Wednesday, November 17, 2010

be kind

Why are we, as women, so cruel to ourselves?

The other day I spoke with a woman, and in the course of our conversation, she referred to herself as "chubby." I'm telling you, friends, this lady did not have ten pounds to lose. I would describe her as willowy...slender...slim. But she didn't see herself that way. Not at all.

For the past few months I've been mulling over the issue of women, weight, and society. The subject came up because the women's Bible study group I'm part of is doing Beth Moore's Esther study. It is phenomenal. The full title is "Esther: It's Tough Being a Woman."

And boy, is it ever. Especially when we measure ourselves against society's standard instead of God's.

In the study book, she talks about the young girls gathered in Persia (Esther 2). They're described as "beautiful." So...beautiful. Young. And then what? They're given 12 months of beauty treatments. Bear in mind that these young ladies were already beautiful. They weren't the girls who needed "help." Alright...maybe they could've benefited from a new hairstyle. Perhaps their feet were a bit calloused...everybody can use a nice foot soak, right? But really...12 months? It seems rather excessive.

Perhaps the Persians suffered from the same quest for perfection which we modern women do. There is such pressure on us: often pressure we heap upon our own over-processed heads.

So, when I heard the word "chubby," that day, I immediately thought, "Why are we so cruel to ourselves?"

This is not a foreign concept to me. I've been plenty cruel to myself over the years. When I lost 60 lbs from 1998-2000, I did it through cruelty. I deprived myself. I didn't let myself eat anything that was truly delicious. And worst of all, I was mean. I called myself names. If I slipped up on my diet, I was merciless. No personal trainer could've shamed me more than I shamed myself.

And that's been so much a part of my relationship with my body, with food. When I "messed up," I would shame myself. If I wasn't the size I wanted to be, I would shame myself. Maybe if I was ashamed enough, I would shape up. Maybe if I was ashamed enough, I would behave myself.

It worked, sometimes. But the thing is, it didn't really work, not in any way that counts. Because in treating myself that way, I devalued myself. I treated myself like something - a thing - which must be beaten into submission. Instead of what I am: a vessel shaped by the hands of the Potter.

Health is important. Absolutely. America is in a health crisis. We need to seek health, to take care of these bodies we live in here on doubt about it.

Still. Let's learn to be kind to ourselves. To love ourselves. Let's give ourselves some grace. For the sake of our children, let's be gentle with ourselves. Ladies, I challenge you to go stand in front of a mirror. Start at the top, and spend some time thanking the Lord for his wonderful creativity. The way He created our eyelashes. How our joints work. The intricacy of the human hand. Thank Him for the way your body has supported your children - both before and after they were born. Thank Him for the ability to hold hands, stroke a cheek, embrace someone you love.

With all their "flaws," our bodies are amazing.

There's nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward. Accentuating your best features. Playing to your strengths. Yes, be healthy. Nourish yourself.

But please...accept who you are a precious child of God, exactly the way you are. Right now, in this moment. Not a few pounds down the road. Not just before you had the baby. But right now.

Sister, you are loved. Cherished, precious, exactly as you are. You can rest in that promise.


tlc said...

Thank you, Mindy. The kind of garbage I have said to myself over the past few years is really nothing short of emotional abuse. If I ever heard someone speak to their children they way I've spoken to me - I would seriously question their qualifications to parent. I might even DO something about it. Thank you for the reminder to appreciate and embrace our physical bodies.

Mama said...

Thank you for sharing. I (we) always appreciate what you have to say.

steve and corrine said...

Right on, Mindy! I love your compassion, sensitivity, and transparency on difficult issues like this. Quite honestly, I love you, Mindy Lowery Isom, for the godly woman you are and the godly influence you have in all our lives. You ROCK!

Sarah, Nathen, Aiden, and Evan said...

Another great post Mindy, thanks for sharing it:)