Body image is one of the greatest struggles that we ladies face in this day and age. We’re constantly pumped with advertisements from social media, TV, magazines, and movies about beauty enhancements ranging from botox injections, to weight loss supplements, cellulite cream, lip plumping gloss, breast enhancements, teeth whiteners, liposuction, hair straightening products, you name it. To top it off, most, if not all of the celebrities and models that we see in said ads have been a) made over with the best makeup, hair and fashion team and b) photo shopped so that they have youthful skin, whiter teeth, a smaller waist and slightly larger breasts, without an ounce of cellulite in sight. Do you know what all of these things has in common? They aren’t REAL, yet we desire them and allow them to influence us as if they were! Underneath all of that makeup, perfect hairstyle, trendy clothes, and photo shopped images is a young woman just like you and me. The saddest part about all of these enhancements is that they are bandaids. In most cases, they are covering up – we are using them to cover up – symptoms that are a result of serious inner issues that so many of us don’t want to face. Most of us want to run far, far away from the things of our painful past like trauma, abuse, rejection, shame, unworthiness, insecurities, failures and fears. Some of us aren’t even at a place where we can openly admit our issues or that they might be driving us to do things or act a certain way. That’s ok! Jesus will always get to the heart of the matter. My story will prove it to you.
I’ve personally struggled with body image issues for most of my 37 years on earth. The Lord has graciously brought me through some incredible healing in the last 7 years, but to say I’m at 100% would be lying to you. I am still in process – “far from who I once was, but not yet who I’m going to be (anonymous).” My story started as a young girl. I don’t remember thinking or caring much about my body until I was 10 yrs old. I spent a lot of time with my Aunt who lived down the road from us. I vividly remember trying on my dance recital costumes for her one day, while she took pictures of me modeling them. She used a Polaroid camera, so we got to review the developed pictures quickly. For some strange reason, she decided to tell me that I looked fat in those pictures. She also told me for the first time ever that I was a fat baby. What do you say to that? “Ok?” “Get lost, lady!” “I’m out of here!” I remember feeling shocked, confused and slightly unloved. “Why are you telling me this? And why are you bringing up my being fat as a baby? Aren’t most babies fat?!” Needless to say, I was hurt. That hurt continued to grow, considering that I spent a significant time of my life with this aunt whom I loved dearly. She definitely added more joy to my life than pain, but she randomly brought up the fat subject every few months. It’s like I couldn’t break free of her reminders, nor did I ever speak up and try to.
As I grew older, I became passionate about all things fashion. I had several fashion magazine subscriptions, and what I didn’t have, my girlfriend’s did. I thoroughly enjoyed looking through them, cutting out pictures and making collages for my bedroom walls. Having access to numerous fashion magazines doesn’t sound like a big deal until you consider that I was constantly comparing myself to the tall, super skinny models inside. I was 6’0 tall at the time, and people constantly said, “You should be a model. You should really consider modeling. Have you ever thought about it?” In the back of my mind somewhere, I started taking notes from these frail, skinny images I was feeding myself. And then, I had the chance of a lifetime! A well known modeling agency came to a town near ours, and they were calling all women under a certain age and over a certain height to come in for an interview. “Score! That’s me! I could be a model! This could be my chance!” Little did I know that all of us ladies with modeling dreams would be herded like cattle and put on display for what seemed like a whole 5 seconds. There was no talking, no walking, no getting to know me, just standing there while professional people stared at and examined me and my body. The verdict? Denied! “Come back when you’ve lost 10 pounds.” “10 pounds! Where do I have an extra 10 pounds to lose? I will look sickly!”
There are so many more stories in my lifetime that are similar to these two. The enemy of our lives certainly set me up to hate my body on numerous occasions, and He was relentless. He came at me from every angle! He used people, situations and circumstances to tell me one more time that I was fat. I became obsessed with full length mirrors and would constantly stare myself down to make sure I didn’t look fat. If I did look fat, I would change clothes and start all over. While there, I would also pinpoint every ounce of cellulite and flaws and remind myself that I needed some serious work in that area. Somewhere in there, I decided that I had chubby cheeks. My sweet, innocent cheeks became a focal point of my self-hatred. I also remember drinking Slim Fast for a while as a teenager to lose weight. It wasn’t enough that I danced and played basketball and softball, with 2-3 hour practices most days of the year. It wasn’t enough that I was 6’0 and weighed 145 lbs. Nothing was enough, if I’m honest. I don’t think any amount of weight loss, cute clothes, makeup, slim cheeks, a modeling career, could ever convince me that I was beautiful. I learned to focus on all of the bad and ugly of my body to the point that I didn’t even believe people when they complimented me. I thought they had some issues of their own if they thought I was attractive. Heartbreaking!
I left my teenage years in south GA, and eventually graduated college with an Exercise Science degree. I became a personal trainer and landed some excellent jobs, but little did I know, the industry would be tough. I never thought about vanity and personal training going hand-in-hand, but vanity is rampant among the industry. I couldn’t escape it! I couldn’t ignore it! It was literally in my face 24/7. I was eating, breathing, sleeping, talking exercise and nutrition, how to have a six pack, how to get rid of fat, how to have perfect definition, how to have perfect everything (on the surface), all while being surrounded by floor length mirrors. The external pressure to look a certain way was brutal, ladies, absolutely brutal! I didn’t realize how damaging it was and how much it had encouraged and enabled my very broken body image until I met Jesus.
I was raised on The Word, and we attended church and Sunday School every single week. However, in all of that religious involvement, I never met Jesus face to face. I didn’t know what it meant or what it looked like to have a relationship with Him. Even though I couldn’t see Him there, and even though I didn’t know Him, He was in every moment of my life, pursuing me every step of the way. He was even more relentless than the Devil! (Jesus always wins! Yes!) I met Jesus for real, face to face, in 2010 and He started wooing me passionately. The more I got to know Him, the more He revealed who HE said I was, what HE thought of me, what HE had for me. His pursuit of me was/is unparalleled and unmatched. There’s nothing like it! Jesus removed the veil of lies from my eyes, and I started seeing things for what they were. I vividly remember some of my femaleclients talking one day after boot camp. They were pinching their thighs and telling me with such disgust how much they hated them – how fat and gross they were. It wrecked me! I remember wanting to weep and cry out to Jesus right there because those women were some of the most beautiful creatures I’d ever known, inside and out. I felt so overwhelmed and sad for them and for God. He made them and crafted them so beautifully, but in their brokenness they couldn’t see the truth. When I went home that day and got before the Lord, He told me that I treat myself the same way. I cried my eyes out! He got my attention in a whole new way.
Ever since I met Jesus and the other guy of my dreams, Courtney, I rarely get away with negative thoughts, comments or attitudes about my body. They hold me accountable and remind me of who I am and how I am seen by my Daddy God, my Lover, Jesus, and my Precious Friend, Holy Spirit. The Lord also taught me about and healed me from the deep rooted issue of unworthiness that the enemy kept using against me to keep me in that wretched, broken place of hating my body. Now I know that I’m worthy – NOT because of anything that I’ve ever done, but because of everything that Jesus did for me. He died for me! He gave up everything for me! He’s worthy and because I am in Him, and He is in me, I am worthy.
If any of my story resonates with you, I challenge you to get before the Lord and ask Him what is the root that is keeping you in a cycle of self-hatred/condemnation. If that feels scary, then grab some Godly leaders, and ask them for help. Pay attention to what you say in front of the mirror and what kind of beauty enhancements you’re reaching for and why. In the meantime, I want to tell you this, and I want you to receive it: God created your cheek bones in that place for a reason. He made you the height you are for a reason. He created your breasts and your thighs perfectly. Your hair texture and color is on point and those eyebrows are on fleek. (Wink!) Your eyes are beautiful, your nose is perfect, your lips are kissable and oh, that smile! Girl, you are GORGEOUS! You are STUNNING! You are worth DYING FOR! I know because you were created by The Creator of the Universe, and He certainly doesn’t make mistakes. You were made in the very image of God, and when He finished making you, He saw you and said it was very good (Gen 1:27, 31). You are fearfully and wonderfully made, beloved daughter of God. When you were made in secret, He skillfully chose your colors and wove you together (Ps 139:13-15). You are the work of His hand. As the Potter, He carefully and purposefully molded and shaped you, the clay (Is 64:8). God knows the very number of hairs on your head and you are extremely valuable to Him (Matt 10:29-31). So glorify God in your body because it is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you, whom you have from God. You were bought at a price and are not your own (1 Cor 6:19-20). Jesus died for your sins, including unworthiness and body image issues, once and for all. (1 Peter 3:18) He was wounded, crushed and chastised for you and by His stripes, you are healed (Is 53:5). Seek His face and let Him do a work in you, so you can walk in complete healing and freedom.