When I walk into a room full of women, it’s hard for me to stop my brain from assessing where I rank in terms of my physical size. On a bad day I can tell you in seconds how many women are thinner and how many women are heavier than I am.
I’m not proud of this. But, it’s true.
Decades of viewing life as some sort of beauty contest and battling the demons of my own body image battle set in place a number of bad habits. This is just one of them.
But it wasn’t until I admitted this tendency, out loud, to a crowd of (possibly stunned) women that I found a new level of freedom in that specific struggle. In fact, most of the time I can take that thought captive before I start my room analysis and stop the behavior.
The enemy has one really great lie that surpasses all the others. It goes like this: You are the only one who feels this way.
He Wants You To Feel Alone, You’re Not
Sure, sometimes it takes on slightly different nuance: You are the only one who does this. Or (a personal favorite): You are the only one who struggles with this. But, the lie remains the same and fulfills a dual purpose. First, to make sure that you feel sufficiently condemned and strange. And, second, to keep you quiet about that particular struggle–forever–lest people find out about how odd you really are.
But, here’s the truth: When we speak those lies out loud we always, always, always find that others are struggling in the exact same way. You are not the only one. Ever. This discovery shines light into our own struggles and gives us hope that we are not alone so that we can overcome them.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.I Corinthians 10:13
After I confessed to my pathology of constantly assessing my own weight as compared to others, do you know what happened?
Many other women began to confess to me the same thing.
“I do that, too.” One friend said. She added, “I’m really surprised that you said that. I’ve been doing that habitually for so long I barely even recognized that I did it. Wow. I need to stop, don’t I?”
I say that not to pat myself on the back of course, but to encourage you to be brave. Be honest. Get real. Talk about your struggles. Get specific.
Staying mute keeps us, and everyone around us, in bondage. The only way to start breaking free sometimes is to open your mouth. Let the dirty little secrets out so you can find out that they aren’t as uncommon as you want to believe.
There’s a reason why admitting to struggle is step one for support groups of all kinds. Even if you’ve never set foot in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you know what to say when you start, “Hi, I’m Heather and I’m a…”
It’s Hard to Come Clean
I understand the great risk involved with being vulnerable outside of a support group setting. There is a distinct possibility that everyone will sit and stare at you with their mouths gaping wide and that no one will respond to you. At all. You may pour your heart out for everyone to hear and receive only awkwardness in response.
But, don’t let that stop you.
See, the Bible tells us that the enemy of our souls is both creative and crafty. But, sadly, he doesn’t have to use any original material on us as long as we all stay mute. He can just whisper the same exact lie into each of our ears and we believe it. Convince ourselves (because he’s said it) that we are the only person to ever think these horrible thoughts, and then trap it inside to dwell on as truth. Indefinitely.
Let’s not make it so easy on him.
C.S. Lewis once said that friendship is born the moment someone says, “You too? I thought I was the only one.” Our inability to share our struggles, truthfully, keeps us all bound in ways that God sent Jesus to buy our freedom from. But, it’s hard to do this alone. When we find out how common our struggle truly is then we are then empowered to tackle it head on.
What body image struggle do you have that you’ve never confessed to anyone before? Is there a friend you could share it with today?
If you are feeling especially brave, feel free to share it in comments below because, I can assure you, that someone else will read it and say, “You too? I thought I was the only one who…”