Every month in 2012, Confronting Love is highlighting a specific theme. For February it was Body Image. At the beginning of the month we asked our readers to send in short stories on the theme. Our goal is to bring more people into the conversation and demonstrate that no one is alone in these matters. Maybe when we all realize that it will help us to move forward and beyond. Thank you to those of you who sent a story in; it’s a very courageous thing to do. If you have a story about body image you’d like to share, please leave it in the comments.
- Table of Contents
1. An apology to my body (Anonymous)
2. 6’3″ and gangly (Damien Baumgart)
3. I would never be a size 8 (Ekaterina Petrovna)
4. Redefining beauty (Jordan Mounteer)
5. Rocky relationship with my belly (Katrina Dreamer)
6. Post-birth vagina (Anonymous)
7. Badonk-a-donk booty (Lisa Zahiya)
8. 0.7% body love (Kendra Shand)
9. My port wine stain (Susanne Veder Berger)
10. Trans man in the locker room blues (Justin Cascio)
11. This story has been told a million times (Shannon Street)
12. In the lesbian community I claimed my body as my own (Mikaya Heart)
13. Before I believed what God said about me, I was lost (Angela Huntley)
14. The mirror’s false reflection (Jackie Clark)
An apology to my body
I am so sorry.
You were still an innocent little child’s body when I began to starve you, to loathe you.
You wanted to grow, to get taller, to gain curves and breasts and hair and I deprived you.
I binged on self criticism and comparisons instead.
I controlled you. I hated you. I obsessed over you.
All of the ugliness in the world around me was aimed at you.
I despised your shape, your texture, your weight.
I wanted you to disappear.
I hurt you and tortured you.
Nowadays people marvel at the way I care for you.
How I prioritize exercise, rest, and healthy eating.
They admire the confidence I have in letting you shine naturally and they enjoy seeing how much I love you.
If they only knew how much you were owed.
Thank you for perservering.
6’3″ and gangly
Looking at me you wouldn’t figure me for someone with low self-esteem, body-image issues, and a sometimes-balls-crunching lack of confidence. No, most people would probably see a tall, 32-year-old man with a friendly smile, slim build, brimming with grand plans to start a photography business, and seemingly oozing confidence in his own abilities. If you looked hard enough though you could begin to make out some of the “tells” of what really lies beneath. Let’s start with the obvious one and work our way from there, shall we? The posture. Yes, I stand a smidgen over six feet, three inches…when I actually stand up straight. It’d be safe to say that I lose about four to five inches from my height when I stand in my usual, slouchy, way though.
Why do I not thrust my chest out, pull my shoulders back, and hold my head up high? The answer is mainly the lack of confidence and the fact that doing so and walking actually makes me feel awkward, like I’m some sort of crazy 6’3” gangly Thunderbird marionette, or that I look like John Travolta from “Saturday Night Fever” strutting down the street. And who am I to strut? I’m no one special. I have a little potbelly that I can’t shake because I won’t stand up straight and I won’t stand up straight because I don’t have the confidence. It’s not fat either. Hell, I apparently put on 14 kilograms recently and I’m now sitting in the healthy weight range. I used to smoke and have a physique Kate Moss would have been jealous of.
I have a wonky, slightly off kilter body thanks to a mild childhood case of scoliosis. I can’t grow a moustache to complete my beard and end up looking like I have a dirty face when I try. Having said that, I do grow a mean chinstrap beard and thick, lustrous neck beard. I cultivate a well-groomed goatee for the express purpose of hiding my somewhat weak chin. I’m skinny. I have “chicken legs.” I have no chest – or as my stepfather jokingly stated once: “You’ve got a Bondi chest… it’s far from Manly”. Ho ho! Funny Australian-centric humour at its kick-the-dog-while-it’s-down best. Oh joy. I’m not a sniveling mess in the corner though. Sure, I have these personal issues, but I’m aware that I have more positive things out-weighing these self-perceived negatives. I also have a fantastic wife who loves me for who I am and all my stupid little quirks. She also thinks I’m rather hot which doesn’t hurt.
Her confidence in my abilities is increasingly helping me to realize that I can actually do what I hope to do, that I can accomplish what I am setting out to do, and that everything is a lot better when you stand up straight.
~ Damien Baumgart, Australia
I would never be a size 8
I am satisfied with my body! I wish…well, it’s not as bad as it used to be though. At least now I wear the clothes I want to and am not afraid to show my legs, and I also do have some escapades from home when I don’t wear any make-up. But there were different times. It started when I was fifteen. At that time in Russia, fashionable clothing was an extreme rarity, so when I got hold of my first pair of skinny jeans, I was on top of the world. I wore them with pride — to show that I had some connections to get the jeans and that I had nice legs. But one day my friend told me, when we were going home from school, “I heard Natasha and Julia commenting on your legs.” She stopped mid-sentence as if deciding whether to proceed further, to come to the point where she would inflict on me a terrible blow. “They said that your legs are too athletic for this kind of jeans.”
Fucking, jealous bitches was my first reaction to the news, followed by trepidation, by the uncomfortable realization that until then I was under an absolute illusion about my body. My legs were awful apparently. Did it also mean that I had a misconception about the rest of my body? My long battle with my body image started on that day. Skinny jeans were cut with scissors in absolute rage, as well as the rest of my clothes which were showing my body in any way. It was all replaced by unflattering pieces: large jumpers to hide my upper body and long skirts to hide the lower part. The fact that I was also decorated with pimples only contributed to unsatisfaction with my appearance. I had to hide…behind ugly clothes and a heavy layer of make-up.
There were moments, later in life, when I would get glimpses of some resemblance to lucidity, when I would actually look at myself in the mirror and admit that I wasn’t that bad. But this was accompanied by excessive trips to the gym, with constant counting of calories, with the fact that I was never too thin or too perfect. The attack of celebrity magazines on the normal look of a human being didn’t help me with the perception of myself. I would never be size eight, I would never be like Victoria Beckham. This started to change though when I started to do my PhD thesis in sociology. It led me to question the current portrayal of what is beautiful. Reading some feminist literature also led me to question my own assumptions about what did I see and what did I think. I realised at some point that actually I didn’t like how Victoria Beckham looked. It is not healthy to have all this botox, plastic surgery, and extremely slim body immediately after giving birth. No. Life was about enjoyment, about having fun, about eating a nice croissant if you want and when you want.
Slowly but surely I started to change my opinions as well as perception of myself. I was a curvy size ten, and would never be a size eight. Not that I wanted to, I realised at some point. No, I wanted to look good, to look healthy and to look happy, something that no botox will ever provide.
Actually, I think that I am satisfied with my body.
~ Ekaterina Petrovna, United Kingdom
I’ve always been skinny. In some of my younger soccer team photos my knees look like tumours bulging in the middle of my tooth-pick legs. I’ve never had an eating disorder –- I love food and I love to eat. But whether you chock it up to genetics or an insatiable metabolism, it is very difficult for me to gain weight. In highschool I was particularly conscious of this when we had gym. Although I was reasonably strong and in shape for my weight, that didn’t count for much when every other guy had thirty or forty pounds over me.
I think a lot of my shyness stemmed from feeling physically inferior to the other males around me,
including my friends. It was stifling. I compensated by trying to be the smartest in the class. I would
spend my lunch hour alone in the library. I found it difficult to interact and socialize with others,
especially girls, because in the back of my head was always the belief that I wasn’t as worthy as the
rest of my male counterparts. Body image influences confidence, and confidence, ultimately, is
what establishes one’s place in a social hierarchy. I’m only now beginning to really overcome that
The most difficult obstacle I faced with my own body image was my interactions with the opposite
sex. I knew I could never look as strong or as big as what I assumed the ideal male was to a woman.
Because my own insecurity about body image also influenced my behaviour when I was around women, I knew I fell even further out of the category of “desirable.” Even when a girl did show an interest in me I would withdraw and become timid, or disregard their efforts as being “foolish” or a ploy to make me feel worse about myself. In my whole 26 years of life, I’ve only had one girlfriend, and in a culture where one’s “manhood” is a consequence of sexual exploits, it is still hard not to feel ashamed — both by my inexperience, and the fact that part of me still clings to that antiquated definition of manhood.
It’s taken me nearly a decade to reconcile in my own mind how to re-define beauty. How to appreciate
the inconsistencies and uniqueness of my own body, and not be ashamed of what I see in the mirror when I step out of the shower. How to find a balance between my active lifestyle and constantly trying to improve upon myself without sacrificing my integrity, or embracing someone else’s unrealistic image of who I ought to be. Coming to realize that if a woman finds me beautiful, it has more to do with my smile, my sense of humour, or how I treat her than the size of my biceps –- understanding beauty as a conduct of one’s spirit, and not feeling ashamed when I find and recognize it in another.
~ Jordan Mounteer, Canada
Rocky relationship with my belly
I don’t like to admit it, but in the spirit of honesty Carlo set for us here, I will tell you: every single time I’m in front of a mirror or a reflective window, I look at my belly. I especially want to see it from the side, because I want to know how much it’s sticking out. If it’s morning, I usually feel okay about it, because it’s relatively flat before I’ve eaten. By the end of the day, I feel fat and bloated. It protrudes, round and full. It rolls up when I sit down. I’ve only been happy with its appearance a few times. Once was when I weighed 20 pounds less than I do now. When I was at that weight a friend asked me if I was eating enough. When I look at my belly in its fullness, I wish for it to be flat, or at least not so round. I think about how it’s the one feature that will probably ruin my chances of getting dates. I do a lot of belly hating.
Some women might see a picture of me and judge me for saying all this. They might say, “You’re so thin! You barely have a belly.” But I don’t feel thin. I feel positively fat. I compare my belly to every single woman I see. I ask, “Does her belly stick out like mine?” “Why is my belly so much rounder?” “Well, at least I don’t have a muffin top.” “How did she get her stomach to be so flat?” Pictures of models and stars with flat (anorexic) stomachs make me feel inadequate (and sick). It’s such a mind screw. I know our current model of what’s sexy is extremely flawed. I’m an intelligent woman and I usually don’t buy into crap like that.
And yet, I have, because I don’t like how my belly looks. At all. Not surprisingly, my belly is where the majority of my health issues originate. I have had stomach issues since I was a child. Right now I struggle with multiple food allergies and a sugar addiction. I hardly know from one day to the next whether what I’ve eaten will cause my belly to swell or if it will remain in the “good zone,” meaning flat-ish. I should eat salads, greens, and fish as my main food sources; I feel the best when I do. But I often throw in gluten-free bread, rice, and sugary treats because I crave them. I eat things my body doesn’t like while I tell myself I deserve to indulge once in a while. Then, a few hours later, I look down at my swollen belly and I feel guilty. It’s a vicious cycle.
It seems like a contradiction, but I am very protective of my belly. (Maybe that’s why I’ve got a few extra layers around it.) I don’t like tight clothes; I never have. My mom struggled to get me to wear jeans when I was young. I always complained that they were too tight. My favorite clothes are pants with elastic waists (thank you, yoga pants) and skirts worn around my hips. I hate having any constriction around my belly. I want it to feel comfortable, free, open. I’m not a fan of people touching my belly. It doesn’t feel safe, like they’re accessing something too tender and special.
I am protective of my belly because it is my best source of information. Knots, tightness, and pressure show up when things aren’t right. It’s a blessing to have such a vocal belly, one I can count on to guide me. When I get stressed out, I feel it most strongly in my gut, a churning, rolling wave that crashes again and again. I know when things are good because I feel an emptiness in my belly. My gut has warned me about jobs that weren’t right for me, harmful people, and bad situations. It’s never been wrong. For that, I love my belly. It’s also the source of my feminine power. Admittedly, I’m still coming to terms with just how powerful I am, and that might be another reason for the padding around my belly.
So how can I bridge this gap? How can I love my physical belly as much as I love my energetic belly? I can immediately think of things that others might say: take a belly-dancing class. Stop looking at ads. Stop eating the things that make my belly unhappy. Stop comparing. Stop obsessively looking in the mirror. None of that is going to work unless I establish a real, love-centered relationship with my belly. What resonates the most is talking with my belly. Asking it what it needs. What does it have to tell me? Is it happy the way it is? Can I do anything to help it? I think that will be the most lasting route to true belly love.
~ Katrina Dreamer, United States
If you ask any woman with kids what has changed about her body since she gave birth there will always be the usual answers; stretch marks are the first ones that come to mind. On your belly, on your boobs, on your hips, even on your bum. Some woman wear these stretch marks with pride: “my baby gave me these and I love them!” I have the little red lines, of course; I neither hate them nor love them. I’d rather I didn’t have them, but I will still wear a bikini when I go on holiday. The next thing that comes to mind that changes is boobs. They either get bigger or smaller. They change shape, the nipple changes in colour, shape, and size. I loved my boobs pre-baby, and after the birth and eventual giving up of breastfeeding mine turned into what I can only describe as pancakes.
I used to look at my boobs in the mirror and hold them up and think “23 years old” and let them flop and think “24 years old.” That’s how quick they change, and they won’t go back to their pre baby size and shape, ever. Although I seem quite upset about my pancake boobs, I have actually come to love them again. They ain’t what they used to be, no, but they are pretty damn good anyway. There is one more thing that changed for me after giving birth, and this is the thing I have an issue with. Before I tell you about that, let me tell you a bit about me.
I was born into a large and ever growing family. I am one of three sisters, and I have three brothers. Three of us were blessed with slim bodies — the ability to eat like a horse and not get chunky. The other three were given the bodies of my mum, large and a life of struggling with weight gain and food issues. I am of the slim persuasion. When I was 14 and my boobs finally came in I used to dance around the room with just my bra on, teasing my big sister, shoving my chest in her face and laughing at her lack of breast (I even had a boobie song). At 17 she had to work hard to keep herself at a size she was happy with, and she had a flat chest as a result. My mum taught us all to love ourselves no matter what, and for me that came easy.
I do love myself and my body — well most of it. I spent my teenage and young adult years flaunting my body, enjoyed a healthy sex life, and took for granted what I had. My confidence in myself was at an all-time high. I met my husband, had a whirlwind romance, got hitched. My first daughter was born in 2008 and so began my body image issues.
Although there was nothing medically wrong with me, something had changed in my vagina. It was concluded three years later that the midwives may have missed a tear after I gave birth — so instead of having stitches and healing quickly like most women with tears, I was doomed to heal on my lonesome. The pains made me anxious and I did not want to have any more children. Ever. After I healed I started to have a look around down there; maybe I could work it out myself. What I saw shocked me, and to this day I hate my vagina. Oh no, what was down there?! Well, don’t get your knickers in a twist, writing it makes me realise that it’s not that bad. But I had changed — a lot. I have bits where I didn’t have bits before; looking at myself in the mirror straight on it looked like my mini had a mini chin.
I was horrified. My beautiful body, damaged! I went from being proud of my body, to disgusted by it. Who would want me now? Who is going to look at me and think I’m sexy?! Well, my husband still does but I didn’t believe him –- how could he want me when my fanny looked like a squashed tomato? It was a long, hard road to recovering that love for me and my body. I don’t know about other women, but my mates and I don’t sit around talking about our lady parts, so the only people that know about my vagina-hate is me and the hubby (oh, and now you). I also have no idea how common vagina-hate is.
By the time the husband was ready for baby number two, my anxiety about giving birth (and going through the healing pain) was renewed – I agreed to another baby, but I was not happy about it. I cried myself to sleep many nights, scared of the pain I would go through again and the doom my vagina would face. When my belly got so big that I could no longer see my bits, I was so happy — if you can’t see it it’s not there! My second birth experience gave me back some bedroom confidence, as well as a little bit of love for the wonderful things a woman’s body can do. But I still have vagina issues, ones I will live with for the rest of my life. But knowing I have the love of my husband makes my mini with a chin a bit easier to live with.
I am a 33 year old white woman and I have a big ol’ booty. Big, like badonk-a-donk big. A donque booty.
Walking down the street, a regular part of my life is: “Dang girl, where’d a white girl get an ass like that?” and “Damn, I’d like to hit that ass” and “mmmm, look at that big old booty.”
I developed early. At the age of 11, I was given a woman’s body, C-cup breasts, a 24-inch waist, big hips, and a big round booty. I hated it. It became a constant point of attention and ridicule. I was removed from my ballet class for being too “big.” Boys made fun of me, I remember being called “horse” and “thunder thighs.” Even though I was an accomplished athlete and dancer, I hated my body. I never wanted to stand up in front of the class to do the advanced math problems that I excelled at, and I wasn’t comfortable dancing without a shirt or hoodie tied around my waist.
And then I went to college, moving from a largely white suburban town to ethnically diverse Washington, DC and I began to dance with a hip hop troupe and study bellydancing. Everything changed. I was often put on a pedestal and celebrated for having a big butt and hips. I was pursued by men and often told I was perfect.
This makes me equally as uncomfortable.
Of course, the attention is fulfilling and, if it stopped, it would be hard for me. However, it makes me uncomfortable to spend my life being defined by, and having my self-worth tied to the shape of my body. I am an entreprenuer, a business owner, a sister, a daughter, the eccentric aunt, a caring friend and a damn good dancer. I wish for the young women that I work with, that I, and they, are defined by our character and skill, and not by whatever is big, small, round, or flat on our bodies.
~ Lisa Zahiya, United States
0.7% body love
At about the age of 3 or 4 I would often be running around my mom’s bedroom as she was getting out of the shower and getting ready for the day. I remember her looking at herself in the mirror and saying, “I am so fat.” She may have even turned to me and said it, not realizing that, although I was small, I knew what she was saying. I also remember her telling me not to eat toast with peanut butter and butter because it would make me fat. In my teens I she gave me a slightly hard time for not exercising more frequently (I know that this is a valid concern for a parent, but her concern was driven by her own fear).
I have struggled with my body image my whole life. On top of what was going on in my home, there is also our culture and media to contend with. It may surprise some of my friends to learn how insecure I can feel about my body because I generally don’t talk about it or obsess outwardly enough to indicate that it is a concern, but I have almost never been entirely happy with my body. There was a window of a few months in 2008 that I was happy with my body. That’s it. In 34.5 years, I have liked my body for a grand total of about three months.
One year ago, I had my first baby. I went into my pregnancy thinking I was comfortable with the fact that I would gain weight. I thought to myself, this is weight with a purpose, and a good purpose at that. I was surprised to feel really uncomfortable during the first five months of being pregnant. I was gaining and gaining, but had no obvious belly to show for it. I used to worry that people thought I was just getting fat. I hated it. Once the belly came, I felt extremely relieved and proud.
After childbirth, I was about 25 pounds heavier than before pregnancy. For a few months I was OK with this. I wanted to focus on the health of my baby and breastfeeding (which relies on stored body fat). So, once again, I was in a “fat for a purpose” place. But, once those first few months went by and the weight wasn’t decreasing as quickly as I had hoped, I freaked out again. I started to have moments of wondering if this was it. Was I destined to be fatter than before? I was not OK with this and felt genuinely afraid of living the rest of my life in this body. I also had moments of feeling like I looked fairly good for a new mom in her 30s, but those feelings never stuck around for quite as long as the fear based ones. I have reached my pre-pregnancy weight now, but my body is different from before and I am still getting used to it.
I wish I could “get over” my body image issues. If I find a way, I will share it with you.
~ Kendra Shand, Canada
My port wine stain
I was born with a six-inch “port wine stain” that dominated nearly the entire left side of my face. (Doctors call the condition naevusflammeus, a vascular birthmark resulting from deep dilated capillaries below the surface of the skin.) I was taught how to apply a mask of thick makeup to my face each day in an effort to avoid teasing and humiliation. When I was a teenager, I could never “let my guard down” and it was almost impossible for me to participate in sleepovers with other girls my age. While still mostly wearing my “mask,” I got married, moved to the New York City suburbs, and raised two children. Conditioned to believe that if the mask ever slipped — from careless application of makeup or perhaps by shedding a tear — the world would see what I looked like. The result was too painful for me to even imagine.
Unfortunately, some of my worst fears came true. My husband left me with two children, penniless, and hopeless. At the age of 30, my inner light bulb went on. I would either move on and accept myself or I wouldn’t. I proudly accepted who I was and since then, I have raised two great kids, worked my way up the corporate ladder, and met a remarkable dermatologist by the name of Dr. Roy Geronemus, a pioneer in the use of laser surgery for the treatment of conditions of this kind. Under the care of Dr. Geronemus (currently the director of the Laser & Skin Surgery Centerof New York) I began a series of dozens of “pulsed dye” laser treatment sessions that would change my life.
Not everything has gone my way — I remarried and lost mysecond husband to cancer. I recently launched a blog (link below) designed to help people overcome adversity and personal loss. I think “body image” is not who you really are, and self-esteem from being unique is not emphasized enough in society. I learned the hard way, but for every woman who obsesses over body image, your “inner scoreboard” will lead you to the life you always wanted — now and in the future.
Susanne Veder Berger, United States
Trans man in the locker room blues
I never had a boyhood, and my manhood is not like other men’s. I have changed my body enormously, but not everything can be changed, and my body is still visibly trans. I’ll take my shirt off wherever men may do so: in the locker room or in a friend’s pool or at the beach. I even go to nude beaches: I feel safe in the more extremely mixed company found on nude beaches. There, my nudity is just a shade among theirs in degree of hirsuteness, adiposity, age, and secondary sexual characteristics.
But the locker room is another kind of test, one I am embarrassed to be unable to pass. It isn’t the scars crossing my chest, faded but not gone, nor the extra flesh from childbirth that still hangs from my rock hard abs when I hold the plank position. It’s what else is left that I cannot change. My poker face can get me through anything except a direct challenge. I fear being told to leave, that I don’t belong. So when I need to change down to the skin before or after a workout, and I’m not alone in the locker room, I’ll go into a bathroom stall or behind a shower curtain.
After years of testosterone therapy and weight training, I am completely transformed. I am majestic, unique, a work of living art. I have earned this confidence in my body’s ability to visibly convey masculinity, with my patience, willingness to take risks, and to toil at a sport in which, like so much else, I find I am alone, without peers.
And yet, I live in two different images of myself. In one, I can love and admire myself for everything I’ve done with what I’ve been given. I stand up tall because I deserve to take the space to be strong. In the other, I cannot accept myself at all: each of my most glaring flaws is bad enough that I don’t deserve to pass. I should have worked harder, been more worthy. I am incomparably ugly, and there is no grading curve for my human body on which I wouldn’t fail.
~ Justin Cascio, United States
This story has been told a million times
Once there was a girl who loved Vogue and wished that one day she would look like that girl in the magazine. Then one day somebody told that girl that she was ugly. When she decided that couldn’t be true, somebody told that girl she was fat. She tried to tell herself that wasn’t true, but just couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She cried and hoped and wished that one day she would be thin and everybody would love her because of it, but that never happened. That girl was me. Now I am 26 and I have struggled with my body image for as long as I can remember. I mulled over old elementary school photos, the years that started it all, and realized for the first time that I was wrong.
I wasn’t fat then. Unfortunately, those years are what did the damage to my body image. When you think you are fat, but you aren’t, it changes the way you feel about your body; it makes it so you can never be happy with the way you look. I struggle with myself all the time, trying desperately to convince myself not to zoom in on all my flaws when I look in the mirror. Sometimes, I fail and sometimes I don’t, but it is a daily challenge to just love my body. I still read my Vogue magazines and find myself wishing I had a body like a model and that is not even a possibility no matter how thin I am.
I wasted so many years hating my body, but never talking about it with anyone because of my pride. My body image was dictated by an eight year old boy, but today he no longer has power over me. It took me a long time to get to this point and I may never have a “normal” body image, but I know I am beautiful from head to toe and I will never again let anyone tell me different.
~ Shannon Street, United States
In the lesbian community I claimed my body as my own
As a teenager growing up in Scotland, I wore make-up, dressed up, and worried constantly about looking good. When I was 19 (in the 70s) I became a hippie and overnight I started wandering around happily in an old jacket and worn jeans, as other hippies did. It was a great relief not to be spending so much time, energy, and money on my appearance, particularly since it had generated a lot of attention from men which was frequently difficult to handle. Interestingly, I found that men were still attracted to me when I ceased to obsess about my looks; and they were much more the kind of men I liked, men who were actually interested in me, rather than just wanting to have sex.
A few years later, I came out as a lesbian. Within the lesbian community I really claimed my body as my own, and completely stopped worrying what other people thought of my looks. I just embraced myself the way I was. Over the years it has certainly required courage to be so nakedly myself in a world with such a limited concept of how women should look, but I am really grateful I was able to do it, since it meant that I escaped the beauty trap, accepting that beauty is an inside job. The images projected in the media are (literally) deadly — women who don’t fit those stereotypes are likely to be overlooked at the very least, and ridiculed at worst. We need to support each other in being who we are rather than trying to make each other fit the mold. We need to learn to see and appreciate that individual beauty that is so much more real than external appearance.
~ Mikaya Heart, Scotland
Before I believed what God said about me, I was lost
I hated what I saw in the mirror and would’ve done anything to change it. Before I knew that my value wasn’t measured by how I looked or how thin I was, I was manipulative. I was a liar, and everyone else’s well-being came second to my quest for perfection.
Before I completely turned every area of my life over to Jesus, I had a self-made religion of starving, purging, exercising, measuring, comparing, and plotting new and more effective ways of worshiping the god of thinness. I was stuck in an endless cycle, never achieving the aspired goal, but in the process of striving I was self destructing, and hurting those who loved me. Our world focuses intensely on the outer. It values beauty and if you will let it, it’ll train you to sacrifice all for it. However, the reward of beauty is quite empty.
God’s rewards are rich. Immersing yourself in the things of Him, causes the focus on the outer to just fall right off. The more place you give Him in your heart, the less real estate self-criticism can hold. Create an atmosphere in your home that honors God and His Word. Flee from conversations, media, and activities which draw attention to body size, dieting, and measuring the outer beauty of others. The less you focus on body image: the less you focus on body image!
Although I tried everything the world had to offer me to be free of my obsession: treatment facility, Prozac, support groups, dietician, social worker, psychiatrist, psychologist, and more, nothing worked. It wasn’t until I filled that part of my life with Jesus, that I was completely set free.
Angela Huntley, United States
The mirror’s false reflection
A negative body image takes little time to insinuate itself into a person’s consciousness and damage self-esteem. Personally, I am unsure which came first: low self-esteem or poor body image. I only know that the two have been constant companions. During my childhood, people bombarded my parents with comments on my skinniness. The comments later expanded to include my flat chest; puberty was not my friend. I grew up feeling less than worthy and less than attractive. “Real women” graced magazines and Top 10 Beautiful Women lists. A real woman was not that scrawny reflection in the mirror that needed no bra.
The resulting insecurity and lack of confidence ruined most of my relationships. I was unable to believe a man loved me for me; I knew I was merely a temporary measure until someone with a real body came along. This manifested as a sadness and fear of impending doom. I distanced myself in expectation of being dumped for an attractive woman. Distance would make it hurt less. This did not go over well.
These days, I scoff at negative body image when it rears up to bite me. No single, sudden epiphany helped me get to this point. I overcame negativity through several realizations. What helped most was discovering that friends whose bodies I considered ideal also agonized over their image. They envied parts of me as much as I envied parts of them. When we included men in the discussion, their comments led to the astounding knowledge that there is no one standard of beauty.
If there is more than one ideal body, then there was nothing wrong with ours. It took time, but we all have so much more confidence born from that realization. If I could travel back, I would erase comments on my appearance. I would tell society that physical appearance is too subjective, so please keep comments to who I am and not what I look like.
~ Jackie Clark, United States
[Feature photo: by Janine]