encouragement,  Motherhood

Body Image

on the mirrorBy Amanda Markel

Our culture has near-impossible standards for physical appearance.

Plus-size models are criticized for normalizing — or even promoting — a “fat” lifestyle. All overweight women are that way because they’re lazy gluttons, right? They must sit around all day eating, and never think about exercise. It’s assumed if you’re overweight, no matter how much care you take with your appearance, you can’t be considered pretty, because lazy over-eaters are not good looking. Maybe you’re funny, or skilled in a particular area, but attractive when you’re overweight? Impossible.

Skinny women seem to have it made, but they aren’t immune to hurtful critique, either. “You should eat more” is a common phrase thrown at them. Any interest in eating healthy or exercising receives scoffs and comments of “aren’t you skinny enough?”. Even doctors might laugh at the woman who is concerned by rapid weight-loss, joking about the number of women who would “kill for that”. Whether their weight is due to a medication that causes undesired weight loss, or due to nursing a hungry baby who eats more calories than mom can take in, or due to simple genetics, critics don’t seem to care. Because we all know “real” women aren’t a size two, thank you very much.

For some reason, we — women, especially — seem to think if we struggle with something (weight, in this example, though it could be hair, skin or any number of issues), it’s ok for us to mock, criticize or otherwise denigrate women who struggle with the same thing, sometimes in a pseudo-helpful fashion, and other times in a self-righteous tone, as though it’s not something we have an issue with.

Other times, we don’t even realize we’re doing it. Off-hand comments can sting as much as an outright insult.

“I’d be such a pig if I ate that whole thing.” Do you not notice the woman next to you with the flaming face? Did it occur to you that she has “eaten the whole thing,” and that your words just crushed her?

“I’m such a cow,” especially when spoken by a trim woman in front of her plus-size friend. Sure, she may be trying to empathize, but what she doesn’t realize is that her friend is thinking “if she thinks she looks like a cow, what must she think of me?!?”

”I wish they showed real women in these ads,” said by a plus-size women in front of her thin friend. Did she not realize her friend is the same size as those models?

Sure, we can all stand to toughen up a bit, maybe not take things so personally all the time, but we also should be taking care with our words, as well as our actions. These should be used to build to each other up and to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is, after all, Jesus’ command in Matthew 22, second only to loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind.

But therein lies the problem. Many of us don’t love ourselves, or at least parts of ourselves. And if we don’t, how can we possibly love others as we love ourselves? It’s a nearly impossible task!

So what are we to do? How can we love ourselves, faults and all, so that we can in turn love our neighbor, and build her up instead of tearing her down? It’s a simple task on the surface, although we may struggle with the execution of it.

We must remember we are redeemed children of God.

We must love ourselves, because He loved us first.

Even if we should work harder at taking care of our bodies by exercising or eating better, we are still God’s children, and He loves us no matter what our physical appearance is. God isn’t waiting for us to lose those last ten pounds before He opens his arms to us; He isn’t looking at us and wishing we had fewer rolls or a bit more padding; He doesn’t care how long our hair is, or how clear our skin is. He loves as we are, the children that His Son shed His precious blood for, and suffered and died to save.

As Christians, we should know all of this. We should take it to heart, and love ourselves, and in turn, love our neighbor. Instead of criticizing ourselves or others, and saying hurtful words that can’t be taken back, we need to look at each other through the eyes of our Savior. If we do that, it will be much more difficult to tear each other down, and instead, we will be able to share the grace of God with each, as true sisters in Christ!

“Love your neighbor as yourself” has two parts to it…God expects us not just to love our neighbor, but ourselves as well, because we are all His unique creations!

Photo credit under cc license

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