Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

ID-100365518How many of us love our bodies? We look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. It starts early, especially if your physical body developed before others your age. Body image development takes on special significance during adolescence. We judge our self-worth by physical appearance related to perceived sexual attractiveness.

A negative body image can be a gateway into the development of an eating disorder and other self-esteem problems. When we loathe our bodies, we often feel we don’t deserve to be treated well and may try to use sex to make ourselves feel more attractive and/or act out sexually in order to feel more desirable. Or we may avoid relationships feeling we aren’t attractive or interesting.

Most of us need help when it comes to accepting our body. Consider these tips:

  • Stop comparing yourself to others, to media images and unhealthy standards of thinness. This never goes well. The images we see are unrealistic and carefully altered to make people look perfect. You will fall short if you compare. Very few people look the way we see them in media. Next time you travel, watch the people who get off a plane and count the number of people who look like the images we see plastered around us. It might give you a more realistic view of how real people actually look and measure up to those altered images.
  • Develop friendships with those who don’t obsess on weight and body image. This will help you obsess less. The less those around you comment on weight and body image, the less you will focus on it as well. So find friends who don’t regularly comment on appearance or help your current friends change the topic of conversation and focus on personal characteristics of each other like kindness, patience, loyalty, etc.
  • Defy cultural body myths (e.g., big breasts make you successful) and narrowing prescriptions of beauty. This is how advertisers make money. They want you to think you are never good enough and need help. And they reinforce their messages by presenting a very narrow look as to what is beautiful. Yet, God made us all very different–sizes, shapes and features, and to expect us to try to look like someone’s idea of a beauty standard is ridiculous.
  • Develop a stronger internal locus of control.  Not only does this require refusing to accommodate someone else’s idea of beauty, but it also means changing negative self-talk. We can be our own worst enemy with self-criticism. Rehearse your strengths, focus on your unique features and stop putting yourself down. Find your sense of identity through things unrelated to physical appearance.
  • Work directly on issues of sexual violation (e.g., acquaintance rape, incest, sexual abuse, pornography addiction, etc.), wounding, criticism and rejection. If you have been violated, abused or the victim of terrible criticism and teasing, you need to work through those issues in order to make peace with your body. Violation impacts how we look at ourself. It changes our thinking. Our minds need renewing. Untrue messages have been put in our heads that need to be challenged.
  • Turn away from commercial solutions for inner discontent. They won’t give you what you need. No amount of weight loss, plastic surgery, physical fitness can cure the problems that lead a person to feel unaccepted or unhappy. Only God can fill that void. Yes, be healthy, but look to the true source of contentment and peace. You are loved, accepted, validated and adored by your Creator. He isn’t looking at your physical appearance, rather looks at the heart. He is the only one who can bring you true peace and contentment. Through relationship with Him, we are healed, helped and transformed.

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