Honestly, self image issues were never a big thing for me growing up. Well, no more than any other teenage girl, or so I thought. I have always been an outspoken, bubbly and confident person. I didn't give my appearance too much thought, don't get me wrong, I love dressing up and looking pretty but it wasn't something I would obsess over.
Of course I went through the awkward teenage stage.
But, body image issues first hit me hard during my year as part of the Elective Committee (EC) for my residence (a day house called Vividus Ladies). I suddenly found myself constantly surrounded by a lot of girls, and as we know girls tend to be very critical of each other and even more so of themselves.
On a side note, I just want to set the record straight, my EC girlfriends are some of the most lovely people you will ever meet. Also, they were never intentionally critical or mean to me.
Like I have said before I am an overachiever and perfectionist, which in turn leads me to be very critical of the standard of work I produce. Nothing sub-par is permitted. But when it came to my body and my appearance I seemed to manage to be less critical. Overall, I was happy with my body. And even that parts that bugged me I could make peace with and accept.
But once I was surrounded by what seemed like a continuous critique and comments on appearance, doubt start to creep in. At the time I would catch myself thinking, if a girl I perceived are more beautiful than myself, thought she was fat or was unhappy with her hair or the size of her thighs, what did that make me? In comparison to her I was not nearly as tall, skinny or pretty. My hair wasn’t as shiny or as straight, instead it had a will of its own. And my thighs? Well then they were down right super massive.
There are so many things that I have gained understanding in since then. For example, I now understand that these comments were not aimed at me, but rather a projection of each individual girl’s insecurities. I also know that the root of this problem is introduced with comparison, something which steals your joy. And, I know God is using this struggle to entrench my identity in Him.
But it is still a struggle. It does not matter how much I can rationalise the understanding I listed above, it needs to move from being head knowledge to heart living.
And so currently I find myself in a self esteem slump again.
My eyes have recently been open to the way I view food and the impact that has on my life. That revelation mixed with bad habits and the struggle to live a healthy, balanced and active life caused me to spiral to a self esteem low I hadn’t experienced since my university days.
I felt guilty about everything I ate, but at the same time felt I should reward myself for every achievement with some from of treat. Which in turn would reintroduce the guilt. I would feel guilt about not doing enough exercise, but feel too unfit and self conscious to want to go to the gym. It was a vicious cycle.
Down and down it went. I tried everything to claw myself out;A week diet that I endured for 48hours, which led to more guilt - down and down we go.Binge exercising, which left me exhausted and without motivation or energy to return to the gym the following week.Cutting out sugar and feeling depressingly guilty when eventually I would fail and then finally my last ”go-to" when all else fails:Dress up, flash a smile and try to cover up my insecurities with my extrovert personality, a bit of makeup and a killer outfit.
Maybe I managed to fool you into think I love myself the way I am.
But, I am not perfect. I am plagued with guilt over eating anything unhealthy, but in the very next moment I crave pasta, burgers, something deep fried and drizzled with caramel all at the same time.
I love cycling and the outdoors and normally am a highly motivated and ambitious individual. But when low self esteem days hit me the last thing I want to do is work out because I am too unfit and too fat. This week something as small as forgetting a hair band almost kept me from attending a spinning class at the gym.
Why am I sharing this with you?
I don't want your pity and just typing this article makes me feel sick to the stomach because it is the raw, honest truth.
I am sharing this because I know there are other people out there who feel like I do and you feel like you might be the only one and that everyone else has it all together. Well, they don’t. We are all struggling. The problem is we are struggling in silence. Our shame keeps us isolated. Once we start sharing and supporting each other instead of judging each other shame loses its grip on us. In this space of being vulnerable, where shame no longer defines us, is where our power lies. The power as a collective supporting one another. The power of acceptance of ourselves and of others, fully and unconditionally. And lastly and most importantly the power of the cross because our God shamed shame on the cross so it would no longer define our lives and isolate us from His love!
I haven't figured this out, I haven't conquered it, but I wanted to share my journey with you even in the midst of the battle.
My declaration for the week:
I am beautifully and wonderfully made!
Truths I will remind myself of this week:
He calls me beautiful one. Song of songs 2:10He gives grace generously. James 4:6 Therefore I should have some grace for myself
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