Thursday, April 22, 2010

What Defines You?

I was with a group of women yesterday leading a discussion on body image. We had such great conversations, but the one thing that kept coming up in our discussion (that comes up all the time!) is the pervasive idea that once we achieve our ideal weight or our ideal 'look', then we will be happy and complete and fulfilled. I think this is certainly a deception and a myth that our culture and the media sell us and encourage us to believe about ourselves. Have you ever thought that being your ideal weight/size/appearance would make you happy??

I am sure that we all have had thoughts like this at one point or another, but I fear that others of us have such thoughts most of the time. Yesterday, I talked with these women about how they define themselves, and where their self-worth and value comes from. One of the women said that her worth most certainly comes from the number that she sees on the scale each day. She said that she wished it weren't that way, but culturally that is what has been communicated as important, so she feels that the number that she sees each day on the scale is what makes her valuable and worthwhile. That made me so sad because we really are SO much more than our weight, our size, our bodies, our looks. We are too interesting, too complex, too great to be contained or defined by those things; we do ourselves such an injustice when we define ourselves and limit ourselves in these ways.

One thing that I encouraged these women to do, which I challenge myself and all of you to do as well, is to think about the people in your life that mean the most to you- whether it is family, a marriage partner or relationship, friends, or all of the above. When you think of the people that mean the most to you, consider what comes to mind. I doubt it is someone's weight or size. When you think of the people in your life that you love, you think of qualities that make them unique to who they are, or personality traits, or even experiences, memories, laughs and sorrows that have been shared between you.

At the risk of sounding cliche, I think it is important for us to focus our energy on developing character and inner beauty, and a sense of value and purpose which far outweigh our physical bodies. I believe that by simply being alive we have an innate sense of worth! We were created uniquely and wonderfully. It's not that wearing make-up, getting dressed up, or caring what we look like is bad- because it definitely isn't!!! But I think we sell ourselves short when we assume that if we could reach our 'ideal' weight, then our lives would be complete and we would finally be content. If you're not happy now, what makes you think you will be happy 5 pounds from now? This pathway of thinking is so deceptive and so destructive. When we base our worth and our value on things that change (cultural standard of beauty, what others think, etc), our happiness and peace of mind are never secure. That is no way to live! It is important to be rooted and grounded- whether that means finding your sense of worth and value in your faith, or finding it elsewhere, this is something worth meditating on and considering. After all, we only have one life to live, and being content and at peace is a much better way to go through life! It's also much better to go through life loving who you are and being able to appreciate the beauty you possess instead of wishing that you looked like someone else or were different than you are! We were all made beautiful- so let's work on being aware of that beauty and celebrating it in each other and ourselves.

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