Recently I came across a website for body confessions. The site was started by a woman who set out to research body image and later wanted to provide a forum for women to air their struggles and insecurities. After reading through many of the posts, I can’t decide if I think this is a good idea. On one hand, I think talking honestly about our problems can get rid of stigma and make it easier to seek help and encouragement. It's good to know we're not alone. But on the other hand, I can’t help but wonder if the website reinforces bad body image and makes women worry about things we never worried about before. After all, the beauty industry has given us countless products to combat problems we never knew we had. Do we really need more negative reinforcement? Mostly, though, the site just makes me sad that so many women (and a few men) look at themselves in the mirror and hate what they see.
I have had friends of all ages and stages and body types suffer from anorexia or bulimia or EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), or even just rampant insecurity about what they look like. An amazing younger woman (19) in my life once wanted to bleach her skin to get rid of her gorgeous freckles. I, on the other hand, would love to have her freckles, and her curly hair. I look at the women in my life, and I think they’re all beautiful, all made in the image of God. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made. Scripture is pretty clear that beauty is fleeting (time is pretty clear on that front too) and reminds us over and over again that the heart is what matters.
But it seems like even in Christian circles, we’ve forgotten this. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’re not good enough or lovable enough or marry-able enough unless we’re also beautiful by the world’s (ridiculously unattainable) standards. Whether this has always been a trap to ensnare women or if it has come on more recently with the prevalence of mirrors, models, Estee Lauder, and Neutrogena, I’m not sure. I think if God had to tell us that beauty is fleeting, then maybe it’s always been there, but I can’t help but think it’s gotten worse.
For most of my late adolescent and adult life, I was somewhat immune to this struggle, or at least I’ve been able to rein it in. I was so skinny when I was younger (my not-so-nice nickname in elementary and middle school was “scrawny ferret”) that when I finally got curves, I figured I ought to be grateful for them. But when I started reading the website, I recognized my own thoughts in what some of the women posted. Because the most recent guy in my life was so overly concerned with both his weight and mine, I now find myself thinking I’m not thin enough or pretty enough or fancy enough to ever be loved. That is my (quite vulnerable) body confession.
I’m both saddened that I think this and seriously pissed off. The good news is that I know what God says about me and I usually know what my friends think about me too. I know what God’s design for marriage is, and I also know exactly what I would tell any woman, young or old, who was battling with any of the things the dark voices sometimes whisper in my ear. So I’m going to choose to believe the voices of truth, and I’m going to tell those other voices to get the hell out of my way.