My body and I have had an up and down relationship over the years. Some days I look in the mirror and think, “Hey, Good-looking.” And other days it’s more like, “Wow, Yoda, is that you??”
No matter what I do, there have always been things about my body that I haven’t liked.
For one, I’ve got scoliosis (curvature of the spine). My spine is literally in the shape of an “S,” which means that my right hip sits higher than my left, making a lot of clothes fit weird and look weird. Plus, I frequently get questions from people about why I’m limping. I’m not. But the way my hips and spine are situated makes it look like I’m off-centered…because I am.
So, like many of us, I’ve spent my life strategically hiding the features of my body that I don’t like. I’ve used low-rise jeans and loose-fitting shirts to attempt to hide my curvy spine from the world as best as I know how. As much as I didn’t like my spine, I was glad that at least I had a smooth stomach.
Then I had kids. My belly grew fast & furiously, to the point where I got comments like “Whoa! You got twins in there??” from strangers on the street. “Nope, just one, thanks.” (P.S. It’s very dangerous to mess with a pregnant woman at the end of her 3rd trimester. I do NOT recommend it.)
After my first baby, I held onto hope that maybe my midsection would recover from the dramatic stretching. Then I had my second child and soon came to terms with the fact that my stomach would never be the same.
About a year and a half ago, we were on vacation and getting ready to go to the pool with our kids. I was getting ready in the hotel bathroom when I noticed my daughter Gwen, age 4 at the time, looking at my stomach…which was more than just a little wrinkly and way more saggy than it used to be. As I caught her eye, I recognized the power of this moment we were in. Instead of hiding it, or complaining about it, I smiled at Gwen and said, “I love my belly. Do you know why?”
She was intrigued. “Do you see how the skin is loose and wrinkly here?” I asked her, “That’s because my belly got REALLY big, not just once, but two times! And those two times brought me two of my favorite people in the whole world…you and Elle. So I love this belly. I’m very proud of it.”
She smiled and reached out to gently touch it. I didn’t cringe or pull away. I let her rest her two, perfectly smooth-skinned 4-year old hands on the loose, wrinkly skin on my midsection and imagine in her young mind how it looked all stretched out, when she was inside.
She looked up at me and smiled.
And I realized something powerful in that moment. Loving my body is about so much more than just me.
With every word I speak, I’m teaching my little girl that beauty is not skin deep. I’m teaching her that the stretch marks and scars and extra weight and freckles and curvy shaped spine and all the physical traits that adorn our earthly bodies do not define us. But rather the mindset we choose to embrace towards all those things is what shapes us.
I’m teaching her that the marks on our bodies are a beautiful part of the history of our lives. A reminder of the wonderful times we have enjoyed and the difficult times we have pushed through and made it to the other side. Our bodies are beautiful, not because of how they’d hold up in a magazine spread, but because they are an important part of who we are. And We. Are. Inherently. Deeply. Completely. Unarguably. Valuable.
I’m also teaching her that we don’t love people…ourselves included…because of how they look. But that our love goes much deeper than that. We see people for the fullness of who they are. We don’t judge them by their weight or the color of their skin or the scars they bear. We love them because they were created in the image of God and He has chosen to love all of us with a sacrificial love. And we can love that way too.
What does it mean to truly love your body?
When I meet with married couples, we talk a lot about love. We talk about how love is an active choice. A holy covenant. A lifetime commitment. It’s not dependent on circumstances or outward appearance or emotions. It’s a choice. And it’s totally worth it.
So why do we treat our bodies like a cheap date rather than a lifelong, committed love relationship? We hold such high expectations for our bodies, without regard to the bigger picture of who we are. We look at our body in the mirror with disappointment, shame or disgust, rather than with honor, gratitude and affection.
Your body is an important member of your family. It enables you to hug and kiss the people you love most, to carry the little ones you adore. To throw your head back and laugh with your best friend and to melt into the arms of the one you love.
Think about the people you love most in your life. Do you love them because of their thin bodies and smooth, flawless skin? Or do you love them because of who they are?
I know it seems like a ridiculous question, but when it comes down to it, the way we treat our bodies is a bit ridiculous.
Your value is NOT in the size of your jeans or the curve of your hips….or your spine. It’s not in the smoothness of your midsection or the tightness of your glutes.
Who you are is so much more valuable and so much deeper than all those things.
The problem is that we think of loving our bodies as more of an infatuation-type love than a real, meaningful love.
What would happen if we actually loved our bodies the way we are called to love people?
I can’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 13, because it so perfectly lays out the love that God has for us and the love he invites us into when we see ourselves through his eyes.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails. (NIV)
Take a minute to ask yourself…
- Am I patient with my body? After you have a baby and the weight clings on and the wrinkly skin just doesn’t seem to bounce back? Do you give your body grace?
- Am I kind to my body? When you look in the mirror, do you see the saggy midsection or do you see the beauty of the life you have lived and the power of what you’ve overcome?
- Am I jealous of other bodies? Wishing you could look just a little more like that one girl on Instagram who somehow managed to birth 3 babies and still look fab in a 2 piece? Or do you look at your body with gratitude? Thankful for how it lets you push through sleepless nights and hold your sweet babies close to your heart?
- Am I irritable, hateful, or resentful towards my body?Do you blame it? Carry shame because of it? Or are you allowing yourself to rejoice in the truth about your body. That its value has nothing to do with what it looks like and everything to do with the fact that it’s yours. And it’s been with you through the good times and the bad. It has wept with you and celebrated with you. It has carried you through and will continue to carry you through all the days to come.
- Am I holding onto the past or keeping a record of wrongs toward my body? It’s time to forgive your body for where it has failed you. To recognize that you and your body are on the same team. Not working against each other, but meant to move in unity.
- Am I looking at my body with hope and love? Whatever your past history. However tumultuous your relationship with your body has been. You have an opportunity right now to extend grace to your body and start fresh with a new perspective. To begin a new relationship with your body that is marked by a fuller understanding of its value. To make a commitment to your body…a lifetime love.
Love. Never. Fails.
You are not defined by the way your body looks. And your body doesn’t deserve to be treated like a cheap date. It deserves a lifetime commitment. To work through the tough times, to be patient, to be kind, and to have hope for its future.
Your body deserves to be cared for, to be nourished, and to be a priority in your life. Because your body is part of you and YOU deserve all those things.
How Do I Love my Body?
Recognize the Why
The most powerful factor in me choosing to love my body, has been my daughters. I see the way they look at me with love and admiration. But even if they didn’t, they’re still looking to me as an example.
For me to tear myself down and hate my body in their presence is doing them a huge disservice. It not only steals their security in who I am, but it robs them of a healthy view of who they are and why they are valuable no matter what they weigh or how they look.
Make the Choice to Love
The decision to love is made in wisdom, not in a moment of passion. Sure, it’s easy to fall in love when things are easy and good, but when you’ve been married for awhile and you go through tough seasons, you realize that love is a choice, not a feeling.
Make the hard choice to love your body…even if you don’t “feel” in love with it. Even if you don’t like everything about it. Choose to love past the feeling and more like a covenant.
Adjust Your Self-Talk
Your words are powerful. And some of the most powerful words you ever speak never even make it out of your mouth. They happen in the recesses of your mind. And those words that you say to yourself…those thoughts about your body…shape your reality. They influence how you see yourself and how you treat yourself on a daily basis.
It’s time to change your self-talk about your body. Choose several slogans, catchphrases or Scripture verses to represent the TRUTH about your body and who you are and memorize them.
Let them become your new battle cry. Things like: “I love my body.” “My body gave me my favorite people.” “My body is valuable not for how it looks, but because it’s mine.” “I am beautiful.” “Beauty is so much deeper than looks.” I’m worth it.” “I am God’s masterpiece.” “Before he formed me in the womb, he knew me….I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” etc.
Here’s the crazy part. You don’t have to believe it yet. But the more you start to tell yourself these things, the more you will start to believe them over time. Stop giving power to the lie that you are not worth it. Stop allowing the lie that you are not beautiful to shape your self-worth and the culture of your family.
Start shaping a NEW truth…THE truth. That you ARE worth it. You ARE beautiful. Your body is valuable for SO much more than how it looks.
Whenever a thought pops into your head that reflects a NEGATIVE body image, put it on trial. Ask yourself, “Is that thought bringing me life?” If not, it has to go. And replace it with a POSITIVE one. I created an awesome printable with 25 Empowering Truths from Scripture that you can use! See the box below to grab a copy!
I once heard it said that your words to your children become their inner monologue. What do you want your child’s self-talk to be? That’s what you need to start using in your own life.
When you truly love someone or something, you take care of it. You value it. You protect it. Are you taking care of your body? Or are you depriving your body of what it needs? Are you sacrificing your body’s needs because you think you need to…or because you think you don’t deserve to be cared for?
Your body deserves to be fueled with healthy food, with an active lifestyle, and with good rest. Your body deserves to take breaks, and to have needs, and to be given grace.
The more you love your body, the easier it will be to take good care of it.
Treat Others the Same Way
One of the biggest deterrents to a healthy body image in our culture is the way we look at and judge others. When we judge others for their size or height or color (from models to tv show characters to professional athletes to that other mom on Instagram or that kid on the playground and everyone in between), it is further reinforcing the idea that people are only as good as their bodies.
As we begin to look past the outer layer and search out the treasure inside others…and even in ourselves, it will drastically transform what we see.
Disclaimer: Physical, sexual and emotional abuse can deeply impact our body image. If you have experienced abuse or trauma (or are currently experiencing it), please seek the help and support of a professional counselor to help you walk the journey of healing and truly embrace a healthy self-image. You are worth it.
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