I’ve never dieted for health — ever. (I can see the benefit of that. It’s important to be healthy — to eat well and exercise and stay at a reasonable weight. I believe that we should take care of our bodies in an effort to stay healthy. Please hear my heart – I am not writing this post as my own personal license to throw caution to the wind and gorge myself on chocolate cake every night.) But for me, it’s always been about appearance. And it’s always about other people. If I wasn’t constantly comparing myself to others and continually being concerned with how I “should” look, this wouldn’t even be an issue.
The problem is, I will never look like the vision in my mind. I’ll never look like that girl on the commercial or the super-skinny mom at Claire’s school, or the Shannon of 10 years ago. I suppose I could maybe come close. If I lived on a very strict diet and spent a couple hours at the gym each night, I might attain results somewhere in the vicinity of what I’d like to look like.
But here’s the deal. Looking back at my 21 year old body, I think, Wow! Look at me! I looked amazing! Flat stomach, long skinny legs, flabless arms. But when I was in that 21 year old body, I thought, Gosh, my stomach is not nearly as flat as hers, and my thighs are looking a little lumpy these days, and I hate the way my arms jiggle when I clap. Right now I’m unhappy with my current body, but I bet when I’m 50, I’ll look back longingly on my 30 year old self. Such is the nature of a woman’s mind. We are never satisfied, never content. We never think we’re good enough.
I have to stop and ask myself — is this the way God intended for me to live? Always criticizing, always unhappy with my body, never content? I know it’s not. When so much of my focus and energy is spent thinking about what’s on the outside, how much is left for thinking about what truly matters, what’s truly important?
I so desperately want Claire to be happy with her body. To see the beauty she was created with — on the outside, and so much more importantly — on the inside. Isn’t that also the heart of our Father?
When Claire puts on a fancy dress and asks me if she looks pretty, I say, “Baby girl, you are always pretty.”
And I imagine our Father would say to us:
I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. I wish you could know and feel and understand the love I have for you, and the pride I hold in my heart when I look at you. You are always beautiful. Not because of the way you style your hair, or how your legs look in those shorts, or the clarity of your skin, but because you are my creation. I made you, and I take pride in my work.
I know you’re tired — tired of always striving to be better — more beautiful, skinnier, more put-together.
So just stop.
Don’t believe the lies this world tries to feed you, tries to shove down your throat. When you try to fit their mold, you’ll never look good enough. But when you try to fit mine, you already do.
So give yourself a break. Take a rest from all your striving.
And just be content.