More Than Just A Body. Overcoming Negative Thoughts About Body Image

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I have had freckles for as long as I can remember. Once I tried to cover them up with a thick foundation, just to see what I would look like without them. I remember showing my face to my mom, and she was quick to say, "Wipe that off your face right now! Your freckles are a part of who you are, they are beautiful. You should never cover them up!" And to this day I have never covered them up again, in fact, I have always rather enjoyed them. I am grateful my mom instilled in me from a young age that beauty is more than what others see. I never once heard my mom complain about her looks or her weight. She has always been quite simple when it comes to clothing and makeup. She never spent a lot of time fussing about her looks. The most time she spent in front of the mirror was to pluck her eyebrows. Similarly, I have always been quite simple as well. My makeup routine (if I put it on in a given day) consists of curling my eyelashes, mascara, a little powder and blush, occasionally cover-up if I need it. Simple.

 On our wedding day.  Anna-Lena Nordin Photography

On our wedding day.  Anna-Lena Nordin Photography

My weight, on the other hand, is an area that I have struggled with for much of my life. My excuse (based in fear) for being a little overweight, was that I wanted a man to love me for who I was inside, not for the external reasons. I vowed that when I found the right man, I would lose the weight.  And I did, during our engagement, I hired a personal trainer, changed my eating habits, and saw the weight drop. I was the most fit and lowest weight I had been since my teenage years. Our wedding pictures look great, but you know what? Even though I was my lowest weight I still wasn't happy with my body. Not a huge surprise there. I subconsciously said, well if I'm not happy now, then what's the point of all this hard work? I gained the weight back again, slowly, after we got married, when I didn't keep up my regiment from before. Then I got pregnant and after I had our baby, I lost the baby weight, but haven't managed to be content with my body. And now I'm not getting any younger, and I'm not done having children. So the struggle continues. How do I overcome? For myself, I think the answer is more than just losing weight. I think it requires a wholistic perspective. Let me explain. 

Wholistic Perspective

Human beings are complex. Multi-dimensional. To talk about overcoming in wholeness and healing with regards to one's body image, I believe we have to consider the WHOLE being. Body. Soul. Spirit. We are made up of a physical body, yes, but our physical self is the least representative of the real you, says Lisa Bevere, author and speaker. We also have a soul—which includes our mind, will, and emotions. And then we have a spirit, which is often referred to as our hearts. Because I believe in God, I believe the spirit is what connects with God and lives eternally. I think we all can agree we are more than just a physical body. Overcoming negative thoughts about our body image also involves our soul and spirit. It requires a truthful perspective about our bodies and the ideal image. Each area of our life profoundly affects the others, according to author, speaker and personal trainer Donna Partow; the pathway to wholeness and healing is found in actively pursuing maximum health in body, soul, and spirit. Let's look further in what each of these areas actually consists of. 

Body

What does your body consist of? Lisa writes, "your body is the natural dimension of you. It is what you see when you look in the mirror. It is an image reflected and projected to others. It functions in conjunction with the five senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. It protects you nourishes, grows, reproduces, ages, and eventually dies. The physical realm can be broken, scarred, wounded, healed, and strengthened. Physically, each of us is a  product of a genetic compilation passed down through centuries of reproduction. Our physical body in itself is a testament to the glory of God. The fact remains that in all of man's years of study life is still a mystery. Man cannot create human life, he can only clone or re-create human life. Man cannot produce life; we merely reproduce. A creator originates, not duplicates." That's why I believe God is the Creator of all life. I believe He is the Creator of my life and my body and that he was involved every detail of my formation as well as every human life. It's a miracle, really! Can you say the same thing about your life? Or is the miracle overshadowed by the flaws you see? I personally, need to be reminded of this daily.  We need to remember, that our physical self, though the most obvious, is the least representative of who we really are. Our souls better reveal who we really are.

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Soul

What makes up your soul? Lisa explains, "the soul has a range of emotional senses all of its own. It is the part of you that feels—not physically but emotionally. In your soul you experience happiness, sadness, joy, and pain. If you were ever made fun of, it was your soul—not your physical body—that experienced the pain. The soul consists of your mind, will, and emotions. It is the place of expression of your person—your personality, your thoughts, your hopes, your dreams, your fears. Your soul lives in your body. It can exercise power over your physical body and can imprint itself on us outwardly. Fear, grief, or anger can etch themselves upon a face after years of expressing physically the inner turmoil of the soul. Similarly, joy, peace and strength can leave their mark on a face. Fear of rejection can change a persons posture, causing one to cower or stoop, while confidence holds another upright and straight. The soul is the inner being. It draws information from our mind and considers our physical needs. It draws on past experiences and is forged and folded with each passing day. It can be both analytical and emotional. The body is lifeless, expressionless, and useless without the soul." How is the soul different from the spirit?

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Spirit

How do we define the spirit? Lisa explains, "the spirit is often described as your heart." If you believe in God, this also involves your connection to God. As a Christian, I choose to renew my spirit by spending time alone with God, reading the Bible, memorising scriptures from the Bible, singing songs of worship, reflecting, praying, journaling, and fasting. As I understand from reading the Bible, our spirit is the only part of us that will live eternally. Lisa writes, "when our lives are divinely ordered, our spirit will direct our soul and mind, which will guide our physical self." For myself, having a connection to God through my spirit is vital to wholeness and healing in all areas of my life, especially when it comes to overcoming negative thoughts about my body image.

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The 'Ideal' Body Image

We all have a picture of the 'ideal' body image. But is that 'ideal' even attainable? Or is what we think the 'ideal' image to be actually a lie? We see the 'ideal' image everywhere we look—on TV, in movies, advertising, and magazines. This 'ideal' image is built by advertising and media experts who thrive on our consumption. Lisa Bevere gives a description for the image of the ideal woman which I thought was pretty accurate as I have imagined her to be.

There are multiple portrayals of her. She is presented to all ethnic groups. She is a woman, perfectly at ease with her self. She moves freely in any setting. She is adored by men and envied by women. All other women are harshly and unfavourably compared with this nameless woman. She never ages; behind her facade of perfection she mocks and makes note of every flaw and imperfection of others. Her skin is flawless in tone and complexion. Her nose is straight—not too small or too large. Her eyes are bright and lack any dark shadows, circles or lines around them. They are encased in luminous, wrinkle-free skin. Her lips are full and artfully shaped. Her teeth are perfect and gleaming white. Her hair is whatever ours is not. Her body is perfectly proportioned and sits atop long, strong legs. Her breasts never age (or nurse)! All too often they are not even real. She is either taller or shorter than us—the perfect height! This image is never what we are and is always just beyond our reach, taunting us with her seductive eyes. Who is she anyway? Her name doesn’t really matter; she is not real. She is an image molded and forged by the spirit of this world. What she doesn’t have, plastic surgery readily supplies. Even this computer generation will not tolerate any imperfection in her—it reduces her thighs and cinches her waist while sweeping away any sign of imperfection in her skin. She is a deaf, dumb, and blind idol.
— Lisa Bevere
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Many of us are probably aware that what this image represents threatens womankind. Because this image is not real! And it is not attainable! Though we know this, we still look at her in awe. Hoping to one day be like her, disappointed that we can never attain this ideal. To overcome this image of the 'ideal' woman we see all round us in our culture today, it is important to be grounded in the truth of our identity. We need to ask ourselves, where does our worth and value come from? 

I was encouraged by reading Lisa Bevere's story as she recalls, "when I was five years old, I lost my right eye to cancer. I learned early on the pain of being reduced by what was seen. Before surgery, everywhere my parents took me, people would stop them and comment, "What a pretty little girl! What beautiful eyes!" When my eye was removed, the majority of my compliments ceased. Instead, people made strange faces. I wanted to yell, "I'm fine. I'm not my eye! I'm not weak; I'm still the same!" What resolve at such a young age, and seeing how her struggle has helped her overcome in life is so inspiring! Worth and value go deeper than just the surface. It is important to remember, as Lisa writes, "You are not what you see. You are not what they see. So they are not what you see."

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Lies Vs. Truth

What is the truth that you want to believe about yourself and your body? Lisa writes that truth as well as lies all begin as tiny seeds, planted in the soil of your spirit. It is important to 'water' the seeds of truth and 'uproot' any weeds of destruction and deception. When uprooting the seeds of lies, new seeds of truth should be planted. What can help you resist lies from being planted? Lisa says, you must first know who you really are. For me, as a Christian, I believe that I am created in the image of God and so I need to find my identity and worth in God.

How does one's identity become misconstrued by lies?  If you believe in God, sometimes your image of who God is also becomes distorted by lies. Lisa explains it is important to determine whether you are serving an image of God or God Himself. This image is limited to your own past experiences and perceptions. It is forged in the realm of your reasoning. But how can you change this? As Lisa explains, if you are serving God, you can experience a constant and ongoing transformation into His image. All lasting liberation, healing or change begins with inward transformation of body, soul, and spirit. This offers me hope on my journey of overcoming my own negative thoughts towards my body image. I am a work in progress and my story is not done yet.  By taking a wholistic perspective, seeking a synergy of body, soul, spirit, I can become a whole person, as I was created to be. Donna Partow writes, "we cannot focus on one area to the exclusion of the other two. Our goal needs to be optimal health in spirit, soul, and body."  My goal is to seek a lifestyle of optimal health—spirit, soul, and body. I have not arrived yet, but the journey is headed in the right direction. What steps can you take to seek optimal health in your spirit, soul, and body? What resources do you need to help steer you in the right direction? I am cheering you on! We can do this! We can overcome!

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Resources

These resources below have helped me in my journey towards seeking a healthy lifestyle with a wholistic perspective. My husband has been very supportive, mentors have been encouraging, and friends have been inspiring--check out my friend's website below to see her helpful tips on healthy, natural living.  

Book: You Are Not What You Weigh, by Lisa Bevere

Book: The True Measure of a Woman: You are more than what you see, by Lisa Bevere

Book: Becoming the Woman I want to Be: A 90 Day Journey to Renewing Spirit, Soul & Body, by Donna Partow

Website: The Natural Life