This is one of those posts where I’ve still got so many issues that I wonder if I should be writing it in the first place (possibly passing on my corrupted thoughts to all of you?). Body image and I have a long and gnarly history. (See the first post of this series, A Body Good: Naked Truth about Body Image…and this one.) I still wrestle with it in real-time, so consider this a post of someone thinking out loud.
In my recent conversations with Western women, I’m getting the idea that I’m sadly far from alone. Body image certainly influences our confidence. The way we spend our time. Our sexuality and marriages.
I think it paralyzes us more than we realize.
“Should I work out more?”
A week ago I was heavily leaning (see what I did there?) toward upping my workout regimen. I’m usually working out 2-3 times a week, but maybe I needed to make my routines more vigorous. But that’s when I felt a little nick in my soul.
It was as if God was nudging me a bit. I wonder if he was saying something like, If you want to work out more, it’s okay. But I want you to think through your why’s first.
I wondered, if I asked God, whether he would say I’m healthy enough.
So I thought about it. I eat pretty healthy. I’m consistently adapting more healthy ideas as I learn about them, like moving more back to the ways God made food and designed us to eat. I make exceptions now and then in what I eat–like having a small piece of something I enjoy in order to celebrate. I’m aiming not to consume more than my portion of “daily bread” (–something I want to work more into my material possessions this year, too). And I’m relatively in shape in light of the other priorities in my life. My weakness: exercising too much control so that I’m not eating enough–which harkens back to that near-eating disorder I got myself into.
I don’t think the Bible’s against me spending time on my appearance. Paul talks about physical training having some value. The husband in Song of Solomon revels in how she smells and has cared for herself. (As I evaluated, I think my husband’s pretty okay with my appearance.) The Proverbs 31 woman dresses in purple and brings her food from afar.
It’s the order of how much time and energy I spend that gets me, right?
What lies beneath
When I was honest, I was more motivated to work out by body dislike–no, worse than that; maybe even body hatred–than anything.
And in that, there is a subtle, degrading form of atheism. Of disbelief.
Maybe that seems extreme. After all, we live in a world where we don’t have to accept how we were made, down to gender or the shape of your nose. But I sense in myself a tie from my dissatisfaction–in extreme times, my loathing–to a lack of faith. To a lack of appreciation of God’s creativity and perfect purposes. He designed Esther’s face and body for the story he’d written. Do I think he wouldn’t do the same with mine?
Somewhere inside I’d rather be a factory-stamped-out Barbie doll than embrace the genetics God spiraled in me for his specific purposes. Or the fact that because my body did what it was designed to do–nurturing four new lives for about eight years–I care more about what that did to my body than its facilitation of the miracles walking around.
Last night on our date out, I asked my husband what one thing he’d say to me about body image if he knew I’d receive it. He looked me in the eyes. “You’ve connected your body image to your sense of worth. Somewhere in there, it’s like your values aren’t talking to each other.”
Um. Yep. (Told you my issues were gnarly.)
So I may be increasing my workout intensity a bit. But it felt important to get this poison in me filtered out before I, well, start listening to it. More than any other time in history, culture is hyperfocused on personal beauty. (One leading women’s magazine I read last night was promoting both $14 purse-sized teeth whiteners to use after beverages, and employing a personal stylist.)
But God still calls me to invest in treasures elsewhere (Matthew 6:19-20). I wonder if spending a little more time on something else that mattered–maybe social justice in my community–might have more payoffs.
So this is where I’d love your feedback, since obviously I’m limited in what I can contribute here. What soul-questions do you consider in light of your physical routines?
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