Being Kind to Your Body: Part 2
This is part two of a three-part monthly series on body image. (Get January's post by clicking here.) It’s easy to start the new year thinking that THIS will be the year when you’ll lose the weight and stop eating junk food and start working out more. But if we don’t first learn how to love and accept our bodies, no amount of fitness or dieting is going to change the shame and pressure we feel inside. It might provide temporary relief, but the insecure matters of the heart will still exist. So, let’s talk about it.
We’re kind of wired to look at people and immediately put them in one of two buckets: attractive or unattractive. Some people are endowed with better noses than others, some women have more shapely legs, and the most blessed among us have flawless bellies that never sag.
So it's just a fact of life that some people are more attractive than others, right?
I struggled greatly in my preteen, teen, and young adult life with immediately measuring every face I saw against the attraction ruler I borrowed from mainstream media. I made rash judgments within seconds of seeing a new face. And however I choose to rate someone’s attraction often determined how likely I was to believe their capacity to be intelligent, fun, and worth my time.
In college, my eyes were so conditioned to categorize people, especially women, that I turned into one of those closet mean girls who’d smile at someone in public, but then rip them to shreds in private with the BFFs around a bowl of chocolate with The Bachelor running in the background.
But here’s the hard truth I came face to face during my freshman year: Behind those mean words hid a girl who was so intensely insecure in the skin that stretched over her body that she used her words in an attempt to draw attention away from herself. It’s true that mean girls are often the most insecure of the bunch, and I fit that description more than I wanted to admit.
But I was tired of being mean, of feeling guilty over my behavior and ashamed of my words. And I was even more tired of looking in the mirror and thinking those same vile thoughts about myself.
So I wondered how I might begin to become more comfortable in the face and arms and legs dangling from this body of mine. Because I could not yet see beauty in my own self, I started by challenging myself to see it in others.
I wrestled with how to stop scaling others on their beauty upon first glance. In sifting through that, I uncovered an alarming realization. I realized that when I judged others, I was comparing them to someone else—a celebrity, a beautiful friend, some girl that I once brushed past in a bathroom line. I was comparing women to each other.
That was a lightbulb moment for me. No other way so quickly takes away an individual’s uniqueness than by comparing him or her to another human being.
God is full of creativity and when each of us is some kind of materialization of His creativity in putting together a certain face structure with one kind of nose and another kind of eye shape. He sees each one as unique, and in its uniqueness rests undeniable beauty.
So I started an exercise. Every time I saw a person, whether male or female. I looked at their faces fully. I forced away the tendency to compare them to the beauty that I thought I knew. I just looked, just observed.
Sure, some people may have thought I was nuts, but I could feel that I was on to something in my own heart.
So I kept looking. And what I saw were hundreds of different shapes and colors and combinations. I saw peculiarity and individuality and how freckles can frame eyes. And after a few weeks of practicing this on a daily basis, I began to see people just as. . . people. Not pretty versus ugly, not fat versus thin, not attractive versus unattractive. Just people.
One day while trying to pretend like I was making an effort on the stair climber, a girl walked in front of me. She was someone I knew, and someone I had previously pitied for her seemingly weak position on the beauty scale. I found myself thinking those same thoughts of, “Oh my, that poor girl. . .” I immediately felt guilty and forced myself to take another look.
Comparison aside, what did I see?
And in doing so, the manipulative pity I had felt for her faded because by not comparing her to others, I was able to see her uniqueness and her beauty.
I wonder if perhaps this isn’t how God always intended for us to see each other—as individuals, full of beauty in our own right. Not beautiful because we’re more ____fill in the blank____ than the girl next to us, just beautiful without any prerequisites, without any qualifications—beautiful simply because we exist.
The last step was for me to begin giving myself that same grace.
See when we exercise the habit of seeing and recognizing beauty in others, we free ourselves up from staking our personal claim of beauty on whether others have or don’t have it. We can change our inner dialogue when we fully believe our levels of beauty do not depend on whether or not someone else has beauty. My mindset on beauty began to heal when I realized that both my beauty and someone else’s beauty can coexist.
So I encourage you today, whether you’re privately or outwardly insecure. See yourself for JUST yourself. Forget the comparisons, the beauty standards, the friends, the faces on the TV that you wish you looked like. Look in the mirror and see just yourself. Pay attention to the details you find, the intricacies, the special bits of weirdness.
It’s what makes you YOU, and friend, I think individuality is the new beautiful. So celebrate what you find in yourself no matter how different or bizarre it may seem.
One small step at a time, we’ll start to settle into our bones and begin to be people that live freely.
In your corner,
Need More Encouragement?
Sign up with your email address below and I'll send you special monthly encouragements and accountability notes so we can both make the most of 2018. I can't wait to share this year with you!