There’s no question it’s hard to be a woman. And one of the hardest things we may face as women is how we view our bodies– and how much that impacts everything else in our lives.
Whether you have always struggled with how you look, are constantly comparing yourself to other women, are not in a healthy relationship with food, or your body has gone through changes during pregnancies, you are not alone. Virtually every woman can relate, as in our modern world we are all bombarded by a million different sources promoting the “ideal” way a woman should look.
At our core, we are all just looking for love and acceptance. But unfortunately in a society that accepts or rejects based on appearance, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to earn that acceptance through the way we look– or rejecting ourselves when we fall short.
Let’s look at a few ways we are influenced in how we view our bodies, and what we can do to change the narrative in our heads.
It may seem obvious, but one of the surest ways to destroy our own body image is by comparing ourselves to others. Whether we think we look better or worse doesn’t matter– either way we are putting our worth into our appearance, which is ultimately a fruitless endeavor.
We may experience shame when we see others who we think are prettier, skinnier, more athletic..etc. than us. It’s easy to spiral into negative self-talk and self-beratement when we feel less than.
Or if we think we are superior in some way to others because of how we look, we begin spiraling into pride, which may leave us feeling better for a while but ultimately may isolate us from others and provide a false sense of security.
Ultimately, our worth does not come from outer beauty, so when we compare ourselves to others based solely off of looks, we are wasting our time and missing the point.
TV and Social Media
Nowadays, with TV and social media constantly at our fingertips, it’s no wonder that we are experiencing a collective body image crisis. Although many companies and individuals are moving towards more body-positive messaging, it’s often still difficult to see ourselves reflected in TV stars or social media influencers.
Just as we compare ourselves to others in our lives, we also (and perhaps more insidiously) compare ourselves to women we see in the media. This can have even more damaging effects in our lives than comparing with the people around us, because what is portrayed in the media is often not reality– we are comparing what we dislike the most of ourselves with their “perfect” image achieved by professional makeup, surgery, and filters.
Creating boundaries around media is a great way to protect ourselves from unnecessary comparison and shame. Those boundaries will look different for every individual, but find what works best for you to keep you grounded in reality.
Friends and Family Expectations
Our friends and family can have the power to either make or break our body image, especially because we are typically influenced by them at a young and impressionable age.
For example, if your mother was always concerned about your weight growing up, you may have developed a lifelong struggle with your weight as well. Maybe you developed eating disorders or compulsively exercised to try to stay thin. You were never able to see your body as beautiful, but rather as a burden.
Peer pressure at school or in our friend circles also affects us. If all of your friends look or are striving to look a certain way, you will inevitably strive for that too– whether it’s attainable or not.
This is why it is critical to have people in our lives that support us and love us exactly as we are, without any pressure or expectations placed upon us. And we can be that person for others too.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD)
One in every fifty women struggles with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). BDD is defined as when someone is overly preoccupied with perceived or real flaws in their appearance.
Body Dysmorphic disorder may have its root in comparison, internalized messages from social media, or from our friends and family. It’s not hard to see why this disorder would be so prevalent in today’s appearance-obsessed world– but it doesn’t mean we should simply accept it as inevitable.
If you or someone you know struggles with BDD, please reach out to a trained therapist to help.
Championing Inner Beauty and Good Health
Though it seems like everything in our culture is against us when it comes to having a positive body image, there are lots of things we can do and areas we can focus on to start shifting the way we view ourselves.
Gain a Biblical Perspective on Beauty
There are many scriptures addressing the topic of beauty and appearance in the Bible– and none of them indicate that appearance itself has any worth.
Rather, as you study God’s Word you will find that our worth is solely found in Him. Outward beauty is fleeting, but inner beauty that shines from a soul in love with God lasts forever.
Some scriptures to reference regarding beauty include 1 Peter 3:3-4, Psalms 139:14, Song of Songs 4:7, and 1 Samuel 16:7.
Pray that the Lord would help you redefine beauty for yourself and others. Ask Him to help you see what true beauty is and to help you release your insecurities about your physical appearance. See your beliefs about beauty change as you meditate on what God says.
Focus on Your Health
When we prioritize our health, often we feel more beautiful as a result. When you have a strong, healthy body, it is hard not to feel awesome about yourself!
There are many ways to begin working on your health, but simply moving every day and getting outside is a great start. Figure out what kind of physical activity you enjoy doing and do a little bit every day– even if it’s just walking!
You should also focus on what foods you are eating and whether they are serving your health or not. Today’s grocery stores are full of processed junk foods– steer clear of those and focus on eating whole foods and cooking meals at home. Your body will thank you.
Celebrate Your Uniqueness
Finally, recognize that you were made uniquely in the image of God– you’re not supposed to look like anyone else! You have your own special beauty that shines.
Almost all of our struggles with our appearance come from an expectation that we are “supposed” to look a certain way. But if we can accept our bodies the way we are, we can begin to embrace our true beauty, nurture, and take care of our bodies.
The world will keep trying to beat you down and make you feel less than, but you have the power to change your perception of yourself than you realize. You are beautiful, just as you are!
At Florecer we want to support women in their journey of healing and practice of self-love. We see the whole person and integrate professional mental health with your Christian faith, culture, and family values. Give the first step and reach out to us today.