I am a woman. I have heard the conversations about body image, eating disorders, diet and exercise all of my life, just like you. Some companies have attempted to push back against pop culture’s position on beauty by advertising to “normal people” using women who have shape. Celebrities speak out often to affirm that they themselves do not have perfect bodies and encourage women to be confident that they are beautiful just the way that they are. “Believe in yourself” and “You are beautiful” is the mantra we preach to our preteen girls, hoping to release them from the cycle of self-loathing and comparison.
But that’s not the answer, is it?
I studied performance piano in college. Having started classical lessons when I was very small, I learned to play by ear around the age of thirteen and enjoyed it immensely. I would sit for hours at the piano, figuring out songs, playing old favorites, memorizing classical pieces and preparing to play at church most Sundays. I never compared myself much to others, as I simply did not have many friends who played. I simply loved it. But when I went to college, I was surrounded by the best in the world. The practice building was round, with two rings of rooms (one inside of the other) five+ stories high. The rooms themselves were insulated so you could not hear the surrounding rooms from within, but the doors let sound seep through to the hallway. For the most part, I loved the music that I played. But as I would walk those long halls to my practice room I could hear hundreds of other pianists perfecting their art on much more intricate and beautiful pieces than I would ever dream of playing.
There is always someone better.
There is always someone more beautiful.
There is always someone smarter.
There is always someone more talented.
Is the answer to just make peace with yourself and say, “It is how it is.”? Is the answer to find self confidence in who you are and your abilities and appearance and scream from the rooftops, “Stop judging me!”? I once heard a mother say that she would never speak to her daughter any affirmation or condescension about her appearance. She thought that if appearance was never a conversation the girl would never think about it.
Ignoring reality, trying to redefine reality, being self-confident in reality are all shots in the dark and leave unanswered the root problem: sin.
Self absorption is a sin. It is called pride. Self-loathing is pride expressing itself negatively and arrogance is pride expressing itself affirmingly. Both are wrong. Why? Because ultimately it’s not about me and it’s not about you.
God has given us bodies and abilities to be used unto His glory. Our physical bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit and we have been charged to be good stewards of them (1 Cor 6.9). That means we must take care of them! Exercise and thoughtful eating are important, but must be done unto the glory of God. To thank Him and praise Him for the life that He has given us and to care for the temple which He has entrusted to us. If we diet and exercise for vanity’s sake, that is pride. If we refuse to diet and exercise and take care of ourselves, that is sinful too. We do not have to be in perfect, swim-suit ready shape, but we do need to make an effort to be healthy, for His sake.
He has also given us talents and abilities to serve His Church and Him.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
– 1 Peter 4.10
We should refine those gifts and skills unto God’s glory. We serve the creator of the universe. The very one who invented and dreamed up music, art, preaching, teaching, cleaning, encouraging, etc. So to do something not unto the best of our ability shows the value we place on Him. If we are too busy to be prepared for service (in music, in teaching, whatever) then we show the priority that He takes in our lives.
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
– Col 3.17
What does the mean practically? Some might say, “I can’t just stop thinking about how I look” or constantly be comparing themselves in ability. We must fight it like any other sin: It starts in the mind. The moment these thoughts come up, take them captive by Scripture and prayer. Instead of praying, “God help be me confident in how you have made me” we pray, “God I know that I am fearfully and wonderfully made and I want to honor you with how I care for my body. Help me represent you well in my habits and appearance.” Attack the thoughts. Set a plan. Pray. Turn to God and focus on Him. Because there will always be someone prettier, smarter, funnier or more talented. So let us give unto God the best of our abilities and do it all for His glory, rather than our own.