The Body Image Lies
I keep NOT wanting to write about this. In fact, I wrote the bulk of this post a few months back and it’s just been sitting in my “drafts” folder, waiting to be refined and posted… Hmmmm…. I wonder… Is it time?
You see, my goal on this blog is to encourage and uplift others and to let them know that they are not alone in their challenges and confusions and failings.
And part of what I’m going to share here is kind of depressing.
But… the fact of the matter is that sometimes just the simple knowledge that someone else is struggling the same way you are is just the comfort and encouragement and inspiration you need to get out of your own pit.
At least that’s been my experience.
So, in hopes that what I share here will bless and encourage you, I am once again daring to be vulnerable and let you take a peek at one of my inner battles…
Alrighty then. Here we go:
Confession: Sometimes all that is running through my brain are icky yucky messages about my own inadequacies and failings and flaws.
Sometimes I struggle to find Hope and Truth in the midst of it all.
One of the many techniques my dear friend and counselor has taught me to help me navigate through the swarm of no-good thoughts that often plague me, sometimes paralyzing me with fear or self-absorption, is this:
Identify my diseased attitudes;
Give that junk to the Lord; and then
Receive from God what He wants to give me in exchange.
This simple (but often heart-wrenching) process has been the key to so many healing moments of truth in the past few years.
As I was browsing through my prayer journal, I came across the following entry that displayed this 1-2-3 process with painful honesty. Since I suspect that I’m not the only one who has these types of thoughts run through their head from time to time, I am hoping it might be beneficial for you to see what kinds of things I sometimes struggle with…
Back story: I wrote this prayer journal entry last August, during a particularly dark and hormonally-charged time. (P.S. At the time I wrote this, I had just weaned my son, watched my dear grandma pass from this life to eternity, was in the midst of a huge conflict with one of my closest friends, and my daughters had just started the school year with novice teachers. Needless to say, I was in the thick of some hard-core stress).
Warning: the following prayer journal entry is… brutally honest… regarding what “diseased attitudes” (aka LIES) were swarming through my head during those few weeks of my life. I want to make sure you know that when you read the beginning part wherein I start listing all the garbage that was running through my head, what you are reading is just that: Garbage. Filth. Rubbish. Hog wash. It is NOT the Truth. It is NO WHERE NEAR the kinds of things the Lord Himself would say (or even think) about me. So please understand that before you delve in here. This was an exercise that God led me to do so that He could show me how very disgusting the messages I was listening to were. This was God’s way of helping me name my wounds so that I could hand them over to Him and then, most importantly, receive from Him whatever He wanted to give me in return: in this case, He took my garbage and gave me Truth and Freedom in return.
“Maturity demands that people honestly face their traumas, even when it is quite painful. Transformation is not achieved any other way.” (The Life Model pg 45)
“See, Lord, how distressed I am! I am in torment within, and in my heart I am disturbed…” ~Lamentations 1:20
“Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word… May your unfailing love come to me, Lord, your salvation, according to your promise; then I can answer anyone who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Never take your word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws… I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” ~Psalm 119:37, 41-45
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Here is a lie that has been swirling through my head all day today. When I stop to think about it, I actually think it has been on the fringes of my consciousness for a bit of time now… Here is what I keep hearing over and over in my mind: “Because you are fat, you are a failure. Your fatness is a sign for all to see that you don’t have your life together. It is proof to the world that you are a failure. No matter what else good you have going in your life, no matter what else you are doing right, no matter what kind of mom you’ve been or how supportive of a wife you’ve been or even what your health or agility or flexibility or cardiovascular fitness may say… you are fat. And therefore you are a failure. You don’t have your life together. You can’t even stick to the simple things in life: i.e. work out; eat healthy; don’t eat too much; don’t be a glutton; don’t be lazy. You can’t even get THAT right… so all the supposedly harder things in life that you MIGHT be good at don’t really count. Because you don’t even have the basics down…. etc etc blah blah blah…”
(Wow, when I see it written out like that it really doesn’t look good, huh?)
So I give all that garbage to You, Lord. And now:
Lord, what is YOUR TRUTH?
My husband said to me the other day “You have a depth of character that goes beyond most people… You are beautiful in every way.”
And that was super nice to hear, of course.
But, Lord… I want to hear from YOU. What do YOU say to me?
[*And here is what my heart heard:]
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Do what you love. Do it frequently. Enjoy your life. There is no need to compare yourself with others. The lies of your culture regarding beauty are numerous. And they are just that: lies. The measuring stick your society is using is not from Me. I didn’t invent it and I don’t care about it. It doesn’t matter. Life is so much more than all that mess, all that garbage. It is poisoning people. Women and men alike. Don’t buy into it. Be YOU. Love. Accept. Speak love and truth and help. Give of your heart, your time, your prayers. This world is hurting and needs my truth and my freedom. YOU receive it. YOU spend time with Me and let Me fill you. And then you share it as the need arises, as the needs present themselves. You have not “failed” at anything. You are striving for My heart and My will, relentlessly pursuing Me and loving Me and loving those around You. Good job.
Amen, Lord. Let it be so.
* * *
Looking back on this interaction between the Lord and I, I see something interesting: God’s economy is nothing like ours. Whereas we— or at least I— tend to get hard on myself for even the slightest “failure” or the perception that I am not “measuring up” when I compare myself against others, God is always and forever looking at my heart. The truth is that, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And, as Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 2:4,6, “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts… We were not looking for praise from any human being.” I know it sounds ridiculously elementary, but the real truth is that what God thinks of me is what really matters in life. Of course it feels great when I hear affirmation or encouragement from my fellow human beings, but it is important for me to remember that God’s opinion of me is really the only One that ought to carry any real weight.
I also absolutely love that God didn’t even address my issue of “feeling fat” directly. He didn’t give me a pep talk on how to stay strong and “treat my body as God’s holy temple” (1 Corinthans 6:19-20). Nor did He remind me about how important it is to stay active and consume nutritious foods. Rather, He got to the heart of what was driving it all: in this particular instance, the root of my “diseased attitude” was ME. I was in deep pain (from the death of my grandma and the conflict with my friend) and I love how tenderly He spoke to me. I love how the first thing He told me to do was to just breathe. And then He encouraged me to do what I love, to do it frequently, and to enjoy my life. For years now, this has been his love song to me: He keeps inviting me to find myself and, in so doing, to meet with Him in those places that I enjoy.
And I love, too, that God addressed the other root of my diseased attitudes: it was my self-absorption. My pride. I was valuing the world’s standards above whatever it was that God was calling me, Kristi, to do in that moment. I was getting caught up in the big tidal wave of busy-ness and stress and I was looking to myself for strength rather than doing what really matters in life: to just quietly rest with and cling to Him.
Just like Martha in Luke 10: 41-42, He was calling me back to the basics:
“But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
Lord, please continue to help me stay close to You, intimately following You and able to hear Your voice of Truth and encouragement– especially when I can’t seem to find my way up to the surface for a breath of Your goodness. As always, please rescue me even from myself. Amen.
* * *
What about you?
How do you get through those times where all you can hear in your mind are the lies that you aren’t good enough, aren’t pretty enough, aren’t smart enough, aren’t brave enough, etc? How do you find Truth or Peace in the midst of those sometimes piercingly loud diseased messages?
Please feel free to share your thoughts or experiences in the comment section below.