Even when we think we're doing pretty well, self-esteem wise, there is always something that can trigger feelings of insecurity and shame when it comes to our bodies. There's always something that isn't quite right, not exactly the way we want it to be. Here's why it doesn't really matter.
Looking at our bodies through a new lens
A few mornings ago, I was headed to the hospital for an early morning procedure, a routine exam to take a closer look at the cause of some internal issues that have developed over the past few months.
As I showered in preparation for this exam, I was filled with the usual insecurities that flood my mind whenever I’m going to lie in a hospital gown in a room buzzing with doctors and nurses.
I think about all the scars marking my body, evidence of too many surgeries, and of a life lived rather clumsily. I wonder if the people who have to look at me will feel as repulsed as I sometimes do at the sight of these scars. Or, as they always reassure me, have they seen so much of such things that they have become immune to it? Am I the only one who notices?
As these thoughts flickered through my consciousness, I heard that still small voice saying this isn’t how I want you to see yourself.
I have made you and I have healed you. Give thanks.
I breathed deep, took this in. I get this wrong so often. I focus too heavily on all the things that have gone wrong in my body, overlooking the miracles that take place within it every day.
Our bodies are themselves miracles. The design so intricate, so inspired, so phenomenal. Constantly regenerating cells, healing wounds, absorbing the punishments we inflict on ourselves. All of the intricately designed systems working in tandem to keep us alive and allow us to do all the things we are able to do: create, carry, and give birth to children; walk, run, jump; talk, listen, sing, dance; breathe in, and breathe out.
So instead of feeling ashamed of our bodies, or lamenting all of the things we wish we could change, let’s choose to give thanks.
Learning to give thanks for a perfectly imperfect body
Let’s thank Him for our feet, even those—like mine—that have always been too big and too clumsy. Our feet hold us up all day every day, as we stand at our kitchen counters, cooking, cleaning, teaching, listening. They hold us up as we give speeches in boardrooms or in crowded auditoriums. They carry us over long distances, often getting tired, but rarely giving up. We are blessed to have these feet.
Let’s thank Him for our legs. For the scars where the once throbbing varicose veins were stripped away in a surgery that defies imagination. That we even had those veins in the first place, the result of too much pressure from too many babies carried by a mama who refused to slow down, even when she was supposed to. They were a small price to pay for the rewards bestowed on us.
We can even thank Him for all the infections, pain, and surgeries that we’ve suffered, for they too served their purposes. The infections and their associated pain, because they were our bodies’ warning system, the alarm that something was not right and required attention. The surgeries because they were the result of His faithfulness to us, His provision of talented, brilliant, detail-oriented doctors who knew exactly what they were doing. Who healed us of bizarre ailments that we had never heard of and restored our bodies to full functionality.
Let’s thank Him for the ability to carry and bear children, as difficult as that was. For the not-so-flat stomachs that have sheltered and protected tiny miracles, each one imprinting their own set of lines and marks for us to remember those pregnancies by.
Let’s thank Him for arms and hands that work tirelessly and equip us to pour out the love that overflows from within us. The arms and hands that allow us to serve our families and those we meet. That hold little ones and rock them to sleep; that bandage injuries and apply cold compresses to feverish foreheads. The hands that prepare meals, and drive cars, and hold tiny hands, and open books, and write words of encouragement to others. The hands that are lifted up in praise and clasped together in prayer. Our hands that are so much a part of who we are. We give Him thanks for those.
For our faces—wrinkles, under eye circles and all, the effects of too many interrupted hours of sleep. The face whose eyes weep with tears of joy while reading a handmade card from a child; the mouth that emits the laughter that warms that child’s heart. For the hair, too prematurely streaked with gray, a badge of honour that seems to multiply each time the family expands. It’s only a reflection of wisdom earned.
Don't listen to what the world has to say about your body
It’s easy to become ashamed of our “less-than-perfect” bodies, especially when the world around us is bombarding us with the latest diets and exercise plans, the fastest way to a bikini body. And we know that the Lord does want us to take care of ourselves, to treat our bodies as the temples that they are.
But they are still gifts, no matter what they look like today. No matter what the world tells us about how we should look or how we should feel about ourselves, we are walking around in living miracles. In the holy and perfect work of God. Our bodies are His and in spite of all their so-called imperfections, He is using them to bless us and to bless others, and for that we can celebrate and praise Him.
I pray that you love your body just a little bit more today than you did yesterday.