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Doing Life Together

i-741519_1920It’s summer and more of our bodies are exposed. If you are self-conscious about the way you look, you are probably thinking, “Bring on the cooler temps so I can cover up!” But maybe the better way to deal with summer is to work on body acceptance. Recently, I was asked this question by an interviewer:

How can a woman work to see her body realistically and find beauty in how her body is made? What is a healthy way to approach outward appearance and wanting to look good without developing an obsession or eating disorder? My answer…

“Work” is a good way to put it. It takes a conscious and daily effort to renew the mind with the truth of God’s word. Start by searching the scriptures to learn what God says about you, how He determine your worth and what He values. You are going to find that there is little reference to physical appearance toed to our worth. What we consider important is not that important to God.

Resist the myths that continue to be reinforced in our culture. For example, one of the myths is that big breasts make you successful. This is  a crazy belief and yet it often remains unchallenged. Ask why would I believe this, and what is the intent of such a message? One teen thought having breast implants would raise her confidence. Her parents were going to allow her to have the procedure because they agreed. Breast implants are not a means to more confidence. Being made in the image of God to reflect His glory is a conversation that has nothing to do with the proportions of your body or sculpting it towards perfection.

Don’t confuse body acceptance with making physical changes. For example, changing a hair style is much easier than working through a difficult parent relationship. Dieting can give you a false sense of control in your life when your marriage is falling apart. And this is often what I see. People who are stuck in problems and use their physical bodies as the screen for internal anxieties and difficulties. I worked with a very successful woman in her mid thirties who was single and wanted to be married. She was unable to sustain an intimate relationship with a man because of all the unresolved baggage she carried from her original family. Every time she broke up with a man, she scheduled herself for a plastic surgery procedure. She became obsessed with her appearance, feeling she had to perfect the physical in order to hold on to a man. After six major procedures, she finally agreed to tackle the hurt and disappointment in her life and resolve past family issues. Then, she was able to approach her relationships differently.

Finally, stop comparing yourself  to others and accept your uniqueness as a reflection of a very creative God. Our bodies are His temple, the place His Spirit dwells. Therefore we are to care for our bodies and treat them with respect. Our focus should be on self-care versus self-obsession and on healthy living versus dieting.

Take the self out of self-esteem and replace it with God-esteem and you have a very different picture. Our identity is not found in appearance or accomplishments but in Christ. If you try to love yourself apart from God, you will fail. Esteem does not come from inside you, other people, your family, your appearance or what you do. You are highly esteemed simply because God created and chose you. You are so valued by God that He sent his son to die for you. God isn’t saying, “If only she would lose five more pounds, I could love her more.” God-esteem is radical and countercultural. Martin Luther once said, “A proud mind is high in conceit, self-esteem, and carnal aspiring; a humble mind is high indeed in God esteem, and in holy aspiring.” When God is in the center of our lives, we can’t help but be humble and feel valued.

You don’t have to ignore your physical appearance to develop inner beauty. It isn’t wrong to want to look as nice as you can with what you have been given. We are body, soul and spirit. To ignore the physical part of who we are is ridiculous and not a holistic approach to life. However, when dealing with the body, we have to keep perspective. We are more than our appearance.

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