I have had so many thoughts on body-image swarming through my mind lately. After some of our team members at Kindred Grace opened up about it in April, my sisters and I had a long conversation about how we really talk to ourselves. Since then, every glance at the computer screen seems to be met with articles about eating disorders, health, pornography, lust, accepting one’s self, the approval of man and all of the many other topics that I’m realizing spurn from how we each see our own bodies.
It is one of those things I wonder if I could write a book about (but quickly realize many people already have!) because the more I think about it, the bigger the topic becomes. I used to think of body-image as something we talked to junior-high girls about to help them through their awkward stage. After that, my philosophy was always something between “God loves you, no matter what you look like” and “get over it already!” In short, I saw little value in discussing something so shallow and carnal as how a person sees his or her own physical body.
But then I grew up. And by grew up, I mean, made it through puberty. Was the body image message dead to me now? I felt pretty good about myself. I mean, I was no supermodel, but that was okay with me. I wore what I wanted and continually thought less and less about what my peers thought about me. I had this body image thing in the bag!
And then I started gaining weight. For the sake of honesty and clarity, I will say that I went from being a very small, underweight (though healthy) person, to being a slightly more average-sized person. In other words, I wasn’t fifteen anymore. Sit-ups were no longer second nature. Dessert no longer vanished into thin air. Then the strangest thing began to happen: I realized I had never been truly confident in my identity in Christ after all. I had been confident in my thinness.
While telling myself that I didn’t care what society told me to look like, I was secretly comforted by the fact that I happened to fit much of society’s criteria. Primarily: I was skinny. Maybe I was also pimply, flat-chested and gangly, but no one could call me fat. That made me confident, and the slight change in the scale pulled that rug right out from under my feet.
I began to realize how negative my self-talk was. “Well that’s lovely.” I’d say to my morning mirror. I’d get angry trying to fasten my jeans. I’d untag myself from unflattering Facebook pictures in which I thought my stomach was bulgy. I was nit-picking my own appearance.
And this from a girl who has been raised in a great, Christian home by parents who had always called her beautiful. This from a girl with super supportive friends who never criticized her appearance. This from a girl who weighs less than average.
Is this not the result of fashion magazines and photo-shopped movie stars? Is this not the crazy sort of thoughts that bring about eating disorders? Why are we ever shocked by those who starve and gag themselves when their whole lives, the world has been telling them they’ll never measure up? And what’s worse, that they’re unloveable. Look at the check-out line and you’ll find two things on nearly ever magazine: how to lose weight and how to get men and be sexually satisfying to them. The two are inseparable. It’s not about health, but about market value.
My mind reels with thoughts about innate worth and sexism. My heart weighs heavy with stories of girls on hospice, literally starving because they’re convinced, deep within their spirit, that they are fat. And life is just not worth living if you’re not a beanpole with balloon boobs.
I am linking at the bottom of this post to some recent posts that have inspired me and given me food for thought. As I said, the topic just gets broader and broader the more I think about it! Through all this, one thing has finally come to the surface of my mind and that’s what I’m going to close with.
Whether you are fat or skinny, confident or mortified, black or white, tall or short, selling yourself or hiding your skin, health-nut or couch-potato, there is one thing we must all remember: You are not a body.
You are not disfigured just because your body is disfigured. You are not unacceptable just because your body has been rejected. You are not unpresentable just because you’re hair is never like you wish it would be. You are not lacking just because you’re thin, you are not too much just because you’re heavy. You are not wasted just because you’ve shown yourself to the world, you are not unlovely just because nobody’s ever told you so. You are not a body.
You are a soul.
A living, spiritual being. Your body is simply your place of residence. A body is not a house. Tea is not a teacup. What use is a teacup without the fragrant, warm tea to be poured inside?
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and all the eyes turn away, are you ugly? Our eyes can only see the exterior! O, if we could see your soul!
What is Your Foodview? by Jenni Marie
Dear Miss Indiana: Thank You for Loving Your Body by Emily T. Wierenga
On Body Image and Self Worth at Design for Mankind
Moms, Put On that Swimsuit by Jessica Turner
How to Teach Beauty in a World that’s Blind by Natasha Metzler
What Makes You Beautiful by Bailey B.
Is Physical Health a Spiritual Issue? by Tyler Huckabee
How sexism plays in:
Women Swiftly Running Out of Things that Aren’t Sexy @ Patheos (*minor language)