Our minds are powerful. In fact, our minds are so powerful that we can actually create a reality for ourselves that doesn’t and, dare I say, CAN’T exist. For many of us, our humanity craves harmony, a picture-perfect image with neither flaw nor fracture. We’ve persisted to the point of looking in the mirror and hating what we see, only pleased when we can’t recognize the hurt that’s staring back at us.
This hits close to home for me.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been extremely self-conscious about my image. I want the world to see the best side of me all of the time. It’s hard for me to settle for less than perfect, which has made letting people down that much harder. I worry about disappointing myself, but my biggest fear is disappointing those I love, or worse, disappointing God.
My sense of perfectionism has manifested itself in several ways. In 8th grade, I became obsessed with body image. We’re not talking about healthy body image either. I started to legitimately look in the mirror and despise the shape of my body. I would change clothes because I thought I looked ugly or didn’t look thin enough. I started counting calories. I would refuse to eat more than 1,500/day, because I thought that would keep me healthy. My perception of beauty was severely distorted.
While I was never formally diagnosed with an eating disorder, my habits were not representative of a healthy mental state. At my lowest, I weighed 96 pounds as a 5’8″ 14-year-old boy. I was literally starving my body one meal at a time. Something needed to change, and it needed to change fast.
Thank God for mothers.
During the second semester of my 8th grade year, my mother (whom God has gifted with incredible nursing abilities) got involved. She couldn’t bear to witness the self-destruction I was putting myself through. She knew the serious repercussions that would take place if I kept moving in the direction I was, and she wasn’t going to let it continue. There were tears. There was pain. But, above all, there was LOVE and SUPPORT.
My mom helped me regain my nutrition by putting me on a 3,000-calorie diet per day, at minimum. With my metabolism and activity level at the time, I probably needed more, but that was a healthy starting point. Breaking through the fear of weight gain was difficult, but I managed to put on healthy weight a few pounds at a time. I owe so much to my mom and my dad for supporting me through what was really a dark time, even though it didn’t necessarily feel like it in my naive mind. I needed someone who saw me for who I truly was, and who was able to offer up a healthy amount of tough love when push came to shove.
I’m still fighting today.
I would be lying to you if I said I don’t struggle with body image even to this day. I don’t count calories, nor do I keep a scale at school with me, but I guarantee you that’s the first place I go when I get home. It’s almost as if I want to see where I’ve messed up or fallen short while I’ve been away for three or four months. I am able to rationalize things better as a 22-year-old than my 14-year-old self was able to do, but that doesn’t take away the anxiety I still feel when I think about my weight.
Just a little over a week ago, when I returned home for fall break, I was quickly reminded of this anxiety and fear. I stepped on the scale … 128.5. This was two pounds heavier than I had weighed before. While this may sound insignificant to most, it was hard on me. I wondered what I had done wrong — maybe the stress from school was finally breaking me. I started to spiral into my old thoughts again. I reminded myself of this one thing: “You’ve been at the same weight for nearly 5 years. You are growing, you are maturing — learn to have grace with the person you are becoming, physically and mentally.” These pep talks don’t always work, but it’s definitely something I needed to hear myself say.
It’s all in what we don’t see.
Isn’t it funny that we are the only ones who don’t see ourselves laugh? Smile? Exude joy? When we come to the mirror, we are expecting the worst. We pierce ourselves with the same kind of judgement that we speak out against. What if instead of cursing our reflection, we praised God for what we saw? Isn’t it said in Genesis 1:27 that He “created mankind in His own image?” Isn’t it also said that “The Lord [our] God is in [our] midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over [us] with gladness?” This is the beauty we are missing. I can’t imagine the pain God feels when He sees His children degrade themselves. He wants nothing more than for us to live in JOY through His eternal promise.
I hope to encourage you. Whether you struggle with body image like me, or something else entirely, I hope you remember how adored you are by the living God. I hope you will continue to shower your loved ones with healthy affirmation, celebrating the things that make them uniquely them. I hope you will smile at the person you see in the mirror, for that person has a story, and a creator that calls that story good. I pray that you have the courage to seek therapy if it feels right, for mental health is something that should always be handled with great care and concern. I hope you remember that the enemy of perfectionism is not imperfection, but rather GRACE. Grace for the curves that we try to hide. Grace for the blemishes that we don’t think twice about concealing. Grace for the brokenness staring back at us. The devil shutters at the thought of grace. When we approach the mirror with joy, God smiles, we win, and Satan loses his damn mind.
Let your guard down. Let yourself receive what the Lord so freely gives. Let your blemishes be more like blessings, and your imperfections more like intricacies. You are worthy of love because He said so. His perfect sacrifice cleared you of the need to live a perfect life. Do your best to live according to His will, but remember that His grace is sufficient in all ways. May that be the light that guides you, forever and for always.
Simply Lando ♥