Body Image and the Pain of the Dressing Room
I was in the dressing room at my local Target, when I heard the voice of a young girl, no older than 10-12 years old, telling her grandmother that she didn’t like the how the clothes she was trying on fit her. In her opinion, her legs were too long, her thighs weren’t the right shape to fill the opening of the shorts she had picked out, and she took a deep breath and whispered “nothing looks good on my body.”
Although I was in the stall next to her and could not see the granddaughter or the grandmother, my heart sank and my eyes welled with tears, because I knew that feeling all too well.
I flashed back to all the times I have looked in the mirror and been disappointed. I remembered every moment of disappointment when all I saw were my imperfections. There have been times when I didn’t even want to look in the mirror, because I didn’t want to face the reality of how others saw me. I’m not pretty enough, or skinny enough, I have horrible posture, and too many blackheads.
“Sweetie, you have to love your body. It’s the only one you get, and it was made just for you” says the grandmother in the dressing room next to me. She continued to encourage her granddaughter, “we all look different, because we ARE different.”
As she was reassuring her young granddaughter, I was staring at myself in the mirror, letting her give me a pep talk, as well.
WHERE WE GO WRONG
We scroll through Instagram looking at women who are perfectly posing for each picture, their faces perfectly contoured, and are wearing outfits that seem to always show off their best features on their bodies. We focus on the way our friends look in certain outfits, or try to keep up with the latest trends to look like everyone else. Meanwhile, we despair because of our own imperfections. Will someone please tell me what is the “right weight” or the “correct body shape?”
We are unique and unrepeatable, and the Lord gave us our body to glorify Him in every moment, not to despair over what we do or do not have.
WE EXIST NOT FOR OURSELVES
It’s very simple. Our bodies exist for the glory of God, not ourselves. In St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, his central message revolved around this:
“The body, in fact, and only the body, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It has been created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden from eternity in God, and thus to be a sign of it” (TOB 19:4).
God created us with the intention for our body to glorify Him and be a sign of Him in the world.
OUR BODIES AS A GIFT
The Creator, made our bodies as a gift to us. He created us with bodies, not for His sake, but because He thought we would enjoy it. We tend to neglect the gift we were given. He looks at us and sees bodies that can play, pray, dance, sing, help others, and grow a child. While we see bodies that have too much fat around our thighs or have the wrong shaped noses. It’s like bashing a piece of art in front of its creator. Imagine immediately tearing down a painting in front of its artist, and only point out the imperfections.
“I would have used a different color blue,” “That tree looks awful,” or “The people look like aliens.” Then walk away without seeing the value of taking a blank canvas and turning into a piece of art. This would be uncomfortable for everyone involved.
Yet, we are quick to glance in the mirror and bring on those brutal corrections or judgments upon ourselves and our Creator. He sees you as a masterpiece, and appreciates every bit of you. The “imperfections” you may see in yourself do not negate any value of how the Father sees you.
Here’s some practical ways to improve your own body image:
1. Unfollow accounts that lead to comparison
I have noticed that I feel more discouraged when I’m surrounded by images and posts that tempt me to compare my imperfections to others. Are you following people to be encouraged or to tear them down or tear yourself down?
The reality is that I will never be that other person. I’ll only be me. No matter the reason for comparison, it will never lead to any amount of fulfillment.
Remember: “To compare is to despair.”
2. Self care, self care, self care
Taking care of your overall health is more than a diet plan or workout plan. Go to bed at a decent and regular time, drink enough water, go on a walk, or cook your own meals, instead of eating fast food 3x a day.
Don’t kill yourself by focusing on really difficult workout plans or strict diets, just commit to living a “healthier lifestyle” in whatever that means for you! Make small changes at a time and take note of how much better you feel!
3. Look for inward beauty in others, first
Realize, that beauty is not something that is outward, but is rooted from within. Make it a habit to compliment your friends on some aspects of their personality or values, rather than their appearance. When you start to focus on an inward beauty in others, we can train our brains to appreciate the hidden gems within our own selves.
You have a beauty that no one else has, embrace it!
4. Share and Support
It’s makes a world of difference to be surrounded by friends who can be honest with you and reaffirm your beauty and dignity when you’re feeling down. If you are struggling, be real and honest with your friends. You never know who is struggling with the same problems.
Do not be ashamed of seeking professional help, as well. There is a strength in admitting you want to talk to a professional about how you’re feeling. Sometimes we need someone who has the training and education to help us work through our raw emotions.
Ladies, if you have ever sat in a dressing room, like the little girl in Target, feeling defeated, remember this: YOU ARE NOT THE SUM OF YOUR IMPERFECTIONS, you are the sum of the Father’s love for you who created you in HIS own image. While it can be a difficult and painful journey to self-love and self-care, have hope that Christ will conquer the lies that the enemy tries to use against you.
Finally, I invite you to pray this prayer with me: “Lord, give me your eyes, to see myself as you see me.”