Shanty self imageHer name was Jenni and she exuded a beauty unlike any I had ever seen. We were only in the seventh grade, but somehow she knew exactly what to wear and how to carry herself. I felt awkward and thrown together, but Jenni. . . Wow. She exuded grace and confidence. Plus, she could twirl her long black hair into a bun and secure it with just a pencil. {Sigh.} I couldn’t even attempt something that sophisticated.

I used to lie in bed and think, “If only . . .” If only I looked a little more like Jenni. . .

Then, I wouldn’t dread class picture day.

 Then, I wouldn’t have to spend my whole thirty-minute bus ride fixing and re-fixing my hair.

 Then . . .I would be free from this underlying distress my “less than” body caused me.

After high school I learned something mind-blowing. This same friend always envied someone too.

Me.

What?

In the years since high school (and there’ve been quite a few), I’ve been on a journey—one that has dredged me through the trenches of examining my struggle with my body image. Disorder eating, compulsive exercise, and obsessive dieting—I’ve tried them all, desperate to change the way I looked so that I could feel better about myself.

Nothing ever worked.

Part of the problem: I couldn’t separate facts from fiction. And, on this issue especially, it’s been my observation that many, if not most, women wrestle to see the truth from the lies as it pertains to their own body image.

So, today, I want to encourage you with three truths about your body image that, though they may seem like fiction, are true as can be.

Truth One: Your Body Image Has Nothing to Do With What You Physically Look Like.

I know it seems unbelievable. I always hated to hear models complain about their bodies on TV. When the skinniest girl in the locker room propped her foot on the bench, shook her thigh and said, “Ugh. Look at this fat.” I wanted to disappear. I knew if her thighs were “big” mine must have qualified as jumbo.

But, now that I’ve been the bigger girl and I’ve been the skinny girl. I know that our physical size and shape has little to do with how we feel about and view our bodies. I fought my way into that size two (a season of my life which lasted a solid three weeks) and still battled the same demons of insecurity and body anxiety. I went so far as to become a fitness instructor, assuming that women who lead other women with body image issues didn’t have a struggle themselves.

Boy. Was I wrong!

If you are reading this today and believe that your freedom will come if and when you could just lose the weight, get the surgery, or change whatever it is about your body that plagues you, can I let you in on a secret? It’s not true. Body image issues don’t have anything to do with the way we look on the outside.

Body image issues are issues of the heart. And, whether a size zero feels roomy or a size twenty-two barely zips—the enemy of our souls still whispers the same lies and confuses women of all sizes about where their real value is derived.

Truth Two: Your Body Image Can Change Even if You Never Love Your Body.

 I’m mostly a rule-follower. Especially if I want something. So, when I searched for freedom from my body image struggles, I determined to follow every guideline. I’d look in the mirror until I could pick out the one feature I liked, training myself to ignore all the ones I hated. I’d say nice things to myself instead of cutting words. I’d write down lists of all my good traits, hoping that all this body positivity would free me from the prison of my self-image struggles.

It never worked.

In my mid-thirties, I believe God showed me that part of my problem was I was too focused on myself. All that self-focus was sinking me deeper and deeper into the pit of body image despair. Instead, my freedom came when I started to think about my body less. My relief entered when I stopped spending so much time trying to fix me and “love” me.

Do I love my body now? Not really. I could stand to lose some weight (the seams in my pants would appreciate this!). My hair is never on trend. I just perfected straightening it and now everyone’s wearing theirs curly. But, do I still fight an all-consuming battle with my body image? No. I don’t. Praise God. I’m free to spend 99% of my time thinking about other things.

Truth Three: There is Hope.

I know what it feels like to feel hopeless. I truly believed that body image struggles were just “normal girl issues,” a cross that all women had to bear. I assumed that running from diet to diet, and the self-improvement rat race were just a normal part of every woman’s life.

Boy, was I wrong.

God has been so faithful to lead me on a path out of my body image struggles. He’s shown me the root of my body image issues (a path I lay out in my new book called “Compared to Who: A Proven Path to Improve Your Body Image”). And, he’s restored my joy.

If this is your struggle, can I encourage you? There’s great hope for you too. Seek him and he will free you as well.

Shame-Shanty-Body-ImageWith grace and humor, Heather Creekmore writes and speaks hope to a woman’s struggle with comparison and body image. As a certified group fitness instructor, Heather’s twelve years of work in gyms allowed her to directly encourage women wrestling with discontentment over their bodies. She now hails from Dallas, Texas where she lives with her husband, Eric, a pastor and Acts 29 church planter, and four young children. Heather connects with thousands of women weekly through her speaking and blog at http://www.comparedtowho.me and recently released her first book also titled, “Compared to Who?”

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2 Comments

  1. Toni Powell

    Thank you Heather for defining that body image is just that…a persons perception of their own body which most often is nowhere near reality. I remember a girl in high school who was at the top of the “has it all” list. She had come to a girls sleepover party I attended. Later that evening when all the other girls were out in the den laughing and squeeling at some game we were playing, I noticed this girl was not participating. I went in search of her and found her quietly crying in a bedroom. When I sat down beside her and hugged her around the sholders she started to cry really hard. When I tried to find out what was wrong I could barely understand her through her sobs. Back story, before the current fun, we had all been talking about guys, the ones we liked, who thought what guy liked what girl, who was together etc. So through this girls tears she said that she had never been on an official date (called in the phone asked out) and that she sat at home most weekends if there wasn’t a school get together or party. She also said “you all think I have it all, but I don’t see what you see, and I think guys feel I wouldn’t be interested in them because of my popularity and just don’t seem interested in dating me”. If you think the “it” girl isn’t struggling, she is! The image we have of ourselves no matter what the truth is ALWAYS overrides reality. Again Heather, thank you for your insight and providing a path through God and self acceptance. Blessings, Toni

    Reply
    • Shanty Espinosa

      So true, Toni. Often our feelings of insecurity have little to do with reality, or what others actually think of us. Sometimes we’re much harder on ourselves than others are. And the girl who “seems to have it all” may be just as insecure as anyone else. It’s all craziness, really!

      Reply

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