I have to be honest: it can be really hard to love my body. In fact, it's pretty easy to give into the temptation to hate my body. You, too? It's hard because I believe that hating my body is not living the full life that Jesus promised to his friends. I know that hating my body has not brought good fruit of peace and love...but how do I climb out of the rut of self-loathing and cultivate a holy love for my body? First of all, I have to acknowledge that I am beautiful because we are made in God's image. I am his kid and can't help but reflect his beauty in my physical body. Second, I have to believe that he made me good. Not good like chicken salad is good. Good like God-is-an-amazing-creator good.
If you struggle with hating your body, here are 3 ways that you can start on the path to having a holy love for your body.
1. AVOID THE NEGATIVE NANCY'S.
Have someone in your life who puts down or criticizes your body? Watch a show that makes you feel unworthy? Ain't nobody got time for that! Take a break from these negative influences for a few weeks so you can start to think right and true thoughts about your self and your body. For me, my Negative Nancy was myself...so I had to avoid mirrors for a while. I was so used to picking apart my reflection, critiquing every flaw. I even did it when I saw my reflection in a shiny surface like a car or a window. For a little while, I had to avoid my own gaze so that I could start to heal. Now, I check my reflection in the morning to make sure my outfit and accessories are on-point (or a hot mess, which happens often these days...), make any necessary adjustments, and then go on to enjoy my day. [Eventually, standing in front of the mirror and loving what I see became a good practice. Baby steps. Do what makes sense to you.]
2. THANK YOUR BODY.
Your body does amazing things every day. It's easy to focus on the things my body can't do--can't fit...can't run...can't whatever--so I try to thank my body for what it CAN do!
Thank you, feet, for carrying me everywhere today.
Thank you, flesh, for being soft and comfy for my babies to rest against.
Thank you, skin, for stretching to hold my babies inside me.
Thank you, hips, for helping me express my Latina rhythm.
Thank you, thighs, for being so ridiculously strong and helping me pick up my toddlers with ease.
Your body mediates your experiences of the physical world and it does a great job. Celebrate it! (My friend J. Nicole Morgan mentions this approach in her Christianity Today piece and I'm thankful for her input!)
3. EMBRACE THE STORY YOUR BODY TELLS.
Your body tells a story. My body tells the story of a girl who fell a lot on the playground as a child with a scar from surgery. My body tells the story of a woman who is learning how to navigate depression and anxiety through means other than food. My body tells the story of feet who have rebelled against my love of dancing, keeping me in Chacos every day of my life to have some relief from the pain of plantar fasciitis. My body tells the story of the three children I have carried, with stretch marks and c-section scars.
Sometimes I wear my story with shame, but it's time to release such feelings of inadequacy and self-hatred. I am beautiful and I carry a beautiful story. My visible body is as much a part of the redemption Christ is working in me as my invisible soul is. This is the beauty of living out an incarnational faith, based in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of the God-man Jesus Christ. Our bodies matter. Jesus's body matters. He carries the scars of the cross and they help tell his story. I want to carry my body's story like Jesus carries his.
Cultivating a holy love for my body starts with small little seeds, planted in the garden of my heart. It takes time and it takes intention to change the narrative of body-loathing into a holy body love. Scripture says that we reap what we sow, and I want to reap a holy love for my body, for my own sake and the sake of the Church. It's worth the time and effort because we are so loved by a good Father who made us beautiful, in his image, good. And as we learn to love our own bodies, we can help others to see the beauty that they carry themselves.
It can be hard to discipline ourselves into a place of loving our body, but it is so worth it. I'm with you in this journey!