How Do You Feel About your Body?
It’s amazing what feelings came up when sliding into a great new fitness outfit that I could finally afford and worked pretty hard to look good in. But as I shared these feelings live in a recent story on my Instagram—I discovered I wasn’t alone. You had some feelings, too.
As a health coach I consistently give tips and educate you on how to care for your body. I offer an entire program to help you begin a process of transformation for your body. I have led from the front on this. For an entire decade, I have lived out everything I guide you through. In many ways, my body is #goals–they are my goals! Goals I’ve had since I was in my twenties. “Oh to slide into a slim size of fitted pants and a cute top without the muffin and a couple fine lines on the sides of my abs.” And on the day, at 47 years old that I can actually do that, these are the feelings that come up.
1. SHAME. “Cover your body!”
As I type these very words early in the morning before the sun comes up—my 17-year-old daughter with Down Syndrome comes stumbling up the stairs naked as a jay bird barely awake from her slumber. She doesn’t know. She isn’t being provocative. And even after many times of her younger siblings catching a glimpse, turning to avoid while yelling, “Addie gets some clothes on.” She feels free. And it has nothing to do with the size or shape of her body. She is free. The inhibitions, the self-hate and cultural norms are lost on her. Addie lives in Eden–before the tree, before the fruit, before we humans decided to take a bite.
2. PRIDE. (But, the inappropriate bragging kind of proud.)
The “Body is a temple” scripture has been used in every regard in my church youth group upbringing. Whether it was to deter me from getting a tattoo, to telling me to put a t-shirt over my two-piece bathing suit as a teenager. “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” was said with a scowled face and a finger wagging at me. I recently had a crew of high school kids at my house for a pool party. As my 15-year-old daughter skipped up the stairs to head outside in her darling bikini I actually thought to myself, “Is that okay?” You see, when I was her age the leaders of my church told me I would cause a boy to stumble if I showed too much skin. No spaghetti straps, no strapless dresses and by all means, NO bikinis. The onus for a young man’s self-control and purity was on me. I’m responsible for men’s thoughts. And quite honestly, I didn’t get it—but it stuck. I don’t see any Biblical context to it. But it did reinforce shame from inappropriate behavior. Shame on me for being a kid who doesn’t want to wear a full wet suit into the pool while the boys wear whatever they like. We go back and forth even as Christ followers with judgement of the body. One side says take care of it and be proud of it—walk confident because God gave you it. While the other says cover it, don’t brag about it —your “brother” will sin because of it.
I often feel wrong, like a total disgrace that I even care about the body.
“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
Even as I type those words I am trying to understand how the context of what the Lord said to Samuel about the small stature of David in comparison to his brother’s in the line-up to be chosen for king has anything to do with me or any of us choosing to eat well and exercise. But somehow along the way (as this passage too was spoken from church pulpits) I heard that the caring and keeping of your body was the wrong focus. And again, I should be ashamed of myself for emphasis on anything external.
As you read my words, I don’t want you to hear that I hate my church girl upbringing. I am so grateful to be brought up in a God loving home in the Christian faith. The values, the community and the foundation of the Bible have been transformative in my life. In fact, the emphasis on relationship with Jesus over religion is the very thing that enables me to explore some of this teaching now. I am able to love God and His word with compassion for the men and women who may have twisted it a bit according to their perspectives and opinions based on their own fears in the current cultural norms.
A couple weeks of ago our family decided to visit another church. It was a Sunday morning and I wanted to go check what was going on in a faith community about 45 minutes from our house. As is typical on a Sunday morning, we were scurrying around until it was one last call for everyone to load up. As one of my teenagers hopped in the car, I took a second glance and was able to stop myself from uttering the words I swore I would never, “Are you wearing that?” Hear me now. She’s adorable. She looked great. She was just wearing a short pair of tight-fitting denim shorts. I bought the shorts. There is nothing wrong with them. As we drove the 50 miles it took to get to get to the church that morning I began to ask myself, “What am I afraid of? Why is this activating me? Who am I trying to please or prove something to?”
With only minutes left in the drive, I turned toward my girl in the back seat and asked, “Why are you wearing those shorts?” The look on her face revealed her heart. She was perplexed by my question. There was no guile, no provocative agenda, but a deer in headlights kind of wide-eyed look toward me that actually made my mom heart feel sick. My question came loaded with my own shame filled narrative and assumed something about my daughter that she was completely innocent of. There was nothing there. Her response, “They were laying out already, and it’s too hot to wear pants.” This mom looked on the outside, but God saw the heart.
The drive home from church held a different conversation. I apologized for the accusation and caring too much what other people might think–of her and of me. And we committed to an ongoing discussion.
And now here I am processing these thoughts with you. I haven’t come to all my conclusions. I am curious about the feelings that come up in me. Some of what has brought this to the forefront is a collaboration I am doing with Jammie Baker. She is a personal stylist and a woman of faith. She will be on my upcoming podcast around the topic of “How to dress for your BODY.” Later this week will be hosting a masterclass together on “How to dress like a stylist.” All things that religious leaders in a spiritual environment taught us were shallow, bad and certainly not worthy of speaking about. I’m inviting you into the conversation. I’m going to share more here on my blog and always over on Instagram. But I also invite you to my podcast this week and the mastermind I’m doing with Jammie. Let’s commit to a journey of freedom and the ability to live our lives fully free according to the plans God has for you and for me.