
The girls take on relationships and sexual desires is especially interesting, considering 21-year-old Jessa is currently in a courtship—which the Duggars define as “dating with intent to marry”—with fellow church-goer Ben Seewald.
As the Duggar Family Blog puts it, “Jessa and Ben refrain from kissing or holding hands and always have a chaperone on dates, phone calls and even text messages.”
While their religion keeps the girls from taking part in a physical relationship until marriage, it doesn’t shelter them entirely from the issues that plague the secular world even though they “are home schooled and don’t watch TV or read secular magazines.”
“We’ve experienced some of those same negative feelings about the girl in the mirror that you may be feeling right now or have felt in the past,” they write in Growing Up Duggar. “All of us have gone through times when we’ve felt we need to lose weight.”
The girls recount specific stories about when they struggled with their own body image. Jill recalls an incident where she felt like a “total loser” next to her stylish sister Jessa.
She spent hours picking out a suitable outfit for church—only to be disappointed when she saw what her sister was wearing.
“Finally, I chose an outfit I thought was suitable… But when I walked out of the bathroom Sunday morning, dressed and ready to go, I noticed how great Jessa looked wearing an adorable outfit she had recently found at a thrift store,” Jill explains. “Suddenly, the outfit I had chosen for myself the night before seemed totally wrong. I wanted to look as cute as Jessa did.”
Even though Jessa was the stylish one in that story, she isn’t without her own problems when it comes to self-esteem.
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“I had friends who were really beautiful, and whenever we were together I compared myself to them and always came up lacking something,” Jessa writes. “I felt so ashamed and awkward that I couldn’t even talk to anyone about my feelings. I felt overwhelmed and stuck in that negative mindset.”
In addition to their own struggle with body image, the book reveals their mother, Michelle, was once bulimic.
Last week, the mom-of-19 spoke to the TODAY show about loving her body—and said she tries to instill the self-acceptance in her daughters because “a mama really sets the tone more than anyone else.”
And it sounds like she has a lot of great advice to offer her girls!
“We’re always going to find somebody skinnier than we are, somebody bigger than we are,” Michelle explains. “We go back to the point of who you are and how God made you—you’re not your sister. It’s all about being who God wants YOU to be.”
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