The sign at the gym lists reasons why patrons should return to workout tomorrow. I laugh (and restrain myself from pulling out a Sharpie) as I read them. Reason number one reads: “No more body image issues.”
Ahhh . . . If only that were true.
I’ve been a fitness instructor for more than a decade and, although I’ve seen women wrestle body image everywhere, body image issues show up most at the gym—often dressed cute with a keen awareness of how many calories they intend to burn.
Floating around this universe are many other myths surrounding the nature of our body image problems and what will solve them. Today, I want to just tackle five BIG myths about body image. And, like those guys on Mythbusters, debunk them for you!
Myth #1: Your body image will change if you change your body. This myth likely motivated the sign at my gym. Want to fix your body image woes? Just make your body look different. It seems logical, right?
But this is a myth I marched all the way through the scientific method’s steps and proved false. My hypothesis: If I can wear a size four, I’ll no longer have body image issues. My method: I worked out twice a day, starved myself. The results: I zipped up a size four dress for the first time and I felt great. For a solid five days. (Give or take a few.)
The truth was, I arrived at a place where according to everything I saw or heard, I shouldn’t have had any more body image issues. I wore a small size. I was at the gym–teaching fitness classes–every day. But, I still struggled. I still felt like it wasn’t enough. I still didn’t feel beautiful. I still knew women who were thinner and felt like they *must* be happier. I still felt like I wasn’t enough.
Truth #1: Body image is a battle in our hearts and our minds. It’s fought by women who wear a size 2 and a size 22 just the same. It’s time to stop saying a gym membership or diet will fix it.
Myth #2: Your body image will change if you determine to love yourself. Pardon me while I gag my way through this one because some of my regular readers know that self-love cures exactly nothing. Friends, if you love Jesus than self-love is against everything He teaches and stands for. That old “You have to love yourself to love anyone else” line is no where in the Bible. In fact, the Bible teaches something different. Love God. Love others. And, it preaches against self-focus and pride.
I’ve never met a woman who decided to love her body and then found true freedom. Some have found pride–as they’ve decided to love themselves more–but there’s only more bondage there. (Sin brings bondage, period.)
Truth #2: Love Jesus more and the way you feel about your body will change and you are filled with renewed purpose and love for your Savior. Love yourself more and the best you can hope for is a lot of likes on photo of your stretchmarks you put on Instagram.
Myth #3: Your body image will change if you get married. I believed this one for sure. As soon as I had a ring on it, I was sure my suffering would end. No longer would I wonder if I was thin enough, beautiful enough, I’d have a man who answered all those questions in the affirmative. But, yikes, it didn’t work that way at all. Marriage didn’t answer those questions like I assumed it would.
Truth #3: A man’s love is great, but only Jesus’ love will give you the security and confidence you long for. He is the only one with the power to affirm you in the way you crave. Seek that from Him before you marry if you can. (I wrote all about this on this post about marriage and body image.)
Myth #4: Your body image will change if you just change your self talk. And the little engine said, “I think I can” all the way up the hill. If you just look yourself in the mirror and remind yourself, like Stuart Smalley, that you are good enough and smart enough and people like you, that’ll fix everything. Stop talking mean and start talking nice. Problem, solved.
Truth #4: Yes, you need to stop the negative self talk.
Yes, you need to be kind in your thoughts towards yourself–fill them with grace. But, in all this self-talk pyschobabble we tend to ignore that we have a real enemy who plants negative thoughts in our minds, sometimes non-stop. If we try to change our self-talk without acknowledging that we need God’s help to battle the Enemy and shut him up. We’ll fight unsuccesfully.
Myth #5: Your body image will NEVER change. . .There is no hope. This is the “you are doomed to feel like this forever” myth. And, I have great news for you. It’s totally not true. Although, I believed it for most of my life. Goodness, especially after I got married. I was so mad at God. I thought he had let me down because I he allowed me to marry a man who could not fix my body image. Only, it was a grace, that instead, he showed me how He was the only one, all along, who could ever change the way I felt about my physical body.
Truth #5: Gradually as I’ve surrendered to Him my issues in this area He’s been faithful to show me where the answers were all along.
Turns out they weren’t hiding. I just couldn’t see them through the cloud of body image idolatry I was surrounded by. I’m grateful that he showed me the path to freedom and I know he will be faithful to do the same for you.
What myths have you believed about your body image?