Stop Hating Yourself
It’s summertime and as a woman, there’s this unsaid, underlying pressure that begins to mount. All of us start thinking,
“Oh gosh..it’s getting hotter outside. I am going to have to get a bathing suit. I can’t do it. Not this year. This year, I am going to stay inside all summer. Who needs skin cancer anyway? Or if I do go outside, I am going to wear one of those surfer body suits. Those are in, right? But they are kind of tight. Okay, I’ll just wear a grandma one-piece. I’ll actually borrow MY grandma’s one piece, because honestly, that’s what I should be wearing. Ugh, summer sucks.”
Don’t even play. You know, if you’re a girl, your train of thought followed that at least a little bit. I am guilty of it myself. Earlier this year I posted on Facebook something along the lines of “Trying on swimsuits...such a humbling experience.” And I am not going to lie to you. It was. I looked at my image in the mirror and it was like The Terminator eyes (if you don’t get that reference, go culture yourself and watch it). I dialed in on all the flaws and imperfections.
Stretch marks: from carrying a baby.
Saggy inner thighs: lack of working out.
Soft stomach: childbearing, lack of working out, genetics (let’s be real, a 6 pack ain’t coming easy).
I could go on and on. Then I put my clothes back on and vowed to never look in another mirror again. Pretty normal summertime routine for me. Anyone else?
Now that we have Facebook I get to see all my friends and non-friends innermost thoughts and feelings because we post them for the world to see! Turns out I am not the only woman who feels this way. Every year around May the posts pop up.
“Why do we have to wear bathing suits?”
“The struggle is real - swimsuit shopping.”
“Are wetsuits okay if you’re not a surfer? #momlife”
On and on and on they go. Normally they don’t bother me at all. I chuckle at them, hit "Like" to show my empathy and express how much I can relate. Again, pretty standard female stuff here.
But this year something started to change for me. Perhaps it's because I have a daughter now and I am living my life to ensure the healthiest emotional outcome for her or maybe it's because I am a youth pastor to a group of teenagers and am working so hard to help them develop into mature, confident Christians. I don't know but something is definitely rising up in me to say to women everywhere...
Stop. Hating. Yourself.
Recently there's been an online movement of feminist-body-image-redeeming stuff. Like the girl who was honest about how Instagram made her miserable. Or all the Dove commercials with plus-sized woman being confident in their shapes and figures. The Beautiful Body Project. All of that is great, really. I love it. But like society does with counter-cultural things, it's a flash in the pan and then it goes away. We all get inspired to throw away our diet shakes and weight loss supplements and then a week later we're back to self-loathing and drooling over our fitness friends on Instagram, wishing we were like them while we eat a chocolate bar on our couch.
Then there's the shaming going on. I won't even bother writing about it. It's horrible, mean, and distasteful. We are not to shame anyone (fit or not) about anything. We are not to judge (you all know that). So I am not advocating the shaming of women who work incredibly hard to be fit and toned and lean. Congratulations to you! You are an inspiration to many. You've done something with what you didn't like and got the results you wanted. You are healthy. Strong. Beautiful. And so is every other woman out there, myself included.
This post is for me. It's a reminder for me and for anyone else who has forgotten what God thinks about them.
As Christian women, in EVERY AREA OF LIFE, we preach, tout, and trumpet this message: God made you. He thinks you're beautiful. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are worthy, strong, and valuable. You're royalty, a daughter of the King. We say things like, "You make us brave.", "We are lovely to God." "I don't have to earn His love, I am His treasure."
If I went to any of my friends and said, "I think I am a stupid failure at life. I am a bad mom. I don't spend any time in the Bible, I am just the worst. I yelled at my kid today, my house is dirty, I am a bad wife." WITHOUT A DOUBT they would disagree on all fronts. They would spend time comforting me, encouraging me, building me up, and reminding me how great God thinks I am. As they should! Because, of course, none of that stuff is true. It sounds so ridiculously obvious that I don't have to go into any Bible reference or theology - we know that God approves of us. Even if it was true in the natural...even if I didn’t spend time in the Word or wasn’t a great mom or didn’t accomplish any of my life goals. At the end of the day, God loves us the same and thinks great things about us despite our performance.
But what about despite our weight or muscle tone?
I am frustrated that we are all working hard, holding conferences, writing books, songs, and sermons to express how much God loves us and how we all need to think the same way about ourselves as God thinks about us but when it comes to our physical appearance we allow ourselves to deviate from this seemingly very important principle.
We berate ourselves, talk negatively about our bodies, yearn to look like something else, concentrate on our flaws and yes, we even cry about what we look like in the mirror. We stop eating, work out more, take pills, shakes, and eat bars. All in the name of beauty? I don't want my daughter growing up to believe that her tummy is too round, or her legs aren't quite what they should be, or her triceps need to be more defined. I don't want her to think she's not gorgeous without makeup slathered on her face. If she wants to be a totally made up body builder, great. But I don't want her to need it to feel good about herself. I want her to feel beautiful when she wakes up in the morning, unashamed to be seen in public. Maybe that's wishful thinking. But I hope not.
I just can’t accept this standard anymore. Because the more time I spend with God and the further I go in my relationship with Him it doesn’t line up. He doesn’t say anywhere in His Word that we are to have perfect bodies, that we should have a “thigh-gap”, or washboard abs, or big breasts. Yep, I said it.
Song of Solomon 4:7 says,
“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.” It doesn’t say “There is no flaw in you, except your butt, stomach, and flabby arms.” There’s actually the opposite message in the Bible. Proverbs 31:30 says “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Wow, "beauty is vain". I’ll have to sit on that one for a while.
Here’s what I am not saying: I am not saying if you work out, you’re vain. If you’re fit, you’re vain. If you’re skinny, you’re vain. Not even close to what I am saying. Lots of women are naturally that way, or they genuinely love to exercise, body build, train, etc. And bottom line is it’s healthy! Our bodies were definitely meant to be active. Our hearts need it, the science behind it is undeniable. So hear me, I am not attacking the gym ladies.
What I would like to challenge is the why behind all of that. What is the motivation? If it’s because you want to feel strong and healthy, awesome! If it’s because you think you’re hideous with any ounce of fat on you, not so awesome. I know there’s a fine line I am walking here. And I guarantee someone is going to be irked or offended or whatever.
Why aren’t we loving ourselves the way we should?
Improving your body is one thing. Not being able to confidently look at your reflection, sport a certain type of clothing you’d like to wear, or compliment yourself is not healthy. I think we should all ask ourselves, “Even if I don’t have the perfect body, can I still love myself?
Does God think I am not perfect because I am not a size 2 or 4 or 6 (or whatever the ideal size is these days)? Are you beautiful to God without makeup on? Because who else are we called to please? Certainly not man.
Do you know the answer? Do you believe the answer?
And can we all just agree that the “perfect body” is a marketing scheme? Hasn’t it been long enough that we’ve allowed Victoria’s Secret commercials and billboards to dictate to us what we should look like? Who says that’s perfection? Who says that is beauty? In a lot of cultures big, plump women are the beautiful ones. Who is to say what is right and what is wrong? (P.S. I want to go to there. Haha!)
The older I get the more I realize that true beauty is simply confidence. If I can be confident in my “mom body” or whatever you want to call it. Then I am beautiful. If I am confident in my flaws, then I am beautiful. But again, they are only flaws if I believe they are. There is no universal standard for perfection or beauty. There is only what God thinks about us.
He is very pleased with His work.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
If I can end it all with this: I have not arrived. I don’t speak to put you in your place or correct you. I am in the same boat as so many of you. I have days where I count calories or wear leggings and a baggy shirt simply because I cannot bear for anyone to see how lumpy and soft I have become. I wonder where my tight, teenage body went. Then I do my best to remind myself that those thoughts will get me nowhere. That if I want to change it, I can work out hard and get results. But even if I don’t or if I am too tired from chasing my kids year old around, that’s okay. I am still beautiful.
Listen, I think you’re amazing. Wherever you find yourself. At the gym, in a Lululemon ad, 6 months pregnant, 20 pounds over your desired weight, 10 pounds under your desired weight. I think you’re really pretty. Have you seen yourself? You were made in the image of the Creator. He doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t think you’re ugly. The best news is: His opinion is really the only opinion that matters. Lucky you. :)
Let's make a promise to each other. Say it with me:
I refuse to hate anything about myself.
Now, go remind a gal pal how freaking gorgeous you both are!