You don't have to have an eating disorder to struggle with body image. Many people avoid looking in the mirror and avoid taking pictures of themselves. We live in a culture that is bombarded with images of perfectly sculpted bodies and airbrushed faces. Even though these images are unrealistic, they can still take a toll on one's self esteem.
Compare and despair.
I once saw a sketch on Saturday Night Live with Stuart Smalley, played by Al Franken, where he tried to counsel a guest on his show who was struggling with low self-esteem. Using his usual over-the-top sentimental tone, he gently recited to his guest: "Compare and despair." I laughed at his use of this cliche, not only because of its comedic delivery, but because of the truth of the statement itself.
When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we will always come up short. There will always be someone who is smarter, taller, and better-looking in one area or another. It's easy to do, but doing so will only lead to disappointment.
Comparing is Coveting.
I think we often forget that God's commands in the Bible are meant to help us. The final instruction of the Ten Commandments is:
"You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet...anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17, NLT)
This command connects with every single one of the commandments that come before it. Coveting leads to idolatry, which eventually leads to a lack of love for God and neighbor. Coveting ultimately destroys everything of value in our lives.
What I find fascinating is that so many people compare themselves to others, so they can feel accepted by others. We want to better ourselves so we can feel loved and accepted. In reality, only when we embrace and reveal our flaws to people we trust, will we find true acceptance, grace, and love. It's just like the Devil to convince us otherwise.
Things to Keep in Perspective
We live in a very conflicted culture. On one hand, we have food corporations that constantly tempt us with delicious but unhealthy food choices. On the other hand, we have entire fashion, cosmetic, and fitness industries all aimed at preying on our insecurities. It's difficult to chase after an impossible physical ideal while also living in a society tempting you to make unhealthy lifestyle choices. Here's some tips to keep in perspective.
1. Be the best version of you.
Don't try to achieve a celebrity's body. Pursue balanced goals that keep your body type in perspective.
2. Embrace your differences.
Everyone has positive physical qualities—maybe you get complimented on your eyes or your smile. Focus on the positive attributes that make you stand out. Also, compliment others on what makes them different.
3. Keep your thought life positive.
If you are constantly putting yourself down, you are going to feel bad about yourself. Keep negative thoughts in check. Learn to accept yourself the way God does. This takes time and practice through journaling, prayer, counseling, and opening up to others you can trust.
4. Confidence is attractive.
Ultimately it is not physical attributes that people find the most attractive, it's confidence. If you are healthy emotionally, it will come out in the way you carry yourself.
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Tres Adames, MDiv, BCPC provides Christian counseling in Peoria, Arizona for adults, teens, couples, and families. He specializes in helping those struggling with depression, anxiety, self-esteem, anger, addiction, codependency, and relationship issues. If you would like to contact Tres or set up an appointment, visit his contact page.