Body dissatisfaction is a norm in American culture. Ask any woman what she thinks about her body. You will hear comments that range from mild dislike to real distain. Physical appearance matters to most of us. And yet, our negativity towards our body can lead to mental health problems like depression and eating disorders.
To that point, I was once asked by a television talk show host what advice I would give to my 20-year-old-self concerning body dissatisfaction. Here are the 5 points I made. (Remember, it’s TV and you can’t get too in-depth in a short interview!)
- You are not alone! As noted, most women and a growing number of men, are dissatisfied with their bodies, want to be thinner and think they need to lose weight. In part, this is because our culture is obsessed with physical appearance and perfection. The beauty industry makes millions of dollars telling us how imperfect we are and how much we need their help. They highlight our flaws and promise improvement, all for the sake of making money.
- Learn to resist the culture of thinness and beauty. We get in trouble when we expect perfection. Consequently, stop dissecting yourself into parts and consider your whole appearance. Look, we all have flaws, but focusing on parts of your body you don’t like will lower your esteem. And if you take that too far, you can end up with a mental health disorder called body dysmorphic disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder involves a preoccupation with a physical flaw in your appearance. Remember, we aren’t cars that need replacement parts and constant repair. Yes, be healthy and attend to your body, but don’t obsess and focus on flaws.
- Stop comparing yourself to unrealistic media images of how you are “supposed” to look. Realistically, supermodels are not typically the epitome of healthy eating and living. They also represent the smallest fraction of women. And just like you can alter your social media photos, model images are air brushed, computer altered, professionally lighted and attended to by fashion experts, professional hairstylists, etc. So, the next time you are at the coffee shop, in an airport or a park, look around and remind yourself of what ordinary people look like. Take the pressure off!
- Be intentional about your conversations. If you are around people who constantly obsess about their appearance, you will likely do the same. Therefore, find more positive people! Or move conversations away from physical appearance to the emotional and spiritual parts of people’s lives. It’s all about balance. Broaden your mind and engage in meaningful activities and service to others.
- Consider who defines your worth. Because you are created in the image of God, you have worth. That’s it. You are loved, desired and beautiful to God. In a day and age in which we celebrate diversity, the one size fits all mentality is wrong. You are His unique creation, one of a kind. So, reclaim your body as fearfully and wonderfully made. You aren’t a mistake in need of a fix! Also broaden your definition of beauty—go beyond what is skin deep. Think about it. Beautiful people are kind, caring, trustworthy, etc.
Proverbs 4:23 tells us, above all else, guard your hearts for everything you do flows from it. This means, do not be a slave to body image. Guard your heart against such bondage. Body perfection is all about self-love, but God’s love is already yours.
Finally, the Apostle Paul warns us not to think more highly of ourselves than we should (Romans 12), and not to boast or compare ourselves to others (2 Corinthians 10:12). Anything we view higher than God can become an idol. Be careful not to make your body an idol.Body image and acceptance