This is the place to start for women with Christian Body Image Issues. I'm a Jesus following mom who wants to see women improve their body image and find freedom from comparison! Be a part of a community of Christian women supporting each other with Gospel truth.
Hi. My name is Heather and I’m a real swimsuit model. Thick thighs, post-baby flab, deflated nursing boobs and all.
Of course I’m not the kind featured in Sports Illustrated. You’ll never see me in a suntan lotion ad or on a billboard holding a summer-y beverage. My modeling role isn’t formal. (Trust me, no one will ever pay to take pictures of me frolicking in the surf.)
I’m more of an “amateur” swimsuit model. My job is not to look perfect. Quite the opposite in fact. But, I’d say my type of modeling career has a far greater purpose. I must show my children what a real woman looks like so that they won’t be swindled by the lies of beauty when they’re older.
Now you may be thinking: What child is checking out how mom looks in a swimsuit? Do they even notice?
To this, I say, you are correct. Our kids don’t examine how we ‘look’ in swimsuits. My children express no concern over my dimply thighs that touch in the middle. They don’t freak out if my suit top rides up and exposes a bit of my love handles. And, they’ve never once mentioned that I should do more crunches to flatten my stomach.
They just want me out there, enjoying summer, with them. They likely don’t think at all about how I look in my swimsuit, now.
But, someday, I know that will change. Someday, they’ll notice that the women on TV don’t have the same build as dear old mom. Someday, my sons will be tempted by the images of women luring them to look. My daughter’s heart will be tested as she’s offered a message of life and love that comes through attaining greater beauty. My son’s heart will be tempted by beauty’s siren to affirm his manhood.
Some day, soon, they will form beliefs about what beauty looks like and what beauty offers. Today, I model as a way to invest in those decisions of their hearts.
Yep, this is me in a swimsuit. Oh my.
What Can They Learn From a Real Swimsuit Model?
I have a model thin friend nearing thirty who spends hundreds of dollars each month on cellulite cream. I’m not against cellulite cream, but her dependency on the stuff is nearly an addiction. She works out, diets, and spends a lot on clothing. She reads all the fashion mags and never misses the latest movies. Though she’d never say this out loud, she commits in her hearts, each morning, to keep up with beauty. There is no room in her mind to accept a body that will eventually change and no longer meet Hollywood’s standard.
I used to be just like her.
Sure, aging has mellowed me a bit, made me more realistic about my complete lack of control over the aging process. But, living a life bound to beauty is tiring. I want more for my children than that.
Children need to know that real bodies come in all shapes and sizes. They need to understand that real bodies age and change. And, they need to accept and acknowledge that God designed us that way.
Many of our misconceptions about beauty start when we are young. We watch and learn from our parents. If your mom never put on a swimsuit because she was “too fat” — this made an impression on you. If your dad leered at the women in magazines while mocking the neighbor lady who carried a few extra pounds, this also taught you something about physical beauty.
From a very early age we are able to see both real beauty and its counterfeit. Unless our parents point out to us the difference, we are apt to confuse them.
Both our girls and our boys need us to tell them and show them what true beauty is. They need it modeled. They need someone who will not just give lip service to scripture’s exhortations of true beauty, but one who will live it.
The Danger of Not Modeling
What happens if we don’t model true beauty and expose beauty’s lie for our children? We put them in danger.
I don’t say that lightly.
Culture will taunt our daughters with a dangerous lie that says true happiness, love and all they could ever desire will come if they can wear a size zero while filling a C-cup bikini top. Chasing this lie will only lead to heartache, pain and disappointment. This pain will often manifest in eating disorders, anxiety, depression, insecurity, or other self-destructive behaviors.
Culture will lure our sons with the deafening myth that air-brushed perfection offers sexual satisfaction. It bombards them with messages that women are one-dimensional accessories for their pleasure, not valuable creations made in the image of God. Should they believe the lie that a woman’s physical beauty will fulfill them, they’ll similarly face depression and despair–not to mention anger and frustration in real relationships.
Modeling Requires More Than a Swimsuit
My body does not look like that of a real model. I have stretch marks, cellulite, areas where I can “pinch an inch” and funky marks on my skin in places. But by acting ashamed of the ways my body has changed and aged, I confirm for my children that I believe culture’s definition of beauty. I subtly encourage them to do the same.
If I want my children to learn that true beauty derives from service to Christ, not service to the treadmill, it takes more than just sporting a swimwear three months a year. I must actively teach them to see the truth. I don’t just mean pointing out who’s been air-brushed and who’s making ridiculous, TV commercial claims about how great beauty feels. (Though these activities are helpful.)
Rather, even more important than modeling lycra is modeling a heart that finds its fulfillment in Christ alone. When my heart rests content in this place, I’m better able to show my children an example of true satisfaction–the kind that fake beauty promises, but never brings.
This kind of modeling happens year round, not just in the summer, of course. But, every swimsuit season as I struggle through the dreaded exercise of trying on swimsuits or as I wrestle to accept my own appearance in swimwear, I know that I only have two choices. I can either affirm our culture’s message that the only beautiful body is that of a thin, never-had-a-baby, eighteen-year-old and act ashamed of mine. Or, I can rebel against this lie and enjoy summer in a double-digit sized tankini.
Which would you choose?
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:
I love summer. The sunshine. Getting tan. The chance to unwind and relax by the pool.
But, then, I hate summer. The pressure to wear shorts or swimsuits to every social engagement. The reminder that my body doesn’t match our culture’s definition of perfection. The messages from the media that remind me I should be dieting or exercising so I can have a “bikini body.”
Ugh. It’s a tiring roller coaster to ride–the ups and downs of body image woe.
Summer can steal your joy if you let body image consume you. And, it’s a total shame. The one season of the year when we should be able to relax, absorb some Vitamin D, and float around on the water with some sort of fruity drink, we get caught up in a battle with the mirror.
Yep, this is me in a swimsuit! (The parts of my body I sometimes struggle with are conveniently hidden inside the inner tube.) Flabby thighs aren’t going to make me miss out on summer fun though!
This summer, I want you to be free to enjoy. So, I’ve created this summer survival guide.
Some of you will want to read every link attached. Others may pick and choose from the topics that interest you. But, whatever you do, soak up some encouragement here.
You slip into your brand new one-piece. It looked okay in the store’s dressing room.
I can do this. You think to yourself.
But one accidental glance at the tag’s picture of the gorgeous woman wearing it and suddenly you stare in the mirror and question your choice. Those must have been skinny mirrors. Argh! Foiled again! Alas, they are waiting. No time to choose a new suit now.
You head out the door for what should be a fun day by the water. You set up your chair, situate your belongings, and it’s time. Everyone starts shedding layers. You glance around. Wow, that’s a cute suit. You think. I wonder why I never noticed what a great figure she had before?
Hmmm… You sit, fully clothed, considering ways that you could legitimately keep your cover up on all day long. Does, “I’m allergic to the sun!” sound legit? If only it wasn’t a billion degrees outside…
The real problem: comparison.
Comparison kills us. Not in a quick, bullet to the heart kind of way either. Death by comparison comes slowly. A little prick here as we notice how thin her thighs are…a little stab there as we observe her stretch mark free abs…until our strength to live joyfully has been drained.
Perhaps you think I’m being a little melodramatic. But, I truly believe it’s time for us to take the toxicity of comparison seriously. Here are the three reasons to cut out comparison:
1. Comparison keeps us from contentment.
I love Pinterest. And, I hate Pinterest. I scroll through the social media site and, within seconds, can find one thousand reasons to be discontent with what I own, how I look, and my inability to simultaneously make my own soap and home decor while making Whole 30 freezer meals for the next six months. Ridiculous, right?
So why do we do it? Because our hearts are bent toward comparison.
They instinctively ask, “Am I enough?” and “Should I being doing better?”
Comparison quickly chimes in. It first answers, “Yeah, look at her. You’re fine.” Then, just when you start to get comfortable, comparison comes back and says, “Wow. Did you see her? You better get to work. No way can you keep up with that. Diet starts tomorrow. Where’s that gym membership card again?”
Comparison keeps our focus misplaced.
When you are caught in its trap you look at two different places to find your worth: others and yourself. Yet, neither of these places do an apt job of telling you how you are doing. Their standards constantly change. Just when you figure out the right combination of products and tools to get your hair perfectly straight: Bang! Curly hair is back in style.
Comparison traps us on the treadmill of discontent.
2. Comparison keeps us from camaraderie.
I tugged at my tankini top, to keep it covering the extra roll of flesh I’ve developed around my middle since turning the big 4-0. And, there she sat, right beside me, sporting a black bikini and looking like she just stepped out of a swimwear catalog.
Did I want to compare my soon-to-be middle aged body with her youthful one? Of course. But, did I? No.
Why? Because here’s the truth: she’s my friend. I know her pretty well. I hear her struggles and she hears mine. So, when comparison crosses my mind. I stop and take that thought captive. Otherwise I know our friendship would be jeopardized. Why? Because then she would no longer be my friend. She’d become my competitor.
Have you ever had a friend whom you felt like was always competing with you? Fun, isn’t it? You get a new hair cut. She suddenly does the same. You decide to join the gym. Guess who suddenly became a Zumba zealot?
The competition doesn’t strengthen the relationship though, does it? Instead, the pressure of out-pacing each other (or even trying to avoid her mimicking your ever move) suffocates any chance of true relationship.
Competition says: Never let your guard down; don’t let the enemy see you sweat. Friendship says: Bring me your weakness and I will stand with you to help you be stronger.
3. Comparison keeps us in chains.
Many women are bound to their body image struggles because of comparison. The images in magazines and movies mix with mis-perceptions of those around us who have what we think we want. This creates a lethal combination that swiftly kills our joy.
Christ came to give us freedom. When we choose to measure ourselves against those around us instead of against his standards, we put the chains back on. We say, “That’s nice, Jesus, that you want to give me life and all. But, I’m pretty sure I’d be happier if I could just have her abs.”
We believe that true life is not found in Him but in having the perfect body, or skin, or looking like a Victoria’s Secret model.
Friends, it’s a lie.
Comparison keeps us bound to the myth that beauty will make our lives better. Comparison keeps us shackled to a fictional reality that shows a pain-free life comes with wearing a size two.
Free yourself from comparison’s bondage today by confessing to the Savior that you’ve been deceived. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.”
“Thank you! I’m looking forward to allowing God to love me like never before.”
Her message gave me goosebumps as I read it. I am excited and encouraged each time I hear from another woman ready to start a journey towards body image freedom. (Have a story to share? Tell me here!)
But the truth is, I have nothing to do with allowing God to do anything. He works on our behalf, always.
Yet, sometimes it doesn’t feel like He’s working. Neither does it look like it. I wonder what the disciples thought when they saw their teacher and their friend die on that cross.
It certainly must have looked like God was taking some time off, not paying attention. How could he be working . . .through death?
But what happened? Death preceded a resurrection–the only acceptable sacrifice for your sin and mine. Before we could be free, someone sinless had to die.
Before we can be free from what bogs us down in this life, something sinful has to die.
Something in us has to die so that we can be brought back to life and live free.
For me, this death needed to come to my practice of body image idolatry. I’m ashamed to admit the ways my heart truly believed that I would be happier, more loved, more peaceful and “free” if I could only reach a certain size. I just knew that I’d feel safe and secure once the scale read 125 pounds or once my tag said size four. When it didn’t happen that way, I found myself in a crisis. Looking for something else to save me (marriage and then children).
I didn’t see my sin. Though I was raised in a Christian home and knew all the “right” Bible answers. I couldn’t see how hard I was working at a false form of salvation. My sin of pursuing a perfect body over pursuing Christ and his kingdom kept me from living free and feeling that joy and peace that only He offers.
This Easter, I pray you’ll more fully understand just how much God loves you. You are fully accepted and completely loved by Him, no matter what. He died, and rose again, so that you could have LIFE, not live in bondage to your body image or comparison or inadequacy.
You are enough because of what happened on Easter! His sacrifice and tremendous grace say you are loved beyond what you measure.
Yes, Easter means you are free. Embrace that freedom today!
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:
Comparison: the thief of joy, the enemy of peace, the nemesis of rest . . .
We know it’s not “good” for us to compare. Though some argue it has helpful benefits in the workplace and can “propel” us to greatness . . .I disagree. Every time we’re focused on how we’re doing as COMPARED to how someone else is doing, we rob ourselves of uniqueness.
What if I’m not supposed to write “well” like her, what if I’m supposed to write like me?
Does God really want us to be imitators of others, or imitators of Jesus?
I think we both know the answer to that one.
So, how do we stop comparing? I’m doing a “Comparison Fast” on social media and with my subscribers, I hope to be able to share it with you all at some point. But, today, I want to give you ten quick reasons to stop comparing. I hope they’ll help set you on the road to freedom!
Ten Reasons to Stop Comparing
10. God didn’t create you to be better than her. He didn’t create you to be worse than her. He created you to be you. There is no “better than” or “worse than.” He doesn’t have us all line up from best to worst based on various metrics.
9. Speaking of metrics, comparisons require them. We must have a set standard in our heads (sometimes that we aren’t even aware of) by which we measure others and then measure ourselves. But can every thing be measured? Though you’d never say it out loud, have you secretly decided that people who wear a size 6 are best? How do you get to make that decision? Is it true just because you believe it? It sounds a little silly when we put our “not at all objective” metrics into words.
8. I could probably beat most Victoria’s Secret models in a typing contest. Likewise, I’m no match for their, shall we say, “photogenic” nature. Comparing your weaknesses to someone else’s strengths isn’t fair.
7. Picking out just one attribute or quality of a person and defining them by that one thing is called objectification. We deprive a woman of her humanness when we only see her as pretty on the outside and decide to compare this one quality she has with a single one of our qualities. You’re not one dimensional, neither is the person with whom you are comparing yourself.
6. Likewise, we’re all a mixed bag of good and bad, great strengths and tragic weaknesses (impatience and warm brownies are mine).
5. There will always be someone who looks better. Are you going to spend your entire life competing in an imaginary beauty contest or are you going to stop stressing over your appearance and live the purpose-filled life God’s designed you for?
4. There will always be someone who has it better than you. But there will also always be someone who has it worse than you.
3. Life isn’t fair. But neither is grace. And, I’m grateful for that.
2. Comparison zaps the love right out of our relationships with others. Seriously. Have you ever felt truly close to that woman whom you secretly hate because of her fast metabolism? Instead of loving friendships, we create resentments. We feel unhappy with our alleged friend, and unhappy with ourselves.
1. Comparing keeps your focus in one unhelpful place–on yourself. We get caught in the self-improvement rat race trying to keep up with her and her. We look around at how others are doing and are forced to focus even harder on ourselves if we’re ever going to keep up.
What do you think? What would you add to this list?
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:
This is a fantastic story from my new friend Brittney. She wrote me this, “I know you probably get lots of emails regarding your AMAZING book “Compared to Who.” I for one am grateful the Lord put this book on your heart. While reading your book I was going through a Freedom small group put on by my church and your book in combination with my freedom retreat at the end was simply LIFE CHANGING!” She shared with me her amazing testimony, so I asked if it would be okay to share it with you too! Praise God for freedom stories!
“It was for this freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” – GALATIANS 5:1
If someone would have approached me earlier this year and asked what the definition of freedom was, my response probably would have been “living life with no rules, cares or responsibility . . .Wait, freedom must mean I’d be rich right??” Little did I know “freedom” was a word that would humbly change my life forever. Anyone can experience the thought of freedom in their mind, which goes straight to the fantasy land of what the physical world can bring them BUT to experience freedom in your heart is a feeling you just simply can’t describe.
My name is Brittney I’m 32 and have been enslaved to body dysmorphic disorder for so many years.
By definition, BDD is constantly thinking about one or more perceived defects or flaws in your appearance — a flaw that, to others, is either minor or not observable, feeling so ashamed and anxious that you avoid many social situations or go to extremes to hide or mask these flaws in front of others.
BDD had completely taken over my life, at some point without me realizing it, I was no longer in control.
My mirror addiction was so severe, simply stepping away from the mirror into public not knowing what I looked like cause extreme anxiety.
I would constantly fidget uncontrollably (ex: pulling on my clothes, touching my hair, changing my body position) but consciously be aware of what I was doing & unable to stop myself. Once in front of the mirror, finding an imperfection lead to a battle of doing whatever I could to fix it, this means losing track of time after 30 minutes have gone by. Then end result of most days was exhaustion from the battle itself and hiding it from others (They didn’t notice right?), feeling of failure (This is just who I am… ), never good enough (Who would want me anyway?), and [believing] I was skinnier it would all go away. (What’s the latest crash diet anyway? I’ll just skip eating for a day or two . . .) or, if I had a boyfriend I would be happier & more accepting of myself. (Your ex husband cheated on you then left because your fat, nobody will ever want you & look at those legs, disgusting.)
The root of this crippling battle stemmed from me being severely bullied starting in middle school.
Starting at the age old enough to worry about what the opposite sex thought of me, I very painfully adapted to so many insecurities. I was the chubby one who was outgoing–or that’s what I lead others to believe. Chubby is not a word cruel enough to describe you when you get to high school. [Older kids] resort to just [calling you] FAT. Or, what my personal bullies who would wait for me everyday at lunch liked to call me, “Miss Piggy.” (While snorting at me as they guarded the only doorway entrance to the break area.)
“Roly poly the fat cheerleader . . .”
“She’s pretty but fat.” These are just a few famous alternatives used to describe me. I remember feeling so exhausted, broken, and worthless to the point of thinking to myself: So this is how it feels to not want to live anymore. This is the feeling of wanting this to end.
Realizing the school year was almost over and my bullies who were seniors wouldn’t be there next year, I pushed on and dealt with it.
So then I lost the weight, but that doesn’t make it all go away.
Being pretty and skinny came with the pressure and fear of gaining the weight back, fear of someone noticing if I gained even one pound so not eating was the normal routine.
With all of this came the bondage of rejection, shame, guilt, pride, idolatry, and lust. The feeling I got from someone complimenting me, accepting me or desiring me based on my appearance was my high. Physical beauty was my DRUG, which consequently caused me to become a person no longer recognizable in the mirror.
Going through my divorce three years ago is what ultimately worsened my BDD to the extreme it was before Freedom.
Freedom small group was the first time I had EVER opened up & shared my story.
Never letting my walls down, I’ve carried this with me for more than half my life. Freedom has literally allowed me to claim my life back.
The peace I feel looking in and walking away from the mirror is life changing. The Lord has brought to light what his word says about true beauty. My anxiety and fidgeting is no longer uncontrollable. I no longer have to start a face to face conversation by saying, “I have a nervous habit of touching my hair so just ignore it!” YESSSS!!!!
The most liberating part of all is going from wearing a face full of makeup everyday to now walking out of my house wearing only the bare minimum feeling comfortable in my skin & a proud Woman of God. With this experience He has put on my heart to lead a small group for teen girls dealing with body image insecurities & comparisons, the pressure of social media, and bullying. Only through Him am I able to share my testimony.
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:
Do feelings of comparison ever overwhelm you? Do you ever say things like, “Why do I even bother?” because it feels like you’re behind in a game where everyone else is ahead? Does figuring out how you’re doing as compared to those around you dictate how you feel each day?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, I have good news. Today could be your first day on a journey to freedom.
But, I like to start things slow. (Okay, that’s not true. I like to start and end things super fast –get them done. BUT, that’s not the best way to proceed when it comes to beating comparison!)
So, your assignment for the next six days is to simply start paying attention to your heart.
Write down the moments when you feel envy (or jealousy) sneak into your heart. Start a log of these moments today. It may feel awkward to write them down, but please do it anyway.
Do this until next Tuesday (March 12)
I’d also invite you to study some scriptures this week, both from Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 11:1 tells us to be imitators of Christ. It’s hard to know how to imitate Christ unless we’re spending time reading the Bible–God’s word–and seeing how Jesus lived. (Hint: This is a great time to start a daily Bible reading plan if you don’t have one!)
Also, look at 2 Corinthians 10:12. What does it mean to measure ourselves by ourselves? Why does the Bible tells us this is foolish?
These are your assignments for the next week! I’ll write you next Tuesday with what’s next!
Here’s to overcoming and finding new freedom from comparison in the next forty days!
In His Grace,
**I’m challenging my subscribers with regular emails. Want in? Sign up for my email list below. You can drop out at any time. But, hey, who couldn’t use a little help in the comparison battle every now and then?
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:
Super excited to have a guest post from a phenomenal blogger, Alisha Illian and her post, “I Want You to Like Me!” You may not instantly recognize her name, but you’ve likely read her review of Rachel Hollis’ book, “Girl, Wash Your Face.” Today, she writes for Compared to Who? about approval. I broke up with my approval idol last summer (Okay, I thought I had already conquered this one, but apparently, I still had work to do!). If approval is something you find yourself seeking too much of, I hope you’ll read and share this!
There’s something you ought to know about me—I’m a people pleaser.
Ask me to grab a coffee, fold your clothes, take out the trash or watch your kids…no problem. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit. Let’s not stretch the kid thing.
The problem is that I don’t like to disappoint anyone. Ever. I simply don’t want to let people down. I care too much about what people think about my help, assistance and input.
I sweat and fret when I feel like conversations are awkward, people get distracted or I don’t get an immediate text response.
There are about a million exhausting, pin-ball thoughts that go through my mind in these moments— do they think I’m crazy? Boring? Did I come on too strong? Not strong enough? Did I ask the right questions? Do I have spinach in my teeth or a dried booger in my nose? Am I coming across as lame, arrogant or insane? By the way, did I leave the coffee maker on?
But God helped me discover something significant and cathartic in the midst of this frazzled madness.
I’m actually not a people pleaser—I’m an approval seeker.
My people-pleasing is just a symptom. My real problem is that I’m constantly striving to earn the approval of those around me. The distinction is monumental, like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. And it is a game changer in the way I love those in my life.
I want you to like me. I want you to think I’m pretty great. I want you to let me in and be my friend. I want to belong and be loved. Simply stated, I want your approval.
Unfortunately approval-seeking goes hand-in-hand with comparison. And Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians 10:12 that, “When they compare themselves to themselves and measure themselves by themselves, they are not wise.”
Unlike the narrow path to God, the path to self-destruction is wide and easy to find. It starts with needing the approval of others. It then morphs into comparing what we have to what they have, which often leads to anxiety, depression and flat-out soul exhaustion. This kicks off a vicious reinforcing cycle of approval, comparison, and anxiety that is hard to escape. The reason it is hard to escape is because we are constantly focused on us, not on God.
It is ultimately a heart problem. And it’s toxic. It will continue to get worse unless we are reminded that our true identity is in Christ alone.
If you hear nothing else in this entire blog hear this—I know for a fact that my worth is immeasurable in Jesus. I know that He died for me, I am a daughter of the king and I am unconditionally loved. I don’t need the applause of man. I don’t need success. I don’t need recognition. I don’t need to be invited to the party or included in the group. I don’t need others to ask my advice, respond to my messages or like my posts.
The affirmation of other people will never satisfy the longing of my soul, because my soul was made to be approved and belong to Jesus.
Ive heard it a thousand times. I know it.
But I don’t always believe it. My heart struggles to believe what my mind understands. Something gets lost between my pee-brain and anxious heart. I don’t embrace my identity, therefore, it doesn’t inform my actions.
True Christ-followers know that the real battle is against sin and the evil one. Sin is the enemy of our soul. And the evil one wants nothing more than to distract, deceive and lie so that we begin to rely on ourselves. The minute our world starts revolving around us—our strengths, our knowledge, our insights, our gifting and our abilities—is the moment that we begin to fall apart.
So what should we do?
“Fix your eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.” (Hebrews 12:2)
If you’ve ever struggled with comparison, then you’ve probably heard this overplayed, cultural advice—STOP LOOKING OUT. Stop looking over at that other girl. Stop caring about what other people do or their situations. START LOOKING IN. Pay attention to yourself. Know that you are enough. And worthy. And amazing.
You know what I say to that?
Blah blah blah.
The right Biblical advice is—LOOK STRAIGHT UP AND LOCK IN. Fix your eyes upon our Lord, Jesus Christ. Only when we view life through the lens of the crucified Savior can we keep our struggles, our worth and purpose in the proper perspective.
Look up — not out, not down, not inward. Look up. Fix your gaze upon Jesus. He is the author of our faith, the perfecter of our souls and the God who softens all hearts.
Most of us have never walked through life this way. And it is tough, especially if you are doing it alone. So surround yourself with other Godly women who are not blown to and fro by the latest self-help fancy but who are buried in the Word of God. Find some faithful friends who won’t condemn you, but will spur you on so God can use you to your fullest capacity.
I like to refer to myself as a “recovering approval seeker” because I’m anchoring my heart to His opinion and His applause. I don’t do it perfectly and neither will you, so don’t fret about every little interaction.
And besides, you’re never going to make everybody happy. You aren’t ice cream.
Alisha Illian is an author, speaker, and the founder of The Becoming Project. A self-proclaimed salsa snob, coffee addict, and crazy-in-love follower of Jesus, Alisha has a passion for women’s issues and Biblical application. She is the Director of Women’s Ministries at Riverlawn Christian Church. She has three kids, two dogs, and one high-maintenance husband.
I’m trying to get better. Really I am. But, every year when I’m certain that Spring has “sprung” I carry a 200 pound (only a slight exaggeration) plastic tub of clothing up the stairs and begin the process of replacing the cold weather garments with the warm weather ones.
But, every year this strange thing happens.
I hang up dresses that I know don’t fit me.
I fold into the drawer shorts with a number inside that’s way too low for my current weight class.
And, I say this in my head, “I’m sure I’ll drop a few pounds this summer, then it may fit. If I do change sizes, I’ll need new clothes. It would be irresponsible and wasteful to get rid of these now and then need them later. I’m saving money this way.”
You can guess what happens next.
Every Fall, when the weather gets cold, I’ll put those same clothes back in the tub–unworn.
Clothing has a strange power over me. I hesitate to part with certain garments for two main reasons: 1) sentimental attachment or 2) the number onthe little tag stitched inside. Combine them and you’ve defined a piece of clothing that could potentially hang in my closet, forever!
So, I keep the clothes that don’t fit. All of them.
That ridiculously small-sized cocktail dress that I fit in for one formal night (and one night, only) before pregnancy wreaked havoc on my hips,
Skirts that only fit during the breastfeeding-weight-loss-buzz but haven’t zipped in the 9 years since,
Jeans that no longer button, and
Those t-shirts that looked cute when I was 26 but now require a stretching ritual to reach all the way to my waist.
They each have their own story of past glory. But now they jeer at me.
They tell me I’ve gone from accepted to awkward, like the once cool kid who no longer fits in.
And they dangle there, forever, as a reminder that I’m not good enough.
“Hahaha…You’ll never fit in me again…”
They taunt and shame me.
My clothes make me feel fat.They tell me I’m not good enough.So Why Do I Keep Them?
I know I’m not alone. Okay, maybe Marie Kondo’s helping us all . . .but many of my readers and listeners are doing the same thing I do. Staring at closets full of clothes that are the wrong size.
And feeling guilty about it.
So, Marie Kondo has her rules. I’ve come up with some of my own. Our goal here is to get shame out of the closet. I guess you could say it’s an opposite strategy to Kondo’s. Instead of looking to keep what will make us happy, we can, at least, look to get rid of what’s bogging us down.
Rule One: Clean It Out to Shut it Up.
Most women have a wide enough variety of sizes hanging in their closet to open a second hand store. In the last ten years–from my wedding day through four pregnancies– I’ve worn seven different sizes. Seven! Guess which ones are the hardest to get rid of? Yes, that’s right…the smallest ones. I “appreciate” those lower numbers. Too much.
Here’s my encouragement:
Rid your closet of the extremes.
Stay within one size of what you are wearing right now, today, and get rid of the rest. If you are currently on a weight loss journey, undergoing medical treatment, or if you just had a baby then keep some of the smaller sized items, up to three sizes away, only. (Even on an aggressive weight loss plan losing three sizes in one season is a lot.)
Don’t do the “keep the smallest size as motivation” trick!
The size of whatever “motivational garment” hanging there will more likely cause discouragement than incentive. Plus, after you lose the weight it may not fit the same way it used to anyway. (Stuff moves! Nothing fits me the way it did pre-baby, even on those days when I weigh what I did back then!)
Another rule of thumb: If it hasn’t fit you in more than a year (and you weren’t pregnant or within one year postpartum) then be like Elsa and just let it go!
I know all of your excuses for hanging on. (I use them too.) But, try a clean sweep. Then, when that little summer dress from your glory days shouts, “Hey fatty, you aren’t as cute as you were that summer!” shut it up by ripping it off the hanger and giving it away.
Rule Two: Only Buy Clothing That Fits
Are you a “shopping optimist?” I am sometimes. I find a cute item on the clearance rack that will fit “perfectly” five-to-fifteen pounds from now and bring it home where it stays hanging for years until I give up and donate it to Goodwill.
If you are a shopping optimist too, let me encourage you to stop. This is a tremendous waste of money and a great shame inducer. Buy clothing that fits you now. Not ten pounds from now.
No matter what size you wear today, there are great clothing options out there that look nice.
Don’t punish yourselfby not allowing yourself to spend money on clothing in your current size!
I’ve done this, post-babies especially. Let me assure you, this is a mind game that doesn’t work. It keeps you trapped and depressed and, once again, shamed.
Instead, buy some clothing that you like and feel good in. Then should your size change, go do the same thing all over. I’m not suggesting you shop at Neiman Marcus and spend a thousand dollars through this process. Rather, let me encourage you that even with $50 at Target or on the TJ Maxx, Ross, or Marshall’s (all my faves) clearance rack, you can get a few great pieces to get you through a season in whatever size you wear, today. And, friend, that’s okay, no matter what size it is!
Rule Three: Release the Shame. That Tag Doesn’t Determine Your Value.Friends, pay no attention to the number on the tag.
It’s just a number. Though its voice may be loud and dominant. It may sound like it has authority, but it doesn’t. A size is only a size. A number. A metric by which they cut clothing.
No matter what the number, it’s not the metric. God’s scales don’t work like ours do. He doesn’t use that number to define your value.
We have to know and believe that God doesn’t love those who wear a size two any more than those who wear a size twenty-two. In fact, he loves you beyond (what you) measure.
And, he has a much greater plan for your life than you fitting back into the size you wore in high school.
I pray that you’ll believe that.
Your worth, your infinite value, is found in the sacrifice that Jesus paid for you. Derive your value from him, not a number, not a label, not a nostalgic piece of clothing that no longer fits like it once did.
If you have a garment you like to wear but feel ashamed because of the size on the tag, then cut the tag out. Get rid of it. You don’t really need it anyway after you leave the store. So, stop the shame from tempting you with discouragement every time you get dressed.
We started a forum on this topic a few months ago on Facebook and one reader responded with this: “Easily fifty percent (of my closet doesn’t fit). I have work to do. Not on me, the closet.”
I thought this was awesome!
Friend, you are not the problem, but your clothes may be. The good news is, you can do something to change that. Immediately.
Go hit that closet!
Start your journey to a comparison free life! Take the FREE body image quiz here:
Lovely sentiment when you are pregnant. Which I am certainly not.
“Four and a half years ago. But thanks for that.” I literally said this as I gestured to my (almost) Kindergartner.
Awkward, right? But she would not let it go. She continued to press the issue. What I failed to mention, this lovely scenario took place in the grocery store checkout. While waiting for a price check. And the lady with all the questions was hovering so close that I could feel her breath.
And just when you think things have reached the threshold of awkwardness, my four year-old joins the conversation.
“What?? You have a baby in there?? I’m having a new sister??” No. No. And no. At this point, I would have apologized and invoked the right to remain silent. But not the elderly shopper. Undeterred by her faux pas, she was relentless. “You aren’t pregnant? Are you sure?”
Frankly, I was in no mood to pee on a stick for a stranger, and there was no end in sight. So I cracked. Just a little. While holding on to my love for Jesus as tightly as I could, I tucked the crazy in, took a breath and (probably a little too loudly) told the cashier to forget the price check.
I cried all the way home, while my four year old sang along with The Greatest Showman soundtrack (oblivious to my tears.)
But bottom didn’t come until I sat at the dinner table that night and recounted my story. And my husband laughed. Uncontrollably. As in roaring fits of laughter.
Their Approval is Your Distraction
Someday I may laugh about the kooky old lady who asked me about my non-existent pregnancy. But that day is not today nor any other time in the foreseeable future. I came home that day and threw my flowy red top straight in trash. And honestly, it still hurts my feelings.
Weeks later, I was at an event with my youngest daughter. An event that albeit she was enjoying, but my reasons for allowing her to participate were very much distorted.
The elephant in the room. So well meaning and but so very misguided. The mother of them all: I want her to be more than me. Better. All the good without the baggage. But in doing so, I was inadvertently setting her up for her own issues.
So mid-event, I scroll through Instagram. The first thing on my feed was this: “What you choose to validate you, you also give the power to invalidate you. Choose well.”
Ok, that stung. But probably coincidence, right? Scroll down to the next. Seriously? Havilah Cunnington throwing some truth. “Their approval is your distraction.”
I’m a big believer that God can speak whenever, wherever and however he needs to get our attention.
This battle with body image and comparison, the baggage and the never measuring up! One minute, I’m sailing through and things are seemingly under control and the next minute, boom! My insecurities are driving my mama choices. And the next my confidence is shattered because a super old woman hurt my feelings.
These moments show me one thing clearly. And it isn’t really a surprise that I haven’t arrived to a place where words don’t hurt and the past never affects the present. These moments remind me that I need grace daily. That these parts of life need as much prayer, for me, as all the other things I have to address every single day.
As women, this is one of the biggest mistakes we make.
That moment that we let our guard down. Not because we mean to. We get tired, weary. Life gets hard and sometimes we go on auto-pilot. We stop being proactive in our prayer lives, in our community of friends who help us keep things in check. And sometimes we just shut down.
Isolated, weak and spiritually deplete. Because if I’m being 100% honest, isolated and spiritually deplete would perfectly sum up my state before I walked into either of these situations. Stumbling into an awkward moment that was beyond my control. And the one I walked into voluntarily with my daughter that wasn’t good for either of us.
Maybe that’s where the battle of body image, comparison and never feeling we are enough is actually won. In the soul work that goes into quiet moments, before we ever have to interact with this crazy world. In allowing our hearts to be transformed daily.
According to Romans 12:2 “And do not be conformed to this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Real transformation comes with renewing our minds.
I’m so guilty of this one. When I’m a train wreck, I admit my need to be transformed heart, mind and soul. But truth? I need this everyday.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers.
But I do have my new game plan.
I am going to focus a little less on picture perfect Instagram lives. Focus more on keeping my heart and head in right places. Daily remembering my need for renewal.
I’m worrying less about fitting in and more on being the girl that makes others feel welcome at my table. I’m worrying less about crazy old ladies who have poor social skills, and more on being healthy in all regards. Making mama choices that are going to shape amazing hearts and beautiful spirits and less on what looks good on paper (or social media).
And hopefully, the next time someone talks to my belly or calls me thunder thighs, it will be a minor blip in my day and not an identity crisis. Here’s to hoping.
Becca Fee-Carter is a wife and mother of 2 amazing daughters. She lives in Kentucky where she enjoys obsessively reading, running 5Ks with her daughters and bargain shopping. She loves Jesus, daily discovering new facets of God’s grace, and the fact that she’s so far from perfect and that is just fine. Read Becca’s posts here.