Body Image Issues:
Body image issues: I think just about every girl deals with it. Society & media set us up for failure. Here’s a description from Psychology Today:
Body image is the mental representation we create of what we think we look like; it may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us. That is, it is subject to all kinds of distortion from internal elements like our emotions, moods, early experiences, attitudes of our parents, and much more. Nevertheless, it strongly influences behavior. Preoccupation with and distortions of body image are widespread among American women (and, to a lesser extent, among males), but they are driving forces in eating disorders, feeding severe anxiety than can be assuaged only by dieting
I have fought this. Hard. I’ve prayed and prayed, reading verses, meditating on them. It used to be something that consumed the majority of my thoughts. I was caught in a constant cycle of comparison. I remember one time in the prayer room I decided I would ask forgiveness & look away every time I would look at another girl and compare her body (or any body part/area) to mine. I think that was the first time I realized how much this obsession had consumed me. I usually pace in the prayer room. I ended up just looking at the floor after I had asked forgiveness and redirected my eyes probably 50 times. It was then that I began the conversation with God about body image, self-hatred, and comparison.
It was then that I began the conversation with God about body image, self-hatred, and comparison.
You see, I ended up discovering that the three were all related and all destructive. Not only were they destructive to me, my soul, and my time & resources. But they were destructive also of my relationships. When you are constantly criticizing yourself, you will almost certainly be criticizing others. The way you love yourself will be directly correlated to how you love others. And by comparing, you are putting up walls between you and other females. They become a sort of enemy automatically. When their body or any part of their body “wins”, a sort of hate develops. You’ll even hear girls say this jokingly, “Look at your legs; I hate you!” Sort of a joke, but there’s some truth to it.
The Dance for Freedom
Another night, I danced in the “dance circle” (a sort of charismatic-specific outlet for Christian worship, prayer, and expression). This was definitely a dance of Mahanaim. Two worlds: heaven and earth were colliding. With force. This body image issue had reached a pinnacle moment in my life. Coming to realize that it was consuming my thought life, time, and energy not to mention affecting me in so many other emotional & relational ways, I was more than ready to be free. The prayer that I danced to was Psalm 119:25 and Psalm 119:37.
My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word….Turn away my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
I could feel it. My soul clinging to the dust of this world, to the dust of flesh. When I was SO MUCH MORE. I was body-yes, but I was spirit and soul too! This body was not even my eternal body. But my spirit and soul- those were eternal. I was giving entirely too much weight to a matter that had very little eternal consequence. My soul was clinging, but I desired so much to be free! To see things clearly and according to truth. According to His word. That desire fueled a dance. A dance that beckoned heaven. I beckoned heaven to help my soul unclench its fist from around a worthless obsession. I cried. Tears from the frustration. Something consumed me. Something that I didn’t want. I didn’t want my thoughts to swirl around in this meaningless cycle. I didn’t want to hate myself and to feel that I never measured up. I didn’t want the jealousy. But my soul was clinging to the dust.
And my eyes! The eyes are the gates and director of the soul. But I felt helpless; after all, I couldn’t stare at the ground every minute. I was looking at “worthless things” : size on my jeans, numbers on a scale, thinness of other girls, celebrities, and models. And how much are we under-valuing these women (and ourselves) when we should be measuring their worth not by appearance but as God does-by the inner person of the heart? So I danced, not looking at anyone. The eyes of my heart firmly fixed on the One who held my freedom. Eyes filled with tears, filled with desperation.
The eyes are the gates and director of the soul. But I felt helpless…
After that night, I didn’t really feel a change. I would love to tell you that God answered immediately, in power. But that didn’t happen. I believe something did happen on that night, but I won’t know the specifics on this side of eternity. But…over the next several years, there was a gradual shift in this area. Different verses would bring revelation, light, and truth to the area of body image. One key one was Isaiah 53:2 which says “…He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him…”. It dawned on me that GOD came to this earth and took on human form, and this form He chose to not be beautiful or even attractive at all. It really shows where this is on His priority list.
Another verse was from Isaiah 40 which says “… people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field…The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” Our time of beauty is “momentary”. Every human goes through a season where their skin is smooth, eyes are bright, body is nimble and fit (at least more so than later), but this season is short. And that beauty fades just like the flowers in the field when the next seasons begin. The question is when your fall and winter come, will the beauty that matters…matter. Might as well invest in the beauty that doesn’t fade. Sure-enjoy the springtime of your life. Enjoy the physical beauty that God gave you. It’s glorious! But it’s fleeting and that’s a fact. Before you know it, you will be wrinkled, dull, and misshaped. But the light & beauty of your spirit can grow brighter through the years.
Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 1 Peter 3:4
Verses like this started to really make sense to me. And over the years, my journal filled with written discourse with God on this matter. Then… the other day something happened. Have you ever gotten breakthrough on something, but you didn’t know it until some situation happens and your reaction is totally new. Well, that moment happened a few days ago. I was sitting at Starbucks with my daughter when a woman walked in. Tall, Tan skin, perfect makeup, long blonde healthy hair and with measurements probably something like 38-23-36. And I thought: “she’s pretty.” Then I thought! If I had to choose a body to have, it would be mine. I loved my body. Because it was mine. My body that was healthy-all the muscles I had toned through different workouts that I designed. My body that was fed mostly healthy things with some less healthy but absolutely delightful things. My body that had birthed my daughter and was now pregnant with my next baby girl. I loved my imperfections. They were perfect. And they were all mine. There was not a moment of self-hatred. Maybe a little comparison? But only enough to affirm the worth and beauty of both of us. I was amazed at this reaction inside. I began looking at every girl in that place. Having conversations, their eyes expressive and voices sweet. Dressed in their individual fashions. Even their postures were pretty and unique. I wanted to go up to each one of them and tell them how beautiful they were! When did this happen? This was the freedom for which I had danced. And now almost 4 years later, I felt it.
Then I thought! If I had to choose a body to have, it would be mine. I loved my body. Because it was mine… I loved my imperfections. They were perfect. And they were all mine. There was not a moment of self-hatred.
I still struggle sometimes, but it’s not a consuming obsession. I definitely have my moments especially during pregnancy because of the drastic changes in body and weight. I get frustrated when workout and eating changes don’t yield fast results. But I don’t hate myself, and I don’t compare my body to other women constantly. In my internal value system, the worth of inner beauty is growing while the worth of outer beauty is depreciating each day. Healing may not be complete, but it’s coming.
God cares about our freedom. He wants us free to love ourselves, others, and Him.