Every teenage girl, and later every woman, has experienced that gut-wrenching feeling of inadequacy. We look around us and there is always someone prettier, someone smarter, someone cooler. We look in the mirror and all we see are flaws, things to improve, and things we just wish were different. We try on clothes and all we can say is “it clings too much here”, “it’s not flattering”, “I really need to lose weight!”. We tentatively tip-toe onto the scales and immediately think “time to cut down”, “I’ve really let myself go”, or “I wish I hadn’t had that 2nd helping at lunch – I’m so weak-willed”.
Of course we don't accept that we have a completely different body shape to ‘that other girl’, completely different skills and strengths, probably a closer friendship group. We don’t perceive the things in our own appearance that we would no doubt like were we to see that same feature on a friend. Clothes don’t fit and we immediately assume we should change ourselves to suit them, rather than considering that maybe they just aren’t the right style for our shape. It doesn’t cross our minds that a significant proportion of that weight might be muscle because, actually, we DO go to the gym enough and we DON’T eat too much fat!
The other day a friend paid me a compliment and I caught myself essentially replying “thanks, but you’re wrong because…” It took a guy to point out that I just couldn’t take a compliment – because males think differently about these things. My friend particularly liked my hair that day and didn’t think twice about telling me so because that’s what good friends do – they affirm and encourage. Yet my automatic reaction was to explain to both myself and her the extensive reasons why it couldn’t possibly look as nice as she thought, and had been done that way to cover up all the reasons it would have looked even worse otherwise.
But we should be striving for modesty without inferiority. For humility without insecurity. And for self-confidence without fear of conceitedness. Because we ‘are fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:13) in the image of God Himself. Our call to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34) does not stop at the people around us. It is a call to love ALL of God’s people, including ourselves! The command to ‘love your enemies’ (Luke 6:27) takes on a whole new meaning when we consider the age-old saying that we are our own worst enemy.
When we struggle to accept another person we constantly remind ourselves to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ (Mark 12:31), but by that reasoning I don’t imagine that means we need to love our neighbour very much at all! We don’t think to consider a different interpretation whereby that phrase does not tell us to love our neighbour AS MUCH as ourselves, but rather to love both our neighbour AND ourselves.
In criticising our bodies and doing everything we can think of to change them, we are ultimately forgetting the fact that ‘your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God’ (Corinthians 6:19). Our bodies enable us to live, to love, and to fulfil His purpose for us – they are the greatest gifts He could possibly give us!
So I’m sorry for the times I’ve compared myself to others rather than acknowledging my own talents. I’m sorry for criticising the body that my Father lovingly crafted. I’m sorry for placing far too much weight on what I look like and whether my clothes are stylish enough. I’m sorry for measuring my self-worth by a number on the scales. And I’m sorry to the millions of women whom life has made feel the same way. May we, like David in Psalm 139, give thanks for the bodies God has given us, for His works are marvellous.
On behalf of women everywhere I would like to make a promise to start again. Let us not be self-critical, because we are picking fault with God’s work. Let us stand against self-rejection, because by accepting ourselves we allow His spirit in. Let us challenge our self-hatred, because God’s love is enough to sustain us. Let us answer back to the voice of the enemy telling us we’re worthless, ugly, a failure, and instead turn to the one who poured unceasing love and effort into our creation. The one who tells us we are beautiful in His eyes. The one who tells us He is pleased with His work and doesn’t see a single flaw – because He doesn’t make mistakes.
The one who tells us we’re ENOUGH.