When I was 10 a girl in my class told me that I should eat more salads so I could lose weight and look like her. I remember as a kid in swim team the boys laughing when I would walk past in my swimsuit because my thighs jiggled. In high school, girls would complain about having to buy a size 10 prom dress because that was a “fat size”, when in reality I was working out, dieting and praying I would be able to buy a dress that would be below a size 12.
To be honest, it sucked, but it made me realize now how I want to approach self-love with other women.
As the world has become more open to the idea of women having hips and love handles we have been able to find role models like Ashley Graham and Jenna Kutcher showing the world that 1) You don’t need to be a size 4 to have a great time/hot hubby/successful career and 2) it’s more important to be strong than thin.
Being strong was never a priority for me growing up. All I wanted to do was be skinny. I thought skinny = happy and healthy. Now, almost 15 years later, I am FINALLY understanding the difference between being healthy, and being thin.
People can be healthy and still be a size 16. I repeat people can be healthy and still be a size 16.
I was always thicker than my friends. Despite playing basketball, volleyball, dancing, working out with my mom, doing weight watchers as a 15 year old, I always ended up being the “fat one” of the group. And I hated it. I would go out of my way to not go shopping with friends because I hated having to get a size up, I would try to get out of eating with friends because I didn’t want to be the girl that got a salad while everyone else got what they actually wanted to eat.
Fast forward to getting engaged and trying to be “wedding ready” as a toned, tanned, fit and ready bride. I’m sure you’ve already read about what I wish I knew before I got married and the dress fiasco that resulted in a lot of tears, however there was a whole other side to why I was so concerned and obsessed with how I looked on my wedding day. Reason being – Jacob and I had never had sex before we got married.
We individually had made choices as teens and college students to stay abstinent until we were married, and while that was very difficult to maintain (trust me – it was very difficult at times) it was something we both wanted to do. With that promise being made between the two of us, it resulted in the slightly obvious fact that I had never been in my birthday suit around anyone before.
So, not only did I want to look hella-fine in my wedding dress, but I also wanted to be drop dead GORGEOUS in nothing but my own skin. (I mean come on, who doesn’t?)
And so, the wedding ready workouts and dieting began. But, if I’m being honest I never became fully satisfied with who I saw in the mirror until I addressed the heart problems lying underneath. No – I’m not talking about anything cardiac related, I’m referring to those ugly little lies that would come and attack when I was feeling frustrated with my waist and angry at the scale.
Those ugly little lies would whisper, “You’ll never satisfy your husband.”
“You are not sexy.”
“You don’t look good.”
And I would attempt to drown them out with the sound of the elliptical handles “whoosing” past each other as I stayed on the machine for an extra 20 minutes to make myself feel better.
But guess what? It didn’t make me feel better. The 10 pounds I lost didn’t make me smile brighter, the meal prepping didn’t do anything but make my heart more controlling over my food, and as I started gaining more and more control, there was a whisper in the back of my head saying “Let go and let me drive”.
You’ve probably heard it before, I consider it my good friend the Holy Spirit who likes to pop in and remind me of truths that fill my heart. When that girl told me to eat more salads as a 10 year old, my good friend whispered back, “you’re fine – I love you the way you are.”
When the boys would laugh at my thighs jiggling when I would get out of the pool, he said, “I love your thighs and I love you”, when I didn’t want to hang out with friends because of my own insecurities, he would remind me, “I’m your truest friend and most trustworthy counterpart and I love you the way you are.” And when I went to prom in my watermelon pink dress that I LOVED he said, “You look radiant, and I love you.”
Listening to that truer, empowering, loving voice carried me through many moments in life where I felt like nothing. During engagement and getting “wedding ready” I was constantly reminded that my appearance will fade as time goes on, but confidence in who I am and who’s I am are what make me beautiful.
When I meet women who speak on how they love their bodies, I desire to learn more about them, their lives, and their stories. Never have I thought to myself, “What do they eat?” or “How often do they work out?” because I know that our appearances are constantly fading, but our confidence in who we are can always grow.
I desire for women, all shapes and sizes to know that they also can have a little voice in their head cheering for them and reminding them of how much they are loved as they were created, and that their confidence in themselves is what makes them shine.
My ask of each of you this week is to compliment a women in your life on something other than her physical appearance. I’d love to hear your stories, experiences and encourage some of you!