Welcome to Part 2 of my series: Let’s Change Our Body Image! In Part 1 (found here) I talked about 5 big reasons why women have a negative body image. Be sure to check it out! These 5 reasons were highlighted so you can have an awareness of what might be triggering you to feel negatively. I believe awareness is always a good first step to change.
In this post, I want to help you in understanding the consequences of a negative body image. Being negative about our bodies and appearance might just seem like something we should do. It might not seem so obvious that we could experience lasting effects as a result of this image we’ve chosen to have about our bodies.
Let’s begin by watching this video that was produced by the Dove Company, called The Dove Real Beauty Sketch: You Are More Beautiful Than You Think. Please takes a few minutes and watch it!!!
Sigh! This brought tears to my eyes! All of these women were beautiful but they just couldn’t see it. So are you! My dream is for all women to see themselves as God sees them because He sees us as beautiful!
But before we go any farther, I want you to know my intention is not to lay a guilt trip on you in this post. We deal with plenty of guilt and shame already. Rather, I want to open our eyes to see what we may be doing to ourselves with the hope that we can begin to grab hold of all that is positive instead.
When we hang on to these negative images we have of our bodies, we really are affected in more ways than you might think. Let’s look at understanding the consequences of a negative body image.
A Negative Body Image Can Lead to Depression, Anxiety, and Even Eating Disorders
We often equate depression and body image with young girls and their eating disorders, don’t we? According to this article however, recent research shows that the age of 54 is “the age at which the average woman is least satisfied with her body.”
In another study of women over the age of 50 referenced here, it was found that of the women surveyed: “70% were dissatisfied with their weight and shape compared to when they were younger.”
As a middle aged woman myself, I can understand how my body image in relation to my aging could lead to dissatisfaction and then on to depression. Nothing looks quite the same as it did in my younger years, and it can be discouraging.
However, holding on to negative thoughts and judgments about ourselves is never life-giving. Those negative mindsets can certainly bring on anxiety in social situations and overall depression just in general. And having experienced depression numerous times in my own life, I can attest to the debilitating effects that depression brings to your self and to those around you.
As serious as depression can be, even more concerning is this finding:
It is found that 95% of people struggling with an eating disorder are between the ages of 12 to 25. However, there is growing evidence that women aged 30 and above are increasingly struggling with disordered eating. This is an alarming trend that is on the rise.”
In my research, I found that it’s not just the younger women, but older women are also susceptible to using drastic diets, excessive exercise, and more in their attempts to look better and younger.
If you are becoming obsessed with the way your body looks to the point it’s affecting your life in this way, please, please get help!! Start by being honest with yourself, then talk to someone about it – a spouse, a friend, a sister. And go get professional help before it’s too late.
Here is a great website to learn more: Eating Disorder Hope.
A Negative Body Image Makes Us More Self-Conscious Than Other-Focused
How many times have you entered a room and felt self-conscious about the way you looked? You might even have missed half the conversation taking place because your focus was on wondering what people thought of your appearance.
When we choose to see our bodies as a source of shame and despair, the pull to turn inward will inevitably follow.
Navel gazing was something in which I engaged for much of my adult life. I was constantly examining what I looked like, how heavy I was, how my hair looked, and much more. I was confident that other people looked at me just as negatively as I did. This constant assessment left me drained and anxious.
As believers, we’re called to love others, but it’s hard to do so when we’re focused on what’s wrong with us. We don’t really hear what others are saying and honestly, we often don’t care.
We feel guilty because we know it’s right and good to turn our attention and concern toward others but our negative image can lead us to feel that we aren’t even capable of seeing beyond ourselves.
After the Lord brought much healing to my life, and the negative voices in my mind stopped, I was astounded at the newfound revelation of how interesting other people really are! Being free of my self-focus enabled me to see people in a new light and actually enjoy their company!!!
A Negative Body Image Can Lead to Missing Out
When we are focused on how we look and we assess that it’s not good, one of the biggest temptations is to hide. And I mean that literally! We may feel like the safest place we can be is just to stay home.
Fearing that our appearance determines our acceptance and belonging, we may decide it’s better not to risk being made fun of or risk being rejected, so we excuse ourselves from activities and get-togethers to hide away from the view of others.
A negative body image can lead us to miss out on developing deep and meaningful relationships because we don’t have the courage to show up and connect. We may even miss out on opportunities to pursue our dreams because we’re afraid we won’t be enough to make them happen.
Honestly, we miss out on so much of the abundant life that Jesus promised us when we hide. We may never experience the joy of a meaningful new friendship or the laughter and fun of hanging out with other women just having a good time.
We may isolate ourselves so much that we forget what it means to be in community with each other, missing out on the opportunity to find encouragement and support and the acceptance we long for.
A Negative Body Image May Result in Hiding Who We Really Are
Not only are we likely to hide literally when we have a negative body image, but we are also prone to hide in a figurative sense as well. If our body image is rooted in a need to find acceptance and belonging, we may be tempted to cover up who we really are.
This desire to look “perfect” will inevitably lead to us feeling driven to “be” perfect. And so it’s all too easy then to act the way we think others are expecting of us rather than being comfortable just to be ourselves.
If we think our bodies are not enough, we will ultimately think that who we really are doesn’t measure up, either. We may find ourselves in a prison of our own making, afraid to come out in authenticity because of the fear we’ll only be rejected if we do.
But dear one, may I tell you that this hiding of yourself also leads you to miss out on the love and acceptance that you long for in the first place? Hiding the real you keeps everyone else from seeing who God made you to be. And it keeps them from enjoying and benefitting from all that you have to bring to this world for their good.
RIght about now, you might even be tempted to say, “Well, if you only knew the real me, you wouldn’t like me anyway.” Can I just tell you how wrong you are?!
You are made in the image of God and that is something AMAZING! Jesus died on the cross so that you could be restored to all God designed for you to be. That is ASTOUNDING!
The real you is something to behold, not something to hide!
A Negative Body Image Can Make Us Dependent On Others For Our Worth
As we discussed in the first post of this series, we are bombarded with images and messages from the media regarding standards of beauty. We are influenced by the voice of others when we’re children and even now as adults.
We’ve been conditioned to believe our very worth as humans is tied to how we look. As Adrienne Ressler, says in this article:
For most adolescent and adult women in today’s society, achieving that “perfect body” has become the dominant measure of self-worth”.
Really, we are allowing our worth to be determined by the opinions of other people, aren’t we? Either we’ve actually heard their opinions or we assume we know their opinions, and so we hold ourselves captive to their evaluation. I think maybe that’s why we are so harsh in our own evaluation – we just assume everyone else sees the worst and so should we.
I have to ask – is our appearance really what determines our worth and identity and legitimacy? And even if it did, would we want to leave the final assessment of who we are with another human being? Do we want our worth as women to be judged by another human being who is struggling just the same, who can’t see the inside of our very spirits to know us for who we really are?
Dear one, this is why I want Hope Dwellers to be a place of encouragement for you. I want you to see yourself as God sees you, for only God can give you true worth and dignity and belonging. He decided to create you in His image, and so it’s why I talk so much about knowing God.
If you see God through a negative filter, you may also see yourself the same way. You need to understand His goodness and His grace and all of who He is, so you can see how you are made to be like Him. So you can see that being made according to His image, not according to the standards of the modeling industry or the media or the opinions of others, is a beautiful thing. And so you are – beautiful!
As we grow in our understanding of the consequences of a negative body image, my prayer for all of us as women is that we’ll develop an awareness of what our thoughts and perceptions might be doing to us. We need to notice if our thoughts lead to depression or obsessive behaviors or hiding.
We especially need to look to no one but God to determine our worth and value. Our bodies are just a part of the total package of who we are. The real us deep within is where the beauty lies. Let’s not allow anyone else make us believe otherwise!
Learning to accept these truths with you,
In the comments below, let’s begin shifting this trend in a positive direction! Share with us one thing you like about your body. This is not an endorsement for arrogance, but simply a step toward accepting ourselves. Tell us something about your body for which you are grateful. Thanks!
Here’s the free printable I mentioned earlier. I encourage you to print this out and keep it somewhere you’ll see it often so you can renew your mind in this area. Let’s change our body image for the good!
And here’s the link to Part 1 of this series “Let’s Change Our Body Image!” in case you haven’t read it:
I mentioned these books in the last post, but I’m going to share them again because they are really good! You can find them at Amazon.
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