I was born with a lazy eye which required surgery within a year of birth. For the first several years of my life my parents had to put a patch over my good eye to force the weak eye to strengthen. As a baby they had to put socks on my hands to keep me from peeling the patch off, and they had to safety pin the socks to my sleeves to keep me from pulling them off my hands. Wearing the patch over my eye continued until I was in Kindergarten. I have a clear memory of wearing the patch one summer at VBS. All day I had to explain to curious children why I was wearing it. Then the next day I had to explain to all the same children why I wasn’t wearing the patch this time. My vision, with corrective lenses, is now normal. But to this day, if I take off my glasses, or if I’m very tired, you can still see my right eye wandering off, which, I’m told, is quite creepy to witness.
I’m no stranger to body shaming. I was the awkward, chubby kid with glasses, a bad haircut, and crooked teeth. Never part of the “in” crowd, I was often ostracized and teased. Kids always made fun of the way I looked. Even as an adult, the body judging continues, but instead of teasing it’s pitying looks and a list of reasons I should lose weight. They tell me to lose weight for health, for looks, for a swimsuit, and even so I could get more dates. When I reach for dessert after dinner and get that judgmental glance, I feel like I’m 5 years old all over again explaining to a nosy kid why I have a patch over my eye.
But what I’ve found about body shaming as I’ve become an adult is that most of the shame comes from me. Yes, I’ve had my share of other people telling me how I should change my body, and to some degree I can even blame our beauty-obsessed society, but when it comes right down to it, I’m my biggest critic. I can stare at the mirror for hours pointing out everything wrong with my body. And maybe you can relate.
I don’t want to minimize the pain of body shaming you’ve had to endure from others. I don’t know your story, or what others have said to you about your body. But maybe, like me, you’ve discovered that most of your body shaming comes from yourself.
One day in college, I discovered something in a magazine my church publishes for youth that would change my perspective about body shaming and condemning. Next to an article about self-esteem was an inset titled “The truth about your body.” I cut it out and taped it on the wall next to my bed and read it over and over. When I moved home after college, I took the magazine clipping with me. Every time moved, I kept the clipping and taped it to a mirror or a cupboard or a wall where I could see it and be reminded regularly of what God thinks of my body.
The truth about your body
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.” –1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” –Proverbs 31:30
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” –1 Peter 3:3-4
“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” –1 Timothy 4:8
“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7b
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” –Psalm 139:14
Coming to peace with my body didn’t mean losing weight or obtaining 20/20 vision. It meant loving my body as God’s magnificent creation. I marvel at God’s amazing design, the complex web of nerves, the sturdy frame of bones and skeleton, the strong muscles that carry my body wherever I walk, the circulatory system that delivers the oxygen from a simple breath all the way down to the tips of my toes. God created us each with such amazing bodies. And he also allowed for diversity we see in color of skin, hair, or eyes, number of freckles and moles. He gave diversity in size, shape, build, and height. Even the diversity of our personalities can be seen on our bodies in the clothing we wear, the haircut we choose, the nail polish, make-up, accessories, or jewelry we wear or don’t wear. And diversity is a beautiful thing. We are all uniquely made and designed.
The truth about your body is that God created it. When you criticize God’s creative work, you criticize him. When you shame your body you’re saying that God did something wrong, or that he doesn’t measure up.
Last week Deb’s post reminded us to cut the BS about others’ bodies, to stop nitpicking and fault finding with each other and instead love and accept each other. This week, I want to go one step further and tell you to cut the BS about your own body. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your self-worth and beauty don’t come from your body. Your worth comes from your Creator and that’s something we can all celebrate no matter the size, color, style, or shape of your body.