Ok, real talk for a minute here.
I did an “ab-focused” yoga video I found on YouTube the other morning. The video was not what I expected in that the yogi spent the entire intro talking about how we often carry so much shame in and over our bellies, and focused on how to strengthen and care for them instead. Essentially, the point was showing love to and caring for a part of our bodies that is frequently hated or seen as not good enough.
What a counterintuitive and powerful message.
How often do I treat myself harshly because I don’t meet some elusive expectation held in my minds eye?
I don’t know about you, but I have lived too long with shame and judgement, mostly self-inflicted, about my body.
And I am over it.
So here is my manifesto of sorts. My reminder in a world of heavy and heart-breaking and overwhelming messages.
Today I reject the lies that tell me I am less-than because of the “imperfections” I see in myself: the clothes that don’t fit quite right anymore or the awkward lumps and baby weight (that did not “melt right off” because of breastfeeding, thanks).
I choose to focus on building strength, not just through side-planks or bridge poses, but through the act and mental practice of allowing myself grace, recognizing that I am of value and beauty beyond the prettiness or “perfection” of my form.
I choose to move and be active not out of punishment but for fun, and because my body was made for playing with my son and adventures with my family and friends.
I choose to allow myself the sweetness of rest without guilt.
I choose to nurture and respect my body with healthy foods, but not associate indulgences with shame. “After all, is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Mt. 6:25)
Word, Jesus. Word.
I stand firmly in the knowledge that I don’t exist to be aesthetically pleasing to the people around me. To be beautiful is not my main purpose or function.
I refuse to reinforce the message of our culture that says women’s bodies are products, commodities, objects for consumption, or up for discussion.
I refuse to reinforce the message of some Christian circles that says a women’s body is inherently sinful or a “stumbling block”. My body, every part, was made pure and holy and without shame. Church, do not rob us from proclaiming: “I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made!” (Ps. 139:14)
I refuse to judge others based on their eating, exercise, or clothing habits. I commit to seeing the worth that exists in every person beyond their appearance and treating them with the love and respect they deserve as humans and children of God.
I reject the form of self-absorption that creeps in when I am hard on myself over my appearance and choose to set my mind on more important things.
I used to think that self-obsession was the same thing as self love, but now I realize that self-hatred is far more obsessive, and oddly arrogant, than any form of love will ever be. His Perfect Love drives out all fear, even in my inner struggles and worries about being “not enough”.
I also realize that often the voices of disapproval I speak to myself in sound a lot like the judgement I have either received or passed on to others. I must be gracious and loving to myself in order to pour grace and love out to others.
Besides, it’s pretty hard to hear the voice of a gracious and loving (and truth-telling) God when your head is full of judgement and strictness and self-loathing.
Women, sisters, mamas, daughters, we are loved and lovely: full of strength and purpose and passion- let’s not diminish ourselves down to a matter of pant size.