Yup! This is me at 13 years old. Who knew? Who knew that this beautiful, young, innocent 13 year old girl thought she was fat and immeasurably imperfect. I cannot emphasize enough how sad it makes me to look back at this photo and think about how much I hated looking in the mirror. I think about how I overly analyzed every small detail of my body and had a long list of attributes that needed drastic changing. But my sadness is not for the girl you see in this photo and the loss of her innocence…the sadness comes from the realization that every single day young girls everywhere go to war on themselves over the way they think that they look. I so badly don’t want them to be like me.
It seems hopeless. Physical beauty has seemingly won over the hearts of every teenage heart from here to Timbuktu. Insecurity now seems like a right of passage, something we all just deal with on a daily basis. Call me naive or call me unrealistically optimistic…but I sincerely believe that things are going to change. Something is wrongly broken in our culture if the young lady in this picture, the young lady in your home, your class, or your neighborhood looks at her perfectly made body and thinks one word “fat.”
The good news is you no longer need to be a “sideliner.” Someone who watches life happening around them but takes no action. Life is happening to you and the young ladies that you know and it is taking us captive. Will you join me in taking tiny steps from stopping it from taking one more innocent young life?
Step 1 Take a verbal stance against physical beauty obsessions when possible. You would be surprised how many opportunities you get to turn people’s eyes off of how they look. When I was in CT for a book signing one lovely lady said to me “Insecurity isn’t my problem, eating is. Food really gets me, I cannot stop eating, and I don’t know what to do.” I held her hand and lovingly said to her, “Give your mind, your heart, and your spirit a break. Take some time off from thinking of food for awhile and just focus in on God and His Word.” The expression on her face brightened as she said to me, “Would you believe that I have never even thought of that? Thank you.” Give it a try. Give someone verbal encouragement, love, or guidance that has nothing to do with their physical body.
Step 2 Give your own mind a break. I think about my body, looks, clothes, and appearances more times in one day than I can even count so I gave it up for Lent. Sunday I even went to church without makeup on. My high school students reminded me last week that it was no longer cool to say “OMG,” BUT if it were…OMG! You have to understand, the world nearly stood still on its axis when I told my husband I was leaving for church without first applying my usual beauty routine. Amazingly enough, I survived it.
Step 3 Decide what you truly believe about beauty. A couple of years ago I set out on this journey to minister to young girls and I noticed a saying that was often flung around “True beauty lies on the inside.” I flung it around too, why not? Then I thought about it one day, “Do I actually believe it?” After all, I was more guilty than the next person at sizing people up according to their looks. Not good Maria, I had some heart working on to do. I said one thing because it sounded like the right thing to say, but inside I believed another.
May this just be the beginning. I could sit here and write and write for hours about how far God has brought me since this picture was taken. I think I will put this picture up on my wall with the caption “Wonderfully and Perfectly Made.”