Body image is a topic that most of us have struggled with at some point or another. (or for some it is constantly…like allofthedangtime…) My friend Christie, from Wise for Salvation, offered to share this empowering message about shifting our perspective on body image, and I just love it. I think you’ll find her words practical and encouraging too!
Welcome to Christie…
It was time. I had birthed my third son and was ready to get in shape so I could wrestle with the older boys and carry the baby painlessly.
I knew from experience that trying to work out in my basement wasn’t going to work for me, so I put on my workout clothes and walked into a local gym. As I looked around, I saw all these women who looked much better than me.
Immediately, my mind started imagining what these women thought when they looked at me.
“Wow, SHE could sure use a gym.”
“That is some serious flab under those arms.”
“Two words: Thunder.Thighs.”
“Looks like a five-baby paunch to me!”
I knew they must be judging me. Who wouldn’t?
But as I slogged my body to the gym on a regular basis, I started getting out of my own head and began to look around. That woman over there with the muscles of Atlas? Her thighs touch at the top, just like mine. That mom on the other side who is looking amazing? Her perfectly perky breasts aren’t even her own. (True story: I walked into the locker room one day and saw a gaggle of women checking them out! awkward…)
I began to realize that every single woman has been built differently. I truly thought all the “fit” women would look the same, but there are no two identical shapes. No two moms have the exact same shape, no two grandmas, no two teenagers. Our body type has been as uniquely configured as our fingerprints, and yet we feel that others are constantly judging us for who we are.
What would it take for us to hear beyond the noise in our minds?
I imagine myself standing under a dome, speaking aloud lies about myself. If I say them loud enough, they will start to bounce back at me, making me feel as though someone else is yelling them at me. But no, the lies have come solely from my own mouth.
The only way to break the power of this echo chamber is to punch through it by speaking truth.
I believe the most powerful way to punch holes in that wall is to speak words of praise and encouragement to other women. This has the effect of punching holes in my own echo chamber, and the echoes begin to lose their power. I can also peer out at the other women and see that they are just as trapped as me. As I continue to punch through by speaking encouragement and praise to others, I begin to see that the true enemy is the chamber, not the woman on the other side. We begin to see each other as partners in a journey rather than competition in a race.
How does this work in practice? I’ve been trying this, this getting out of my head and trying to speak over the noise by noticing what is good about a woman, and telling her.
The woman who the world would see as overweight, but can lift incredible amounts of weight? I told her (truthfully), “you are incredibly strong! I am so amazed and motivated by you.” Her face lit up, and I wonder what are the lies that echo in her mind. Do they have to do with her weight and the lack of respect that others give her?
The Zumba-dancer with the awesome moves? I asked her how she managed to do two classes in a row with such energy. We have since begun a rather tentative friendship. I assume her echo chamber is telling her lies about her weight and appearance as well.
What lies are bouncing around in your echo chamber? Are you listening to the inner commentary that tells you what others think of you?
Can I share a secret with you?
Others are probably not thinking of you at all, because they are too trapped in their own echo chamber full of criticism and lies. But if I think you’re judging me and you think I’m judging you, we are going to live forever divided by walls that exist only in our minds.
Friends, if we could break out of our own echo chambers and punch holes in the walls binding those around us, what changes would we see?
I believe we would see new friendships blossom where before there was only mistrust and jealousy.
I believe we would see women becoming comfortable with the body they have, rather than longing for the body they want.
I believe we would see joy instead of jealousy,
companions instead of competition,
allies instead of adversaries.
I pray that you would have the strength to see beyond yourself today, and to speak encouragement to another woman. And I pray that as you do so, the walls of criticism and lies that have kept you from living will crumble into dust and you will breathe the free air of truth and friendship.
PS: A big part of my health journey in the past few months has been incorporating the ideas that Monica wrote about in her book, “The Secret of Your Naturally Skinny Friends”. You can read about how it is changing my eating habits on this post (Here is a link to the post I wrote a few months ago) I hope you grab a copy for yourself and see what a difference it can make in your life!
Direct link to The Secret of Your Naturally Skinny Friends book page, here.
Did any of these words resonate with you and your experience with body image (or working out in a gym? :)) We’d love for you to comment and share. And also, if you enjoyed this post — Please share and PIN it by using social media buttons below! Thank you!