Contributor: Debra M. Cooper, graduate of Arizona State University, writer for Eating Disorder Hope
Body image is easily defined. It is literally how an individual perceives their own body. It is rarely reality based, meaning it is not predicated on truth, but far more on feelings and emotions. It often falls into the category of positive or negative. A young woman looks into a mirror and likes what she sees; another gazes at her reflection with undisguised disdain.
Although the definition is simple, what causes a person to feel as they do about their body is infinitely more complex. Contributing factors include everything from the family of origin to a person’s peer group.
Two different viewpoints can play a role in the shaping of body image. One of these, the world view, is given a tremendous amount of importance; the other, God’s view, is taken into account less often. This is regrettable because the former does nothing but cultivate negativity, while the latter has everything to do with positivity.
The single greatest factor in determining how females in particular perceive their appearance is the culture in which they live. Throughout history, America has proven somewhat schizophrenic regarding perception of beauty.
In the mid-1800s, women unilaterally shunned the sun. Extremely pale skin was highly valued in our society, due to what it implied. It meant a woman led a life of luxury and privilege; conversely, tanned skin suggested a woman had to work, possibly even as a physical laborer.
When an Ample Body Was Desirable
Much later, during the depression years, an ample body was considered desirable. This was also tied to economic status. A woman with a robust, rounded figure was a woman affluent enough to purchase food. A female consisting of mere skin and bones, was poor.
How fascinating to think that two physical attributes held in such low regard in the past are now so highly valued. Today, white skin is utterly out of fashion. Tan skin is synonymous with vigor and health, even though obtaining it may mean spending too many hours in the sun, saturating skin with chemicals, or submitting to dangerous tanning beds.
The Modern Thin Ideal
But far worse is the issue of weight. Long gone are the days when skinny translated into unhealthy or poor. Today, America’s obsession with the thin ideal is inextricably connected to all things desirable: beauty, wealth, success, sex appeal, popularity—the list goes on and on.
This necessity to be thin never takes into account a person’s genetics, skeletal structure, or body shape. Whereas women may be granted a modicum of latitude regarding facial features or height, there remains zero tolerance for a woman who is overweight.
This love affair with thinness has led to widespread negative body image. Females of all ages hate their bodies because they do not resemble those of models. Even new mothers are not exempt. They are continually haunted by photos of glamorous, svelte celebrities who just gave birth. It is no wonder eating disorders are epidemic throughout our country.
Clearly, God embraces vast abundance and variety. The world He created does not possess only one type of flower, but is rife with blossoms in a wide array of colors textures and sizes; the trees and skies are filled with birds that are equally diverse.
No Cookie-Cutter Children
And so it goes with His children. God generously gives each person the requisite internal organs that sustain life in a magnificent way. He provides legs to walk, arms to reach, ears to hear and eyes to see. But that is where the similarity ends. In terms of appearance, He places His stamp of individuality on each person. God doesn’t create cookie-cutter children.
Everybody Is Wonderfully Made
Every one of His daughters is as unique as the flowers and birds. According to Psalm 139, all are fearfully and wonderfully made. No doubt He takes great pride in His creations.
God is not schizophrenic, he never changes. His position on appearance and beauty is nearly diametrically opposed to the world view. He delights in individuality and variety. Here is the truth: If God wanted every one of His daughters to be identical, skinny, and weigh 95 pounds, He would have made them that way.
You live in the American culture, which makes the world view hard to resist. Every single day you are bombarded with messages telling you that you must look a certain way to be loved, successful and popular. Why not take a moment to consider why women are consistently told this negative nonsense about their looks.
The answer is simple: money. If everyone felt “just fine,” about their bodies, there would be no need to spend billions of dollars on weight-loss supplements and diet programs. In other words, making you feel bad is extremely good for the bottom line.
Remember, it is possible to live in the world and refuse to buy into its message. You have been given free will, and therefore, the power to choose for yourself.
No Assembly Line Required
So, consider this: God created you to be you, no assembly line required. There is only one you. Unlike the world, He has no vested interest in making you feel inadequate or unloved. Indeed, He loves you exactly the way you are.
If you turn away from the noise and negativity of the world and listen for that still, small voice, you may just hear, “You are beautiful to me. You are the apple of my eye … my daughter and my joy.”
The way you view your body is a choice. Reject the negativity and make a conscious decision to see yourself as He does. Through His unending grace, God’s view and your view will ultimately become one.
Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!
How has your faith impacted and/or changed your world view?
Christian Track: Eating Disorder Hope is proud to announce the initiation of a special Christian Track of blogs and articles to commemorate our 10th year of being blessed with such a special community of those in or searching for eating disorder recovery. Watch for further special blogs noted as “Christian Track”.
Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 19th, 2015
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com