My great, big, scary body-image question. No, more like a self-image question, because truly, my insecurities and short-comings and false notions revolve around more than just my physical form. But before I ask you the question, and in turn truly ask myself the question for the very first time, let me backup.
As stated in my previous post, I am a believer in the Author's sincere interest in my life; the tiny and the mighty, and everything that fits right in between. He romances, that is for sure. He also asks. He asks for my service, for my love, for my devotion, for my time. Recently He began asking me something I wasn't quite ready to hear. As a self-proclaimed victim of "seriously low self-esteem", I've created a life for myself that , in one way or another, revolves around how poorly I feel about myself. The trouble with this is that I have spent about 65% of my life feeling this way, so naturally, it has become somewhat of a character trait. My story is no different than anyone else, and honestly, that's not what I want to spend time sharing anyways. I will forewarn you in saying that this may or may not take two posts, and it may or may not be very esthetically pleasing to the English majors eye, but just stick with me.
Last week, a blogger that I follow began a series called 31 Days to Reclaiming Body Image (or something to that affect) and my immediate thought was, "yes, another thin, athletic, talented woman giving me advice on how to reclaim body image." And immediately I reminded myself that yes, it is possible for someone who has "all that I think will make me content" to have her own body issues too. So I swallowed my chill pill and kept on. With that topic lingering in the back of my mind one morning I felt challenged with a question.
What if you never change?
What if, for the rest of your days, you stay the very size you are right now?
Your waist doesn't get smaller, and definitely not firmer. Your boobs don't magically shrink and start defying gravity. Your skin keeps on keeping on in the pimple department.
While hating every fiber of this question, I also felt intrigued. It was almost as if a tiny shard of these lie-ridden glasses I've been wearing came loose and fell off. A little light of hope? A little glimpse of what might actually be my reality? So I kept mulling over this question, all the while poking and prodding each area of disdain... but with each day the pokes became a bit lighter, less hate-driven. Then I sat to do my BSF study. And I heard what was quite possibly written just. for. me. We are studying Matthew 4 this week. To save you my interpretation I will simply share the words directly.
"Self-control and trust in God must replace a determination to control their own situation and others. And a truly contented spirit has no room for an attitude of self-pity and complaint." Ouch. Remember back when you were in High School and instead of just feeling bad about yourself you also made sure everyone else knew how bad you felt about yourself? No? Well I do, because I did it often. See, that's the twisted thing about the deception of low self-esteem. It tells you that you really just feel oh so badly about yourself when in reality it's a serious pride issue. It's a way of making everything about you and not needing to feel guilty or prideful about it. I mean, how could you? You're the sad chubby girl with no boys that like you. Or so you say. As an adult this habit changes slightly, but at the core it is the same. Instead of friends at school hearing your woes, it's your husband, or your family, or your boyfriend. In an effort to trudge through this life, I've resolved to control the one thing I know how; my dislike of myself. Truly trust God? Have self-control? What are these things they speak of? Do I long for a truly contented spirit more than I enjoy my attitude of self-pity and complaint? This is just one of many pieces that the big question brings about, and yet another reason why I didn't want to answer it when asked.
"Will you put aside your self-centered life of urgent but empty pursuits and ambitions? Will you trust the One who offers God's acceptance and transformation to real security and peace? Your Savior and King is here for you." The society we live in offers a lot of quick fixes for a lot of things. Just watch an infomercial. Major results in minor [time, commitment, money, effort]. This has always been my beef with diet fads, which is why my story does not include many of those. I have, however, bought into exercise tapes (Hip Hop Abs, anyone? Insanity?), the fitness magazines, and endless pins on Pinterest. The basic idea in our culture is that everyone has a "better" that they could be. Or for me, "should" be. I should be:
- dress "hipper"
- be "more frugal"
- crunchier (or more "natural" for those who don't get what that means... mom...)
I could keep going. And let me clarify one thing. No one, and I mean no one has told me that I need to be these things. These are things that have been fed to me by the thief of joy and author of deception. He has no greater love than seeing me live a life controlled by pity and pride. Two key words stuck out to me in the above quote: acceptance transformation
In a life filled with Pinterest and Facebook and mommy-wars and living "naturally", what woman (or man) in their right mind isn't desperately searching for acceptance? In a world of crazy, fat-melting Amazonian fruits and fitness magazines and Crossfit, what person doesn't long to see their physical body transform? But the truth I am beginning to see is that the acceptance and transformation will never be found in these places. It is found in the quiet places. Places of solitude, places of love. Family, laughter, joy, this is where we can truly feel accepted because we can truly just be. And the more I take the time to place myself there, in those moments that truly matter, the more I will see my soul, mind and heart transform. This weekend was my High School reunion, and it was absolutely no coincidence (maybe more like a harsh joke) that I would be pondering this question while returning to the place that birthed so many of these insecurities. I'm not a makeover story, the girl who walks in the room and blows everyone away with her crazy weight-loss and gorgeous hair and clothes and blah blah blah. I'm just an older, more mature version of the same girl who shied away from cool kids and ate lunch by her locker. As Saturday progressed and my womanly nerves began to get a little wracked, I truly asked myself that question, "Is it okay if you don't change?" (I decided that while I might be willing to discuss my options on being okay with the state of my physical form, I do know that there are parts of my mental, emotional and spiritual form that I do not want to see stay the same. But that is a topic for another post.) As I made my way to the neighborhood Target I passed something that made me smile and remind God that I had, in fact, not forgotten our previous discussion.
I mean, what? This handmade sign, in a random person's front yard. Not a question. Not a call to confidence. Just the words that have been on my mind some five days or so. "Laura, your self-esteem is not found in anyone you will see while looking straight ahead but only when you look up." Needless to say, I made some giant leaps in acceptance that afternoon and resolved to enjoy myself no matter what. And I did. And the question still lingered.
So I will ask you the same question. If nothing changed, would you and could you be okay with that? If the answer is no, what are the things you do not want to carry into your life fifteen years down the road? Will these things hinder the way you love yourself, your family and your life? Will this drive a wedge between you and your Maker, the One who crafted you with such great care?
There are always ways to better ourselves, but I'm challenged to take a step back and see where I'm allowing my focus to lie. I always tell myself (and I know you do this too, so don't deny it), "Once I [do, make, lose, accomplish]_______, then I will finally be able to be content and put this whole big mess behind me." Another question to ask myself is, "If _____ changes, will I truly be content? Or is that an excuse to continue to look inward instead of out?"
I don't know about you but I've missed a whole lot of lives around me simply because I've been too busy feeling sorry for little old me. Some 17 years have passed and I can honestly say I do not want to spend another 17 replaying the same scenes.
So to that I guess I would like to ask you "My Big Question". Would you, could you, be content? (Cue the green eggs and ham.)
"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1)... not even a hot bod with killer hair and glowing skin. Not even an awesome "body after baby". Not one single bit of it. So to this I aim to remember that my body is a temple of the Holy of Holies. My husband and son deserve my very best. My future children deserve a healthy oven from which to be baked. So I must do what I can to take care of what has been given to me. But to these aims, not the aims of the society of which I live.
"Keep your lives free from the love of money (or beauty or societal acceptance) and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." " (2). Guys, this is really what He wants... for me, for us... to truly know that He will never leave us, even when we wish so badly we could leave ourselves. This is what life is about. Contentment in Him, because He is here for us.
Next time you look in the mirror, really look at yourself and ask. It might be interesting to see what you find.
To read more about the 31 Days of Reclaiming Body Image you can visit www.thelittleway.net
Verse references: 1. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 2. Hebrews 13:5