With the changing of the weather comes the changing of the closet.
Last weekend, I spent about an hour putting away all my summer tanks and shorts and getting out my sweaters, pants, hoodies and scarves.
I feel like this is always a bittersweet time for me. I love the cooler weather, but I don’t love the hold-my-breath moment of do I fit into my winter clothes. During summer, if I’m having a “fat day” I throw on a flowy sundress and nice cardigan, and call it a day. But in the fall, those jeans have to button, and for me, that button can’t come with a “muffin top” or “spare tire.”
My body image is something I’ve always struggled with as I’ve grown up. I can remember in high school eating graham crackers and grapes for lunch and going to track practice that afternoon thinking about how many calories I would lose that day because I barely ate. I was constantly comparing myself to my friends. In fact, this is still something I continue to do today.
I constantly hear people complaining about their appearance, but what does complaining and comparing really do? It steals our—my—joy! It makes me start to hate myself. I start to find the little flaws daily in my appearance instead of seeing a strong, passionate, and kind woman. I start to see a flawed, weak and a never good enough one. I often think about the message our society is sending to our younger generations. I hear myself and others complaining about weight, hair, hips, boobs…you name it! I can’t help but think of the little girls looking up to us and now thinking that their role models don’t think they are good enough.
We have to start seeing ourselves for who we really are. If we have big hips, well, we have big hips! If you have a mane for hair, embrace it! I’m not at all saying that we shouldn’t strive to be the best us we can be. We should exercise, eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of ourselves so we can be healthy humans. However, it shouldn’t be something we obsess over.
I’m taking small baby steps to combat my body image issues. One of the best things I’ve tried really hard to start doing is accept compliments. Those of you that can relate— you know who you are!—my message to you is start saying thank you! Those little boosts of confidence are words we should embrace and use when we are having those down moments. People say them because they believe them about you! Now, we have to start believing them about ourselves.
Body image is something I would say almost everyone struggles with. So help your fellow sisters and brothers out! If someone is looking extra nice, tell them! If you really like her earrings, tell her! If he got a great new hair-cut, tell him! We need to get better as a society of complimenting one another, meaning it, and not allowing that complement to another person be a vehicle of comparison for ourselves.
If you do feel like you want to improve your body image, try to be more active. Take a walk, go on a bike ride, or pick up a new sport. Eat healthier. This one is SO hard for me. Food is just so good! But like I said earlier, baby steps! I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I leave work for the day and didn’t take one piece of candy out of the bowl. Little things like that not only help the waistline, but help you to know that you’re strong and have control over your body. It’s a sense of discipline that will help you grow into a better person far beyond areas of food.
Lastly, you can always take your struggles to prayer. Prayer really helps me to ask guidance where I need it, and ultimately helps me to know that I am loved no matter what.
When I was in Haiti two summers ago, in the woman’s bathroom where the mirror would have been over the sink the simple word “beautiful” was written in chalk. I think about this almost everyday when I’m obsessing over my hair and make up in the mirror. I remember how for one week of my life I did not see myself in a mirror. I only could feel what I looked like. I could feel my joy of really being present with others, my joy of taking time to pray daily, my joy of serving, and my joy of laughter. I think that if we all put away our mirrors away once in a while and started feeling what we looked like we all could be just a bit more confident in who we really are.