Words from Jaci:
I don’t remember when it all started, really. It’s just always the way it was. And I never thought twice about it. After all, don’t most teenage girls feel self-conscious about how their backside looks in a pair of jeans? Don’t most teenage girls diet and weigh themselves over and over in hopes that the numbers will change? To me, it seemed to come with the territory of being female. Throughout my teen years and on through my 20’s and 30’s, I was a woman on a mission—a mission to change my body. I thought the only way I could feel comfortable in my own skin was if I got down to a size 8. Or even better, a 6. Then I could put all the dieting and obsessing behind me. Then I could move on with my life and feel good about the person I’d become.
Only I was wrong. All that time, I was so, so wrong.
The truth is that I was caught up in something much bigger than just a negative body image. I was caught up in the worship of a very powerful false god. But before you think I’ve lost my mind and move on to another blog, give me a chance to explain. To worship something simply means we’re devoted to that thing (you can look up the definition if you want). And what was I so “devoted to” for more than 2 decades? To modeling my body to fit the image of today’s “ideal woman.”
Just look at the billboards along the freeway or the ads in the magazines or the celebrities that walk the red carpet . . . and you’ll come face to face with this woman. She’s a false god that really does reign supreme in our generation. No matter how hard we try, we can’t escape her intimidating gaze. She smiles back at us every time we watch TV. She follows us as we walk the aisles in Walmart. She even sneaks into conversations we have with other women. Not only is she extremely thin, but she’s also got thick, gorgeous hair, perfect teeth, bright, shiny eyes, full lips, and of course, flat abs. She’s everything we’re not, and for many of us, everything we think we need to become.
Well, I bought the whole thing hook, line, and sinker. Never mind that this particular woman isn’t even real. Never mind that the models in the magazines have been photoshopped right out of reality. I thought the only way to be happy was to look just like her, so I spent hours and days and years devoted to that very end. Though I would never have told you this is something I worshipped, my thoughts and behavior proved otherwise. I compared myself to that image almost every day of my life. Sometimes it caused me to hate my body, and sometimes it led me to obsess over finding new clothes or new makeup or a new workout that could help me lose weight. I lived in her shadow constantly, and did all I could to make her look my own.
But now, after years of torment and self-loathing and frustration, I can finally tell you that I’m at peace with my body. And it’s not because I learned to say positive affirmations in the mirror or because I adopted some sort of shoulder-shrugging resignation where I just accepted myself the way I am. I’m talking about something much more profound than that. I’m talking about being fully healed from the inside out. And this kind of soul-deep deliverance came in only one way—through the power of my Savior. Only He was strong enough to dig deep inside my heart and root out the lies I’d believed all my life. Only He could wrap me in a sense of peace and joy that completely eclipsed all pressure to look like the ideal woman. It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. In fact, it’s been so liberating and life-changing that I’m now a woman on a new mission—to spread the word far and wide that Christ really can heal our negative body image. And He can do so in such a way that we’ll stay healed for the rest of our lives.
In the end, the power to overcome our negative body image isn’t going to come through the next weight loss drug or the latest plastic surgery technique or even finding a new haircut that makes us feel cute. It can only come if we turn the whole mess (meaning all our fear, inadequacy, self-hatred, addiction to food, or whatever we’re dealing with) over to Christ. Then we must listen very closely to everything He has to say. I did that, and it changed my life forever.
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Jaci's author website is http://www.jaciwightman.com/