This one is a little tough to write, because I don’t really want to admit to this struggle. Though if I think about it, probably at least 50% of the female population can relate – I have some serious body image issues and terrible self confidence.
I think it probably started when I was in high school – I was homeschooled up until that point, and home was a safe place where I didn’t really have anyone to compare myself to and I was loved and accepted. We lived in the country and I loved farm life and I was definitely not a girly girl into fashion and makeup and looking good all the time. Transitioning to an all girls private school for high school opened my eyes to another world, and subsequently to my own defects, real and perceived. I didn’t have brand name clothes, I didn’t straighten my hair or wear lots of makeup or get manicures and pedicures. I wasn’t stick thin, wearing hip-hugging jeans and having that confidence. I didn’t have boyfriends and the social life that the other girls did. I didn’t know lots of pop culture things that most other girls my age did, and I stood out – comparatively, I felt like I was chunky, country, old for my age and just plain obvious.
This is my battleground to this day.
I went away to college and gained more than the freshman 15 – I kept an impossible schedule with pre-med classes and being an athletic trainer, had poor eating habits, and as it turns out, health issues that were lurking under the surface making things even worse. I was again at a private school full of beautiful people and I hated myself for the seemingly endless awkward phase I was in. I wasn’t thin, pretty or popular. I still didn’t have the right clothes, I didn’t party like my peers and I’m pretty sure I just didn’t know how to flirt or act the way college girls are supposed to act to be cool. All of my guy friends would say things like “You’re the kind of girl I would marry someday”, meaning I was dependable but was not the one they wanted to hang around for fun! I hated that I wanted to be the fun, pretty, popular girl and knew how superficial it was, but craved it anyway. I hated seeing myself in the mirror and I dreaded getting dressed, knowing I wouldn’t look right. I wrote angsty poems about not feeling worthy and being invisible in the Barbie world I found myself in. I was very blessed to find some true friends during this time who I am close with today, and I wouldn’t change that for anything – the thing is, I always knew what was real, and what wasn’t, but that didn’t stop the battle from going on inside of me.
When I came home from school, I had had enough of the way I looked and decided to fix it. I didn’t eat for long periods of time in order to lose weight. I felt powerful when I didn’t give in to hunger and hated myself for moments of weakness when I ate. I absolutely thrived on comments like “oh you’re so skinny!”, loved that my clothes started falling off of me and kept striving for the ideal in my head that would make me feel worthy and beautiful.
I never got there, no matter how much weight I lost, or how many comments I heard about how much I had changed.
The devil knows our weaknesses and preys on them. Even now, knowing that some of my issues were health related and out of my control, I abhor photos of myself from that period of my life. I still feel guilty and ashamed if I eat a cheeseburger. I spend too much time obsessing about my “wobbly bits”. I have to constantly refocus and tell myself what is important, sometimes hundreds of times a day. I remind myself that I’ve had a baby and surgeries and a crazy few years, but I’m so ashamed if I miss a workout or can’t fit my prebaby clothes. I imagine that my husband is disappointed in my appearance, when he really isn’t thinking anything of the kind. I know that this type of thinking is damaging to myself, my marriage and my faith. I am so focused on wanting to look like the women I see in ads and movies and commercials that I forget that I have been created uniquely in the image that My Father planned for me and I should be proud of that! I don’t want to pass this legacy on to my precious, beautiful daughter and am trying every day to be mindful of what I think and say. I remind myself that the Proverbs 31 woman was respected and loved for who she was, not how she looked. She was to be called blessed because she was industrious, thrifty, generous and wise, not because she had great abs and a thigh gap. I need to remember that the state of my soul matters more than my pants size or my love handles. I have to submit my thoughts to God daily because the battle goes on and my thoughts about my body are not pleasing to Him and are destructive and take my focus away from what I should be concerned with for His glory.
I have to confess that a major turning point for me in understanding how far this had gone in my heart and mind was when I found myself silently judging other women….”She shouldn’t wear that because her thighs are too big“. “If she only lost 20 pounds she would be beautiful“. “Oh wow, check out that muffin top! I bet she doesn’t eat healthy“. I was so ashamed of the way I was seeing and judging other women and knew that I needed to be much more proactive about my thoughts and my attitude, especially because that was exactly what I was afraid of people doing when they saw me! I want to be healthy, and obviously I want to be a fit mom, but more than that, I want to show my daughter that we are all beautiful because of who we are, and because of Who created us, not what we look like. I have a secret Pinterest board of photos of women I’d like to look like. That’s not a healthy way to live! I should have a board of things I’d like to BE – kind, generous, loving, patient. The wife and mother who creates a peaceful, loving and calm home. Remembering to be thoughtful, sympathetic and considerate of those in my life. Being smart with my money and a good steward of what God has blessed me with. Raising up a little lady who is loving and kind and makes a difference in this world. Those are the things that matter, and I need to remind myself of that moment by moment if it’s necessary to win this battle. I need to focus on God and let the Holy Spirit help me remember the truth in the fight against the lies.
Can you identify the battleground in your life? Knowing is half the battle….you can arm yourself with whatever truth you need to win, and you will win, even if you have to start again every single day and fight it out. Writing this all down and telling you doesn’t mean I’m done fighting…it just means I’ve finally identified that this is something I have to be proactive about and take control over so I can win.