The Natural Forces Won
I mentioned in my blog My Body Changed & I Hate It: Comparison and Body Dysmorphia, that I was a late bloomer in high school. Puberty didn’t hit me until my sophomore year. Prior to that time, I thought my body would never change. Honestly, I think I assumed I had already gone through puberty and it just didn’t affect me as much as others (or at least that was my hope). By that point, I had already had my first couple of periods, and my thighs and hips were certainly there in my mind, so I thought, “yeah, this must just be it!” While I was living in this bliss before my body actually grew and changed, my mom and older sister kept telling me that my body wouldn’t stay the same forever. I think they were trying to prepare me for the inevitable and encourage me, but it just fueled my fire and unhealthy thoughts that I needed my body to stay the same. I will not become fat the older I become, I would tell myself. They’ll see, I will continue to look like this and not be that person who gains weight. I have been blessed to be skinny and I will not waste it. I will stay this way. Unfortunately (but fortunately) the natural forces won.
Puberty: Awkward Years of Change
Puberty. I don’t think there is another word more widely and universally dreaded by people. The obvious reasons for this dread being the lack of comfortability, physical pain, awkwardness, and unwanted attention it brings to blossoming youngsters; especially girls who are typically already struggling with self-esteem. Not to mention the fact that girls today are also experiencing puberty in all different stages of life. Some girls, like myself, are late bloomers and don’t see changes until high school, while other girls are experiencing significant body changes as early as elementary school. How do we support and promote body image in young girls and/or women through puberty’s natural changes when each journey looks so different today? Part of this involves education on natural and healthy body changes, as well as what it actually means to be healthy.
Your Body Will Change & That’s Okay!
When my body did finally start to change after entering puberty, reality hit me hard. And the harder I resisted the natural forces, the worse it was for me. I went from being a bubbly and confident girl to an insecure striver who compared herself to everyone. But my body was changing as it should have. Why didn’t I see and believe this? Honestly, I remember learning little about body image related to puberty. I don’t remember hearing anyone tell me or reassure me that body changes should be expected; that body changes are okay, natural and a healthy part of growing up and maturing. Sure, we learned in school that our bodies would change, that we may need to shower more, wear deodorant, get bras, etc. but I really don’t remember hearing how it is healthy for our bodies to gain weight in the midst of these changes. Add to this society’s unhealthy diet culture and media portrayals of beauty, and we have a recipe for disaster. It’s no wonder girls, whether in elementary or high school, struggle with their body image during puberty. We need to address pubescent body changes, especially natural weight gain with our girls, both inside and outside of school.
Image Comparing Versus Image Bearing
During puberty, I became an image comparer, instead of being an image bearer. I sought acceptance and value in others. All that mattered most in high school was that I belonged, and others accepted me. For me, this included looking a certain way. Nothing was enough and nothing could satisfy the deep longing in my heart that only God could fill though. This seeking and striving to be accepted and loved by others left me feeling empty and not good enough or beautiful enough. Every single time friends. I look back on my high school self now with sorrow. It breaks my heart to know that girl thought she wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough or beautiful enough to be loved. It breaks my heart to know that I feared and hated the body God breathed life into, His spirit into, simply because my thighs, hips and more were growing.
GAINING WEIGHT is normal!
Friends, pretty please hear me when I say this. Puberty brings body growth and changes, and this is normal and healthy. I’m going to say it again, puberty is normal and HEALTHY.
Our bodies weren’t meant to stay the same as they are when we’re young children. They are meant to grow and change with us. Imagine if we stayed the same developmentally as when we were children. Imagine if we refused to learn to communicate with words, walk, potty train or feed ourselves. Imagine yourself as an adult unable to do all of these things because you didn’t let yourself grow and mature. It sounds silly right? The same goes for our bodies! It is silly to expect and fight for our bodies to stay the same when God created them to grow and change with us! I am grateful the divine design won, and my body grew into the beautiful woman of God I was created to be.
So, what changed? How did I move from hating my body to loving it? Well friends, when I truly learned and understood God’s love for me, and began placing my identity in Him, I stopped caring about things like my appearance and acceptance. All that mattered was His great love for me and for others. And all that mattered was sharing and reflecting that to others.
I became an image bearer, focused on reflecting God’s love and bearing His image in which I was created. And all the pressure to look a certain way dissipated because it was no longer my focus and no longer important. Focus on being an image bearer instead of an image comparer my friends, it truly changes everything.