If I can be totally honest, writing about body image terrifies me. This topic is not easy nor simple; it’s quite complicated actually. I fear talking about it because I don’t want to start the comparison game. I’m embarrassed to say that at almost 40-years-old I’m not at peace with the reflection I see in the mirror. I feel it is my responsibility somehow to set a good example for women and girls. In a world where so much emphasis is put on looking perfect, it’s my duty to pour encouragement into women of every shape and size. It breaks my heart to hear other women criticize their bodies. Yet I so quickly pick mine apart. I’d like to say I have this figured out, but I don’t. I’m right in the middle of it learning to give myself grace, and accept my body.
I remember standing in front of the mirror when I was in middle school, wishing I could change my legs. I was teeny-tiny yet my legs were dimpled and imperfect. I was self conscious and embarrassed to be seen in shorts. In high school my insecurities were confirmed when a girl announced to all my classmates at a Friday night football game that my legs were disgusting in my cheer leading skirt.
I’ve spent most of my life dieting and trying to achieve the body that I wanted, and then about six years ago I decided I was done counting calories and weighing myself. Instead, I began to focus on real food and a healthy lifestyle. It was invigorating and I felt more confident and healthier. I was running half marathons and feeling victorious. But I still looked in the mirror and examined all my imperfections. People complimented me on how great I looked, but deep down I still wanted to look better.
Currently I am in a season of life where I don’t feel victorious with my exercise and eating routine. I find myself thinking that if I could just be in the shape I was four years ago I’d be happy. If I could just cut out sugar and start running again, then I will be content! While those are good things and would probably help, the deeper question is, would I really be content?
This has me contemplating how to find the fine line between accepting the body I’ve been given and striving to be more healthy both physically and mentally, all the while giving myself grace in this season of life. I won’t pretend to know the answer, but there are a few things I’ve experienced lately that help me change my thinking:
Accept the compliments I receive
When a friend tells me my hair looks cute, I am trying to say thank you, instead of “Oh really? I hate it since I’m no longer coloring it.” Or (here’s a biggie) believe my husband when he does a double-take and says I look hot. How is it that we have a difficult time believing the good that others see in us yet hang on to the hurtful words said by someone who means nothing to us?
Even if you think she is confident and well put together I bet she will beam if you point out something that you like in her. “That shirt really brings out your eyes.” Or, “you have such a beautiful smile.” Sincere, honest words can build someone up more than we realize.
Choose to see the good in myself
It’s a habit to look at my reflection in the mirror and focus on what I don’t like. What if I looked in the mirror and took notice of the things I do like instead?
Learning to accept my body and love the reflection I see in the mirror is more than a three step process. It’s more than some positive self talk, and it’s more than just the physical. It is multi-faceted and complicated. It is a journey. One I may be on the rest of my life.