I don’t like my body.
There, I said it. I thought that by the time I got into my 30s, this would have changed. Either my body would have gotten the message I’ve been screaming at it all my life and literally shaped up, or I would have found the self-love that magazines always talk about. Neither has happened.
My body and I sometimes feel like two different people, roommates who’ve never really gotten along. One of us eats all the food, and the other gets mad. One just wants to sit on the couch all day while the other wants to be productive. One of us periodically just stops working or gets sick, and the other has to take care of it. We should have dumped each other by now, but splitting up just isn’t an option. (At least, I don’t think so. Million-dollar-book idea if you figure it out!)
I’ve tried really hard to fix myself. I’ve been on every diet out there, low-carb, low-fat, vegetarian, Whole30, and the ever-popular “I’ll Start Tomorrow Diet.” I work out two to three times a week, running, doing weights, yoga, or thinking about doing those things and sighing, which has to count for something. I’ve lost and gained the same ten pounds so many times it feels like a fat boomerang. I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on my physical body, and frankly, there’s not much to show for it.
I have children now (and let’s not talk about how physically having babies changed things). These wonderful little people are so beautiful. I know I’m biased, but I just love to snuggle their sweet faces and cuddle their round tummies. And one day, I had a revelation.
I was cuddling with my baby, who spends most of her day finding ways to crawl on me. I was admiring her giant noggin that has an almost hilarious amount of hair. By most beauty standards, even for babies, this should be seen as a physical flaw. She’s a little disproportionate. But I love her big head, and it fills me with joy to see her. To me, she is perfect, just the way she is.
And for the first time in my life, I realized that this is how God sees my physical body. Now, you may not believe in God. You might think this is cheesy, sentimental fluff. But hang with me for a bit.
Even though I grew up in church and have always considered myself a person of faith, I have almost never thought about what God had to say about my physical appearance. I’m too busy comparing myself to People’s “Most Beautiful” issue. I mean, I thought God loved me, but in a sort of “loves my heart” or “beauty on the inside” way. But if God sees me as beautiful, even the outside parts that I hate, then maybe I should listen to what he has to say. His opinion should matter more than anything else around me, more than magazines, more than TV shows, even more than what I think.
It is now clear to me that God doesn’t look at me to see where I fall on a scale of attractiveness. He made me just the way I am. And if He loves me like I love my children, then he actually LOVES my so-called flaws. He looks at my giant hands and wonky teeth and thinks, “Yep, that’s my girl!” It would crush me if my daughter rejected the things I love about her. But that was exactly what I was doing. There had to be a better way that led to me accepting myself and finding freedom from my body issues.
Then I found this line in the Bible that kind of blows my mind. It says:
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
We are God’s masterpieces. That’s an incredible thought. What’s even better is that God created us for a purpose. I am made just the way I am for a reason. God has great things for me to do and my body is the vehicle he designed for me to do it in. God doesn’t see giant hands, he sees hands that are big enough to handle almost anything, including big-headed babies. He doesn’t care about my crooked teeth but loves to see me smile.
So often, I have judged my body for its appearance, and not what it does. And it does incredible things that I take for granted every single day. It fights disease. It turns food into energy. It holds all my organs on the inside so I don’t have to worry about them flopping about. It is a magical, awe-inspiring thing. So why am I so worried about the zit on my chin?
Then I realized I don’t really do that golden rule thing, “Love others as you love yourself.” How can I love others if I haven’t learned how to love myself? In fact, hating my physical body and eyeing it so critically only trains me to look at others and view them in the same way. It’s bad for me and everyone else.
So here’s what I’m doing to change that.
Every day, I’m going to thank God for something different about my body—even when it’s hard, even if it’s weird. “God, thank you for my nose. I would look like Voldemort without it.” “God, thank you for my belly that carried three beautiful children into this world.” “Thank you for my long toes that let me pick up things I dropped when I don’t feel like bending over.”
Loving myself and my body also means taking care of it. My body is a gift, and what kind of person would I be to tear down that gift constantly and not value it? So I’m going to focus on eating well so that I can have the energy to do the things God has in store for me. I’m going to get strong so that I can carry out the mission of my life. I want to do good things for as many years as I can.
I’m going to teach my children to love their bodies. Not so they can obsess and attempt to become tiny baby models, but so that they understand they are miraculously designed by God. God has big plans for them, too. I want them to grow up big and strong so they can chase after those things. They don’t have to look like anyone else because God made them unique and wonderful. Those big heads carry big brains.
This is a process, and I’m not sure that I’ll ever be entirely done. But you would be amazed at how differently I view myself when I do these things. Seeing myself through God’s eyes will always be better than how I look at myself through human eyes. I still don’t like my body if I’m immersed in society’s view of beauty, but in changing my perspective, we’re getting to be friends. Meanwhile, I’m spending my time going after the good things God has for me rather than obsessing about my superficial looks and that makes me feel amazing.