If you’re anything like me, body image is something you struggle with from time to time. In a society that is obsessed with looks, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex that is “conventional beauty”. Beauty is a particular look. Beauty has a particular walk. Beauty has a particular income. Beauty shops at particular places. Beauty wears particular kinds of clothing. Beauty is a particular Instagram filter. You get the picture. And even though most of us know on an intellectual level that the bill of goods we’re sold is exactly that, a bill of goods, a lot of us can’t help looking at the airbrushed model on the magazine cover and think, even for a split second, “I wish I had her (fill in the blank).”
I’ve mentioned this before but one of my goals in 2023 is to lose 25 pounds. I gained a bunch of weight when I was on hormonal birth control a several years back and while I’m not necessarily trying to go back to my size 0 days, I’d love to no longer have a ring of fat around my mid-section ><. Weight gain caused me to be really frustrated about my body, which, to be honest, I’ve never been fully satisfied with (even when I was super skinny). I spent a majority of my 20s just not completely comfortable in my own skin for one reason or another.
Mind you, this is largely a mind thing. I was raised in and still belong to a happy, loving family that has always shown affection and love and respect for each other. I have a wonderful husband who’s always loved my body, imperfections and all! But man, the devil is a sneaky one, yeah? Insecurities about one or a few aspects of our bodies can draw us into comparisons and self body-shaming. Negative self-talk creeps into and becomes part of our psyche without us really noticing. It’s insidious and hard to break through.
Now it’s June and I’m about halfway to meeting my weight goal (yay!!!!! *cue happy dance*). As I’ve been dropping a little weight here and there, I’ve gotten a bit more comfortable in, not just my clothes, but also just own my skin. I still have challenges that won’t be solved by weight loss but this progress has given me some momentum that I’m clinging to and using to re-train my brain. I’ve decided that I need to work on my self-respect and fine-tune by body image a bit. So I thought I’d share 4 way I’m learning to feel comfortable in my own skin in my 30s.
- Preaching Truth to Myself. A healthy self image starts with a healthy theology. Okay, I know this doesn’t sound sexy. at. all. but stay with me. What we think and feel about ourselves has a lot to do with what we think and know about God. And while I think it’s important to leave some room in the margin for things like dealing with mental health challenges brought on by environment and relationships, on a very basic level, we can all start with the theology of Imago Dei. Imago Dei is Latin for Image of God. A good, healthy theology of God will tell you that you’re created in His image and that is a reality that no one can take away from you. It doesn’t matter how imperfect your body is, what kind of physical or mental issues you’re challenged with, or what age may have done to you over the years, you were created to image God’s glory and love in this world. And that makes you a beautiful human being. Period. When we start with that fact, we can start re-building a healthy self image that no longer focuses on how we’re not like someone else but rather on how we each have to potential to be like Jesus in our own unique ways. Ultimately, our focus shouldn’t be about how we can satisfy ourselves but rather on how we can use what God has given us to honor Him and love other people.
- Quitting Comparison. I’m really bad about this. I compare myself to the woman who passes me in the isle at the grocery store, the barista at the coffee shop, the model on the billboard, etc.. In my head, I know that no one is perfect but I need to repeat it to my emotions when I step on the scale. I need to repeat it to myself when I’m bloated. When I my face breaks out. When I’m having a bad hair day. There. Isn’t. A. Perfect. Body. On. The. Planet. I need to remember this and give myself grace when the image of “beauty” I have in my mind doesn’t match the reality that is me. My body is beautiful, imperfections and all. I can stop comparing myself to others.
- Taking Care of My Body. It’s not selfish to take care of the body God entrusted to me. Not only is it not selfish, it’s my responsibility to take care of this body the best I can. I should exercise, eat well, stay hydrated, rest, and maintain boundaries. I’m not invincible and I need to listen to when my body sends me distress signals. I need to make intentional choices. Aaaaaaaaaand I need to learn what works best for me, not simply copy someone else’s routines and rituals and think they’re going to work the same for my very different body. I’ve always believed that we can only take care of our people and responsibilities to the extent that we care for ourselves. That’s not selfish – that’s sustainability.
- Being Patient. Everything takes time. Everything. I always want things yesterday. I want my new skin care regimen to produce results now. I want my jeans to fit a little looser the day after I start working out. I want my skin to glow the day I start hydrating more. But everything takes time. I need to be patient with my body and let it do its thing. The more I’m consistent, the more I’m dedicated, the more I’m willing to listen and make adjustments, the more I’m willing to make sacrifices, the more in tune I’ll be with my body’s needs and the better I’ll feel in the long run!
I want to be progressively comfortable in my skin as I get older. By the time I’m 40, I want to be in the best shape I’ll have ever been in and appreciate every bit of who and what God made to be. It’ll take time and prayer and work but I’m up for it. I refuse to let unrealistic notions of beauty suck me into dissatisfaction and bitterness. Beauty is so much more than what we see. It’s a combination of character, personality, passions, quirks, heart, and voice. No one can be the same kind of beautiful as you or me. No one can reflect God’s glory and love exactly like you or me. I don’t want to waste my time worrying about what my body isn’t and focus more on what my body is – unique and beautiful.
If you’re like me, I hope you’ll set out on your own journey toward a healthier self image. I hope you commit yourself to taking care of yourself. Hold your head up, stay focused, pursue excellence, listen to advice, don’t be afraid of challenges, and remember that you’re the only one who can be the beautiful you God intended you to be.
Here’s to feeling comfortable in our own, beautiful skin.