I was 7 years old the first time I can remember believing that I was not good enough. You pinched my thighs and laughed while calling me “thunder thighs.” I was 7.
At 13, you sent a note around to all the boys in the class asking who they thought was prettier, me or you. You, my “best friend” at the time, acted shocked when all but 1 boy picked your name.
At 15, you stood over me and when I looked up at you to talk, you pointed at me, laughed, and said that I looked like “bugs bunny with a tan.”
At 18, you let go of my hand when we were walking in the mall, embarrassed to be seen with me because of the 10 pounds I gained the summer after high school. The next day you bought me Hydroxycut and a gym membership.
At 22, after I gained 30 pounds in 3 months due to undiagnosed PCOS, I officially understood fully that in our society, being fat is the worst thing you can be.
I can’t remember a time in my life where body issues have not consumed my thoughts. My entire life I have struggled with feeling like I needed to lose weight in order to matter. I have taken every diet pill possible, gone on fad diets, exercised obsessively, and starved myself. There are still times that I have a hard time eating in front of people, worried that I will be judged and laughed at. I sometimes wonder if people look at me and think “why is she eating?” Certain social events can produce an unnecessary amount of anxiety as I wonder what am I going to wear, how can I make myself look smaller, are people going to be taking pictures, do people think about my weight as much as I do, are they going to secretly point out my flaws. I feel like I have been on this lifelong emotional roller coaster where my self-worth has always been directly correlated to weight and body image.
I have learned though that it didn’t matter what size I was. I have been at both extremes – skinny in high school (though I didn’t realize I was at the time) and overweight after PCOS and depression took a toll on me. At both ends of the spectrum I still felt like I wasn’t enough, like I had nothing to offer. There has always seemed to be a higher level of perfection to strive for. And let’s face it, according to our society, I’m not enough. I don’t measure up in any way. But that’s not really the problem is it? The real problem is that somewhere along the way I was taught that my self-worth is directly linked to my body image. Through all the words that people have said to me, whether in jest or to validate their own self-worth in some way, the lie was planted in my heart at a young age that I couldn’t possibly have any worth unless I was physically perfect.
Being bound to physical perfection and body image is crippling. I can never be good enough when measuring myself against the world’s standards of beauty. Its an impossible goal to achieve really. How could anyone possibly meet this level of perfection when it’s always changing? I struggled for years knowing that I needed to get free from this way of thinking but not knowing how to. I tried so hard in my own power to forget what people had said to me. I pretended that I wasn’t affected by their comments, but deep down I continued to drown in this vicious cycle of self-loathing. But then I became a youth leader and things started to change. God broke my heart for what young girls go through and the damage that is done to their own self-image at such a young age. He began to speak to my heart and teach me that I could not help them find freedom while I was still bound. How could I tell a 16 year old girl that she is valuable and adored and treasured when I stood in front of the mirror that day and picked myself apart? How could I explain to her that she has so much more to offer this world than her body when I would cry while getting dressed because I hated the way I looked? So I began to fight for my own freedom, because fighting for my freedom meant fighting for her freedom too.
God has really taken me on a journey these last few years of understanding how to expose the lies that have been spoken over me and destroy them at their roots so they can’t regrow in my heart. And at the root of every mean word or action by the people listed above is satan’s desire to destroy my future and my destiny, to cripple my mind and inhibit me from becoming everything God created me to be. It has been a hard and slow process of learning how to break old habits and old ways of thinking. For so many years I allowed myself to be affected by what people had said or thought about me, and He began to show me that unless I died to the opinion of man, I would eventually die from the opinion of man. I had to replace the negative thoughts with the truth about who God says I am. When thoughts fill my mind that I’m not good enough or when old words that have been spoken over me and to me affect how I feel about myself, God gently whispers to me “your value is far above rubies and pearls.” When I’m in public and look around at everyone and start to compare myself and criticize who I am, I can hear Him tell me “daughter you’re beautiful.” He is (very) patiently teaching me to be kind to myself, to not be harsh and negative towards His creation. He reminds me that He knew me before I was formed in my mother’s womb and that I am a masterpiece to Him. He intimately knows me and loves me just the same. He is the creator of the universe and yet calls me His own. I am my Beloved’s and my Beloved is mine. And in that truth alone do I find my worth.
I’m so sorry if people in your life have not been loving and kind towards you. I understand what it’s like to hear words that cut through you and make you feel so worthless. But please listen to me – you matter. Who you are matters. You weren’t created on accident, and your presence touches more lives than you realize. Fight for your freedom. Understand that who you are is solely defined by Whose you are. There may be facts about us that just don’t measure up to the world’s standard of beauty, but the TRUTH is that we are unconditionally loved by a Savior who doesn’t care if we have a thigh gap or not. And that truth will set you free :)
Grief. The greatest equalizer of all mankind. Grief doesn’t care if you’re rich, poor, affluent, unknown, etc. It hits all of us at some point and when it does it can leave us reeling, trying to make sense of what happened and struggling to hold our heads above water. Grief can come from many different things in life. Loss of loved ones, tragedy, the death of dreams, plans, and hopes for the future. It demands our attention, demands to be felt and dealt with. Grief comes in waves. Just when you think that you are okay, the pain comes crashing back down on you, knocking you over and leaving you struggling to breathe once again.
My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to Your word – Psalm 119:28
So what do we do? How do we walk through life knowing that pain is inevitable? How do we keep from hiding and trying to protect ourselves from heartache and loss? I have asked this question over and over throughout the past two weeks. I have walked through my share of grief before, but so much has happened these past two weeks that I was caught off guard and found myself questioning God’s plans and promises. I found myself in a place where I didn’t even know how to pray or what to say. In two short weeks I have watched my family walk through sorrow and have felt as if my own personal dreams have died. Grief once again reminded me that it is no respecter of persons. Sadness and feelings of hopelessness have wanted to become my best friends, filling my head with doubts and fears.
I was reminded this week of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Three men of God who resolved to serve the Lord at all times. When King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that everyone worship his golden image, they refused despite the threats of death in the fiery furnace. When confronted by the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said something so profound. They looked the king in the eye and said “Our God will rescue us..but even if He doesn’t, we will not worship your golden image.” Even if He doesn’t, we will still praise Him. Even if He doesn’t, He is still good. Even if He doesn’t..
I will bless the Lord at all times: His praise shall continually be in my mouth. – Psalm 34:1
This is the answer isn’t it?! How we walk through seasons of grief, how we hold our heads up and refuse to allow fear to overtake us, how we continue to stand on God’s promises despite what things look like around us. The answer is found in the resolve to say but even if He doesn’t, I will bless the Lord at all times. The answer is found in the place where we can stand on God’s word, remember the things that He has done, and draw our strength from His very heart and character and presence in our lives. The answer is found in our deep beliefs that He is good at all times, no matter what happens. We have to understand that we live in a broken and fallen world and bad things happen. Life hurts and is hard and we don’t understand. But He is good. We lose people we love and our dreams can shatter in pieces. But He is good. We endure sorrow and trauma and tragedy. But He is good. May this always be my focus. May my eyes always look to Him and His goodness and faithfulness. May I determine to focus on nothing else, as Paul said, but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
But if not, He is still good. And that my soul knows very well.