I used to write mean things about myself in my journal. Mostly, it had to do with dislike for my appearance. I look like Carina, and, deep down, I believed that wasn’t okay. I thought I should look like the models splashed across magazine covers and the movies stars on TV. It wasn’t hard to see all the ways I didn’t measure up, and, somehow, I thought that body bashing would magically transform me into what I wished I could be.
Thankfully, the worst of my self-inflicted bullying was confined to my teen years. By my mid to late 20s I’d come a long way in accepting my appearance, but I still spent a fair amount of time being frustrated with how my body looked as well as how it functioned (in terms of energy, strength, etc).
Until one day it occurred to me how counterproductive that attitude is.
How does being frustrated with or complaining about my body help?
We have a relationship with ourselves—and our bodies—similar to what we have with other people. Imagine if you worked in an office setting and every few hours your supervisor popped her head in the room and said, “You’re doing a terrible job! You’re too slow, you’re ugly, and I hate you!”
Yikes! The quality of your work is more likely to plummet than improve. But this isn’t too different from what we women sometimes say to ourselves! We talk to ourselves and our bodies in ways we would (hopefully) never talk to another person.
We think hating on ourselves will motivate us to become what we think we should be. But it has the opposite effect. When we talk down to ourselves, we actually paralyze our progress.
Yes, there might be things we need to change or work on. Loving and accepting our bodies doesn’t mean that we don’t want to improve in certain areas—we definitely want to do our best to steward our bodies and be as healthy as possible. But if we really want to change and be the best we can be, we’re better off loving and accepting ourselves through the process of change. We will get better results when we encourage ourselves rather than berate ourselves. Rather than a punitive boss, we want to treat ourselves like a supportive coach: “You’re doing great! Good, now let’s just tweak this a bit here, do a bit more here…I’m proud of you!”
After realizing how unhelpful self-criticism is, I decided to start extending love, grace, and acceptance toward myself. Instead of disparaging my body for not being more energetic, I determined to nurture and support it while seeking to improve my health. Instead of wishing my legs or face were shaped differently, I chose to be thankful that I can walk and talk and see. These shifts in attitude completely changed my relationship with myself. Instead of just tolerating my body (my modus operandi for most of my 20s) I started to actually like it. I’m not sure my 15-year-old self would have believed that to be possible!
Now in my 30s, I’m actually happier with my appearance than I’ve ever been. That’s not to say I’ve got it all figured out! Learning to accept ourselves is an ongoing process. My body still doesn’t always look or behave how I want it too. There are still days when I struggle with comparing myself with what I see on TV or in magazines. But I’ve come a long way, and I’m thankful for that!
Perhaps the coolest things about this journey has been that learning to like my appearance hasn’t just made me happier about my body. It has also helped develop an affection and confidence in who God made me overall. And that’s a powerful stepping stone for moving forward in what God has called us to. Self-acceptance is a vital key to walking in our purpose; if we don’t accept all that God has made us—our bodies included—then we can’t develop into all He designed us to become.
In the middle of working on this post I listened to a great message by Havilah Cunnington, and something she said fits here so perfectly: “Self-acceptance…allows us to show up fully in our lives…it allows us to show up fully in our relationships.”
She went on to pose this question: “Have you ever wondered or thought about that maybe the way your hair is, your skin color, your eye shape, your body, your voice—all of that is connected to the plan and purpose of God for your life?”
God created you for a purpose and everything about you was crafted with that purpose in mind. You are the perfect package for your specific purpose! But how can we show up for our purpose, how can we be fully present in our relationships and our callings, when we’re rejecting and hiding parts of who we are?
If we want to live powerful, whole, authentic lives, we must learn to accept ALL of ourselves, our bodies/appearance included.
God didn’t give you your body by accident. And what He gave you is good! Let’s not let the pressure of culture and generic standards of beauty keep us from enjoying God’s good gift to us and or hinder us from His plans for us!
Okay, that’s cool, you may be thinking, but what do I do now? Good question! Stayed tuned because next week I’ll be sharing several practical action steps that have helped me learn to accept myself and I believe will be a great help to you as well.
I thank you, God, for making me so mysteriously complex!
Everything you do is marvelously breathtaking.
It simply amazes me to think about it!
How thoroughly you know me, Lord!
You even formed every bone in my body
when you created me in the secret place,
carefully, skillfully shaping me from nothing to something. Psalm 139:14 (TPT)
I want to hear from you!
What do you think about that idea that your appearance is linked to your purpose? How does this change your perspective on your body/appearance? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!
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