The funny thing about bodies is that we all have one. We’re all given the same parts that serve the same functions. There is nothing new under the sun. Why is it then, that we can find so much dissatisfaction with our own bodies? Let’s be honest. Every woman struggles with disapproval about at least one part of her body. Yes, even beautiful women. Yes, even super models.
There is a turning point, somewhere around puberty (maybe before), where we become aware of our bodies, and especially the flaws of our bodies: maybe due to someone pointing them out, or maybe from comparing to friends or people in magazines or on social media. Regardless of how it comes about, from that moment on we engage in a life-long battle for our own body self-acceptance.
One of the most insidious detriments to our body image is the comparison factor. We are constantly assessing and comparing ourselves to those around us. How do we measure up? Now add airbrushed models or actresses into that comparison trap, and it becomes a battle that is completely unwinnable.
In order to combat our own insecurities, there are a few strategies that we tend to use: engaging in dieting and exercise, seeking validation and attention, or hiding our flaws through clothing, make-up, or surgery.
Although the above strategies seem like they will provide you with confidence and self-assurance, they are only a thin mirage. Even when you meet your self-imposed goals, you’re still just you. No amount of weight loss, liposuction, firming or tucking can change that.
If you read my earlier blog post about thinking patterns, Thoughts, Thighs, and Tollbooths, you know that the things we think about create pathways in our brains. If we dwell on negative thoughts long enough, there will be a cost to our minds, bodies, and relationships. How then can we shift perspective about our body image?
On exercise: Our bodies are our own personal power packs with which we accomplish life. With them we can live, move, feel, see, and hear. We can experience the world in a sensory way, and move about, solely due to this body that we often take for granted. When our thoughts about our bodies are skewed, exercise can become a demand, almost a slave driver, rather than the freedom that movement was designed to be.
A passage of Scripture that I have found particularly helpful in this area is found in I Timothy 4:
Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.I Timothy 4:7b – 8 ESV
These bodies we have on this earth, although incredible gifts, will one day age and die. Unfortunately, no amount of fighting it will change that, due to the laws of sin and death, and no amount of exercise in this life carries over to eternity. There we will have new, glorified, radiant bodies, free from pain, wrinkles, and death! Praise the Lord! So, rather than putting an overabundance of attention on physical training, for the purpose of weight loss or “toning,” we might be better served by placing our focus on growing our spiritual lives in Christ, which has eternal value.
On food: I’m sure this is a controversial statement, but as someone who has both battled an eating disorder, and now works as a counselor, my motto is: “there are NO BAD FOODS.” Placing foods in categories can begin a slippery slope of rules. Black and white thinking about food can easily lead to an unhealthy relationship with food.
Have you noticed that eating is a major part of social events and living in community? Families discuss their days around the dinner table. When we feel we have to eat a restrictive diet, or eat in isolation due to shame, we can miss out on family, friends, church, and community functions. Food is life-giving. Enjoy it. We want to fuel our bodies well so we have the energy we need for life!
Seeking balance is the key: all things in moderation. I love I Corinthians 10:31 (in the picture below), because it provides great context for seeking the Lord’s glory in all things, even food.
On negative body perceptions: How can we fight against our own negative thoughts? Particularly when it comes to self-image, this is a hard task.
One strategy is to talk back to negative thoughts, taking them captive to Christ. If you find it too difficult to combat the thoughts using your own self-talk, find a Scripture that relates to your area of struggle, and use it to fight those negative thoughts.
Another tactic that can help shift perspective is to reframe the thoughts from condemnation to gratitude.
Don’t like those stretch marks on your belly? Praise the Lord that your body carried the babies who gave them to you. They are like sweet tattoos documenting the little lives who grew inside of you.
Hate the flab on your thighs? Thank God for those sturdy thighs that provide support to your whole body. They contain some of the largest muscles in your body, and without them you would be unable to stand, walk, kick, or squat.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.Romans 12:1
The enemy gains so much ground in our lives in the areas of shame surrounding our own self-image. It’s really hard to do this work alone. I believe it’s incredibly important to lift each other up in this area and to bounce our skewed thoughts off of others who love us and care for us no matter the weight, size, shape, or strength of our bodies.
Pause: Take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Read II Corinthians 4:7-18. Read it through slowly, out loud, then silently the second time. Highlight any sections that stand out to you.
Renew: Journal/Think/Pray about the areas of your own body image that you think may be out of alignment. How do the above verses change your perspective about your body image?
Next: If you find that negative body thoughts are taking up an unhealthy amount of time in your life, consider ways that you can begin to find freedom from self-condemnation. Find a trusted friend, mentor, family member, or counselor with whom you can talk about this issue. If you know that the struggle is deep enough that you need a professional, please seek out someone trained in the areas of body image, eating disorders, or trauma.
May you be free to see the beauty and value of your body and to use it for His glory!
Pause, Renew, Next!