Dear precious girl,
I know you are in season of life when loving or even just being content and accepting of your body seems impossible. I remember standing in similar shoes years ago throughout high school and college. I recall feeling as though I could never achieve the thin ideal our society promotes and calls “the perfect woman” (unless, of course, I worked a lot harder AND had my own team of chefs, trainers, and stylists). As a result, I paid a very high price for several years trying to achieve this unrealistic and arbitrary standard of perfection. I missed out on fun memories and deeper friendships. I missed the peace and freedom with my body, food, and movement that comes from seeking a healthy ideal.
Stress and worry about my body, my exercise, and my diet took up so much of my time, energy, and mental space that could have been used making fun, spontaneous memories with those I loved most. Instead of trusting that I was “fearfully and wonderfully made,” my self-worth became tied to numbers and how I looked compared to others. I write this letter because I don’t want you to look back on this ONE life, this ONE body you’ve been given with sadness or disappointment about missed opportunities or isolation from family and friends.
Looking back in life to a younger me, I would tell her what I’m telling you today: To compare is to despair! We were created to be unique. How boring would life be if we were all the same? Sadly, we are taught to pursue the “thin ideal” which convinces us that even though we are all so different, we should all strive to fit the same “perfect” mold. How ridiculous! I wonder what might happen if we set our goals based on health and functionality rather than appearance.
Imagine how freeing and safe it might feel to embrace our imperfections and live an authentic life without worry about our height, weight, shape, age, etc. What if we challenged people who said the “F” word (aka “fat talk”) to stop judging themselves or others based on external appearance? By modeling this in our own lives, we have the potential to create a domino effect and encourage body acceptance in generations to come. Instead of competing with ourselves or other women, we could be breaking down barriers, reducing shame, saving money, staying healthy, and most importantly, turning our eyes toward the inner qualities that make us beautiful.
I see so many incredible qualities in you as a daughter, friend, sister, and child of God that far surpass the importance of any external quality. Though this letter talks about my own experiences and struggles and I have no way of completely understanding exactly where you are with your body image concerns, I believe our trials can be used to help others facing similar struggles or insecurities. You have been on my heart and mind, and my hope is that you will reject this thin ideal and focus on living your life for something that will outlast it. Our bodies will age and change over the years as they should, but your Creator, your family, and your true friends will cherish you based on your inward qualities and your heart. I see that inner beauty, and I support and affirm these qualities in you.
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