So much of our culture is built on comparison and the lie that you’re not enough. After all, consumerism relies on the fact that people suddenly need a particular product that they didn’t know they needed before!
This edge of consumerism draws me in more than I’d like to admit. And it’s okay to buy fun new clothing, home decor, or beauty products sometimes. But what’s not healthy is when we let the world’s opinion of us consume us.
You’ll only be happy if you keep up with the latest styles. You’ll have to go into debt to be happy. Skip the apartment – you need to buy a new home immediately. You need a brand new car to be respected. Your home must be Pinterest-perfect, and if not, you need to go buy everything you’re lacking! Your perfume should be designer brand. You can’t afford to wait on this – buy it now!
The lies the world whispers to us are so, so present now days. There are personalized ads for us on Facebook, emails popping up on your phone, new “deals” slipped into your mailbox, and magazines displayed at the doctor’s office.
It’s not just about accessories and material goods. There are countless messages being spoken about our bodies as well.
The World’s Lies About Our Bodies
Your body needs to be perpetually beach-ready. Your stomach should be taut, your skin tan. Your nails should be non-chipped, your highlights fresh. Your teeth should be brilliantly white. Your nose should be small and your eyes should be Disney-princess-size. You shouldn’t be overweight – but too thin is bad too. Your makeup should be expensive and flawless. Your body should be small but your chest should be large.
I just read through that list again – it’s exhausting, isn’t it? And I know that you could probably add a few more lies you’ve been told to the list yourself.
Let’s face it – to the world, we are not perfect.
And that hurts.
If we aren’t already running around trying to rectify the “situation” with a boatload of new clothes and procedures, then we may be metaphorically cowering in a corner, ashamed that we don’t fit the standard of “true” beauty.
Here’s what I have to say to that:
Those approaches – both the insecurity-driven shopping sprees and the insecurity-driven shyness – are examples of chains being wrapped around our hearts. There is no freedom there.
There is so much walking-around-apologetically going on. And it makes me so so sad.
When God created the first man and woman (and, incidentally, they were both naked and felt no shame), He looked at them and called them “good.”
Not, “Eh, this’ll do.”
Not, “A good starting point; now they just need to lose a few pounds.”
Not, “Good enough.”
Not, “They’re great but hopefully their kids won’t look any different.”
No. God, the ultimate master of creativity and design, created the ENTIRE human race, knowing the beautiful diversity and variety there would one day be – and He called it all “good!”
And they lived in that confidence.
Taking that eternal and right perspective with us, we need to approach our bodies differently.
Building Body Confidence: The Healthy Approach I Try to Take
I’m going to preface this section by saying these are steps that I personally try to do. I like cute clothes, and I do like to wear makeup! However, the underlying attitude is rooted in my identity in Christ – as I’ll talk more about below – not in insecurities the world tries to give me.
1 // I do try to buy flattering clothes. I honestly just mostly try not to look dumpy. 🙂 I’ve settled into more of a “Hannah” style I like these past couple years – loving basics like maxi dresses and my Brass Clothing t-shirts. I love shopping at ThredUp because you can easily search by store or by size, and it’s all deeply discounted!
I know that when I feel pulled together, I’ll go about my day feeling a bit more confident and ready to interact with people. 🙂 I want my outfits to mostly be something I can forget about during the day – not something uncomfortable that I’m constantly adjusting, but also not something I feel too grungy in. And yes, I do wear sweatpants the second I get home from work! 🙂
2 // I do try to do my makeup nicely. I tend to look younger than I am, and I want to look my age, so I like wearing makeup, but I also try not to look gaudy.
3 // I do embrace my unique features. I have really fair skin – the kind that doesn’t really tan and mostly just burns. 🙂 I used to lay out in hopes that I’d magically get a golden tan, but instead, I’d wind up red and in pain! I’ve realized over time just how OKAY it is to have fair skin! I’m currently embracing my fair skin because skin cancer is no fun.
Now I’m going to get a bit vulnerable here. I don’t have a tiny button nose. And I loathed my nose for years. It would make me sad because it’s not one of those things you can cover up with makeup or clothing. I still remember one day trying on countless cute sunglasses with a friend, and she kept saying “Nahh,” to each one, no matter the style, and implied that my nose didn’t look good in any of them. It prevented me from ever wanting to buy sunglasses.
I didn’t like my side profile. I went so far as to wonder if a guy would ever like me, all because of my nose. But a sweet blessing came in the form of my husband. He told me one day when we were dating, when I mentioned my nose, that he loves my nose. He thinks it is beautiful. He said he had always actually LIKED more unique noses on girls. So he was explaining to me that my “look” is exactly up his alley! He thinks my nose is elegant and beautiful, and would never want me to change it. And these comments made my day. See? God sometimes allows conversations to give us a confidence boost – or a lesson that we needn’t worry about something after all. And the thing I keep coming back to now is the fact that God – a loving, detail-oriented God – created me just as I am!
The second area of insecurity for me is how slender I am. (I don’t even really like the word “skinny” – it’s just been said to me too many times with a tone of disgust.) My entire family (parents and all) is tall and thin. Genetically, it’s just who we are.
It may surprise some people, but those who are deemed “too skinny” can be laughed at or made insecure as well. It’s not just larger people who get teased. If you want to hear someone’s story about being “too skinny”, I love this post by Chandler from Life as a Larsen. I can relate to so much of her story. I’ve personally experienced comments like, “Do you ever eat?” “Ew, you’re SO BONY!” and “You looked like a Holocaust victim!” and these comments have resonated in my mind for years. Along with others’ laughter, squeals, and tones of disgust. And that really, really hurt. I mean, it’s been 8 years since the Holocaust victim comment and it still makes me cringe.
But I eventually got sick of carrying those comments around. I’m healthy. My doctor is NOT worried about me. I feel like I shouldn’t even have to announce this, but I love to eat. A lot. I should probably work out more just to improve my cardio and endurance…but I know I am still beautiful in God’s eyes!
Honestly, my body structure is the way God made me! I KNOW He doesn’t look at me and say, “Gross! She is so bony!” or laugh at my nose. To belittle one’s appearance is to insult the Creator. So, please, make sure you not only hold back from making comments about others…but keep from making those comments about yourself, friend!! You are God’s beloved daughter. He looks at you and calls you “good!”
4 // I do try to surround myself with influences that empower me. Choose friends wisely. Negativity, gossip and criticism is TOXIC and it’s not who you want to be. Who you surround yourself with becomes a part of who you are. And in this day and age, that goes for your online “tribe” too!! For example, if I were to only follow Instagram accounts of models, I am going to see those images many times a day. And their statements and images are going to filter into my subconscious thought patterns. Sometimes, things like fitness inspiration are truly helpful to us, but remember, first and foremost, we are a soul. We have a body, but we are a soul. (Thank you, C.S. Lewis!)
5 // I do try to have a body useful to the Lord. Although I do want to improve my endurance and strength, I make sure I stay physically active during the day. I take the stairs all day at work. I don’t hesitate to carry heavy laundry baskets of wet clothing outside to hang up. I vacuum like it’s my job! 🙂 I run up and down the stairs at home. I spontaneously dance with my husband in the living room. 🙂 I do sit-ups with Bjorn during Olympics commercial breaks. Ongoing physical activity ensures that I can continue to accomplish daily and important tasks. The Lord knows our physical limitations, if we have some, but I do want to always maintain a level of fitness where I can chase a child who accidentally ran into the street, or help an elderly person up the stairs, or help neighbors carry large boxes into their house. I want to be willing and able to do spontaneous tasks if God calls me to!
Our True Identity
This is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Most of all, we need to remember our true identity.
My identity is not in being a 20-something (that won’t last!), or in my looks, or intelligence, or clothes, or career, or how late I stay at work, or my fitness level, or being the first one to ___(do anything!)___, or in my accomplishments, or failings, or college degrees, or number of children, or my bank account.
My identity – your identity – lies in the fact that an all-knowing, all-powerful God created YOU. He loves you. He desires for you to acknowledge Him, to speak to Him, then to build a relationship with Him. He has already gone all the way – to the grave! – for you. I always imagine Him with hands outstretched and kind, strong power in His eyes. God has written a love story that we are in! Let Him redeem you from those chains I mentioned earlier – chains of self-loathing or inadequacy. To God, you’re a beloved child of His. He knows your doubts and your weaknesses and your insecurities, and yet He still pursues you!
If you try one thing today, thank Jesus for who you are. Walk over to a mirror. Look – really look – at yourself, and thank God for the way He designed you!! Then enter the rest of your day with true, meaningful confidence.