You know your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit but sometimes you feel like anything but… Learn more about body image and the Bible and how a Biblical perspective can change how you see yourself.
It’s Sunday morning and I’m already running late for church. I’m scheduled to greet today and the thought of seeing every single member of our congregation has taken my morning beauty routine to a new level of intensity.
Do these pants emphasize my saddlebags too much
How can I possibly cover these dark circles without looking like I’m plastered with make-up?
Do the stripes on this shirt draw too much attention to my belly and chest?
All the while, I felt so un-Christian for caring about these “worldly” things in the first place.
But, I hated the way I looked.
And that made me feel even worse.
I knew I should be grateful for all God had given me, but I’d nothing positive to say about myself.
I was stuck and I didn’t know how to fix it.
That was until I sought what God would have me to do.
WHEN NEGATIVE BODY IMAGE FEELS NORMAL
Feeling positive about your body may seem like a foreign concept if you’ve been stuck in a negative cycle for any length of time.
Sadly, that self-talk is anything but normal. We would never talk to a friend or loved one the way we do our bodies and yet this is an accepted practice.
When did being so uncool get to be cool? It’s time to send this lousy practice away with Joe, the cigarette smoking camel.
Body image has been a hot topic for both myself and the hundreds of clients that I’ve worked with. Altering the way we interact with ourselves can be a challenging habit to let go.
WHY DO YOU HOLD ON TO NEGATIVE BODY IMAGE?
I have found that digging into why we behave in this way can reveal some of the reasons for this behavior and reveal strategies for change. Beneath the surface of “I don’t like my body” live common fears that keep this awful cycle in motion.
Maybe you believe that:
- “If I say negative things about my body then I will be more motivated to change.”
- “If I don’t say negative things, then I won’t feel the need to change.”
I get it, avoidance is a powerful motivator in many areas of our lives…
We choose not to speed (too much) because we don’t want a speeding ticket, not because we want a gold star for our driving abilities. We see this in a loved one finally making a dramatic lifestyle change when they are faced with a dismal health report.
Negative consequences do work in some situations but, when it comes to body image, it’s a losing strategy. I have felt it and I’ve heard it from countless women– it is scary to let go of the negative chatter for fear that we’ll suddenly “let ourselves go.”
If we “give up,” we envision our friends and family finding us unconscious, buried under a pile of brownies. Or we picture a life living in sweatpants and stained t-shirts because surely we won’t care about taking care of ourselves anymore.
But let me ask, is that really true? What do you think would happen if you stopped being mean and tuned into body image and the Bible?
There is a better way.
A BETTER APPROACH TO BODY IMAGE
Let’s take a moment and think about the people who’ve had the most positive impact on your life…
The people who’ve made you better.
The people who’ve made you want to be better.
Maybe it was a coach, a pastor, a teacher, or a parent.
How did that individual encourage you to grow, to change, and to improve? Did they call you names, tell you that you’d never be good enough, or bark at you to just stop trying because you’ll never get it?
I’m going to take a wild guess and say probably not. I’ll take another stab at it and suggest that they probably used positive encouragement.
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV
Love, good works, and fellowship. It is how we grow to prepare for the Lord’s Day of return.
HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE OTHERS?
Imagine that you take a young child to their T-ball game. It may be your niece or nephew, a neighbor, or even your own little one. All dressed in their uniform, they nervously step up to bat. They turn briefly to reassure themselves that you are in fact there, watching them in the crowd.
The pitcher lobs the ball their way, they swing with all their might and… mightily miss. Bad. It wasn’t even close.
You stand up with your hands cupped around your mouth to ensure that they’ll get the message and shout at the top of your lungs–
“You’re terrible! You’ll never get the hang of this! Just sit down!”
Yikes! I bet you just about jumped out of your seat to rescue that imaginary little T-ball player.
As a loving person, you know that what this little child needs is an encouragement. They need a reminder that they are just learning and the reassurance that you’re on their side. You know how to stir up love and good works, how it will lift their spirits.
You assure this precious child that with practice they’ll do better, and that no matter what their performance looks like, they are loved.
And guess what?
You are no different. You’re not some rare breed that needs criticism and discouragement to move forward towards your hopes and dreams. You need encouragement, reassurance, practice, and most of all- LOVE.
BODY IMAGE AND THE BIBLE = LOVE
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. 1 John 3:1a ESV
Encouragement vs. Criticism
If you criticize your body like an overzealous soccer mom who’ll settle for nothing less than perfection, imagine how different your impact on the world around you would be from each of these two different mindsets.
Negative self-image and self-talk generally make us pretty cranky.
We may be short with our spouse and children and even find those we cross paths with particularly annoying. The line at the grocery store, the loud talker at the movies, the co-worker obsessively clicking their pen- these things drive us up a wall.
We are self-conscious and therefore, pretty self-centered. We don’t have a lot of loving energy to give.
When we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves in “I am loved and accepted” kinda way, we tend to give that love and grace we have so generously received.
When we speak more kindly to ourselves, we’re much more likely to get up and try again.
Body image is more than being happy with our size and shape, it’s an act of self-care, self-love, and ultimately gratitude for what has been graciously given to us.
It isn’t forcing yourself to accept; it’s accepting the gift you’ve received from God with open hands.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 ESV
Regardless of your imperfections and even physical limitations, God has given you a vehicle to experience this life with.
Hands to hold the ones you love.
Eyes to see the beauty of His creation.
Ears to hear songs of praise.
Legs to carry you into His calling.
THE BIBLE AND BODY IMAGE
The Bible describes our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit, as God’s workmanship, as dust. Not once are we admonished to diet and exercise until we are runway-worthy or to berate every inch we can pinch.
We’re told to go into the world and preach the gospel, to be a light, and to be the hands and feet of Christ.
Body image in the Bible is a picture of service… servitude that will have eternal rewards far greater than the props we get for being the popular size and shape of the moment.
WHAT TO DO ABOUT BODY IMAGE AND THE BIBLE
Expressing gratitude for our bodies is not “giving up.” Rather, it’s about choosing, not settling for less.
If we’ve been talking negatively about our bodies for a while and not seeing the changes we like– it’s NOT working. It is time to switch it up. A negative focus robs us of the joy that ultimately leads to change.
While you won’t change your thinking overnight, you can start seeing progress by poking “holes” in some of your negative comments.
When those thoughts creep in, as soon as you catch them, question them. Ask yourself, “Does this thought line up with what the Word of God says about me?”
Follow-up this comment with some truth from the Word of God. By starting to weaken the argument, you are making progress towards more truth-filled self-talk.
Be sure to look up some Bible verses on body image and read Psalm 139:13-18. Is there one sentence or idea that you could adopt in your day-to-day self-talk?
Also, browse these 10 Insanely Helpful Christian Body Image Posts and read one that resonates with you!
Brandice Lardner is a Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, Author, and Jesus Girl whose mission in life is to help women ditch the diet mentality and find peace with food and their bodies so that they are better equipped to do the great things God has called them to do.