Spring break is a time to relax, recharge, and depending on your climate- get some sun. After winter, our bodies are due for some vitamin D. Unfortunately, despite how it appears on our Instagrams, getting sprung into spring after a long winter can bring about anxiety and an increase in negativity about our bodies. Though men also struggle with body image, this post is particularly for women and the challenges we face in the midst of narrow beauty standards.
Below are a few questions to think through as you prepare for Spring break.
What does it mean if you are critical of your body? Well, it means you’re “normal.” Over half of women, fall on the spectrum of negative body image. This means that during a period in their lives, most women have a preoccupation with image, food, and exercise. This preoccupation could look like being anxious about your weight, diet/calorie intake, or level of exercise. This anxiety ultimately leads to lower self esteem.*
It is normal to be aware of your body and how it looks. It becomes an issue when your view of your body becomes how you define your worth.
In most cases, our fixation with our bodies, food, and over-exercising is a symptom of a greater anxiety and insecurity in our lives. It is a vulnerable feeling when our bodies don’t match the ideal version of ourselves we carry around in our minds.
Getting in touch with the fear that is driving our desire for perfection on the outside can point us to the place we need God to heal. Are we afraid people will reject us if we don’t look a certain way? Do we fear our personality isn’t enough? Whatever the reason, God wants to meet you in the midst of the pain.
The point isn’t to slap a bible verse on your experience. The point is that because of our relationship with God, we can live in freedom from having to be perfect. God desires for us to grow in trust, that he does give us freedom from perfection.
What does it matter?
Is it hard to believe God would care about how you feel about your body? The reality is God does care- about your mind, soul, AND body. If we are at war with ourselves and our bodies, it’s harder to love God and others.
Many women are trapped in shame around their bodies and cannot focus on all that God has for them. In order for our relationship with our bodies to be transformed, we need to ask God to transform our minds. This means, to find freedom in our bodies, we must have the freedom of Christ in our minds.
After spending the first 11 chapters in the book of Romans explaining the foundation of our faith, Paul begins Romans 12 by saying,
“I appeal to you therefore... to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When we take to heart God’s mercy and all he has done for us, we actually want to present our whole lives, including our physical bodies to God. Instead of conforming to the patterns of the world around us, we want the Holy Spirit to transform our minds, giving us insight into God’s design for our bodies and our lives.
What does freedom look like?
Do you know what God thinks about you? In a world where we are constantly wondering what people think, our friends, families, people on social media, our professors, do you REALLY know what God thinks about you?
Freedom comes from the truth of scripture about who you are, and who God is, and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. For starters, Psalm 139 say s, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
God intentionally created us; he knows us deeply and he loves us. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God is able to renew our minds and change the way we see ourselves and the world around us.
Struggling with our body image is a normal experience. It is helpful to normalize our feelings and recognize there may be more going on emotionally under the surface. Scripture shows us God cares for our bodies, and that freedom is possible. By growing in our understanding of who God is, the Holy Spirit can renew the lens with which we see our bodies through.
*Note: So for some of us, struggling with body image doesn’t feel like a choice, but it instead can be a symptom of an eating disorder. Knowing the difference between having a negative body image and meeting criteria for an eating disorder has to do with someone’s self esteem being dependent on the rigidity of the behaviors (not eating certain foods, having to exercise almost daily, fixating on a certain weight or size to a point of chronic anxiety).
If you think you may be struggling with an eating disorder, reach out to a trusted friend, and check the resource list below.
** National Eating Disorder Helpline: (800) 931-2237.