What to Do When You Don't Feel Beautiful by Sarah Shaffer
I just want to feel skinny and pretty - recently, that was my honest thought.
Do you ever just want to feel “skinny”? Do you ever just want to “feel” pretty? Do you ever just want the struggle to subside and satisfaction with yourself to increase? Do you ever just want to look in the mirror and be pleased with what you see? If you answered yes to any of these, I understand. I’ve been working my way through that myself lately. I think it’s worth talking about today.
It’s important for people like me, those of us who coach and minister, to be honest and appropriately transparent. It’s important because if I'm not, you may easily be deceived into believing that just because I’ve battled through to the victorious side of eating disorders that I never struggle. I do. We need to be honest, because if we’re not, others tend to isolate themselves feeling like they’re alone. They feel like the only ones not “strong enough” to finally get free. Friends, if you’re in the battle it means just one thing - you haven’t lost the war! If you’re in the battle rejoice! It means you’re not a casualty! I believe that this side of heaven we will all have to continue to fight to stay free in the Lord. The assurance is this though, our victory is guaranteed. If you’re battling, take heart dear one it’s OK, it’s normal. It just means you’re still breathing. I digressed slightly, back to our topic….
The desire – the need even – to feel beautiful, and lovely, and captivating, and comfortable, it's strong for us as women isn’t it? Something deep inside of us yearns to feel beautiful. We long to recognize our own beauty. We deeply desire to enjoy the freedom of enjoying our “physical-ness.” We do. Almost every woman feels this way. That tells me the need and desire are God-given. I am convinced that the Lord intentionally put inside each woman the natural desire to enjoy her beauty. Woman, after all, is His prized masterpiece. We are carefully sculpted by the hands of God, works of art, something to be ooh’d and awe’d over. Somewhere deep inside of us we know this. We understand that we are something special, something to be enjoyed. We understand that there is something beautiful about simply being called "woman." We recognize beauty when we see it. That’s because we all have an Eve inside of us and it drives us to feel beautiful. It both haunts us and inspires us. It’s the reason women have been adorning themselves since the beginning of time. We were made to feel beautiful. So what happens when we don’t? What do we do with that?
I’m really careful to be discerning of “feelings” – many times, they simply can’t be trusted. Our feelings ebb and flow with the slightest change. We might “feel” one way about something, when the truth about it is altogether different. That said, there is something important about FEELING pretty isn’t there? Even from our youth we describe our beauty as a “feeling.” From the time we are little girls we waltz into a room and declare, “I feel pretty!” There are songs that affirm, “I feel pretty, oh so pretty.” We get our hair done and tell our friend, “I feel so much better! I feel pretty again!” When everything on the outside comes together just right, we walk with a spring in our step, we are more social, even our joy is increased, all because we “feel” pretty. Conversely, when we have a hard time finding the right outfit or feel bloated, the whole day is harder because we don’t “feel” pretty.
So what are we to do? I’ve been praying about just that! Why? Because, though I tend to spend the majority of my life in overall freedom as it relates to my body. Sometimes, I just get stuck. My permanent address may be that of grace and mercy, but I’ll be darned if I don’t make extended stays down the street at the house of disgust, despair and distraction. It’s not a very hospitable place, but it’s sure easy to take up residence there if we’re not careful isn’t it? Likewise, most of the time my motivations for taking good care of my body really are “right” and align with the Lord’s. I desire to be effective for the Kingdom. I desire to steward my body well for the purposes God has for me. I desire to be free in mind and in body. I desire to be a strong, healthy example to my family. I desire to draw people to the Lord to learn about how I got free. I desire to be more focused on God and His works than on myself and my body - most of the time. Every now and then though, I find myself entertaining thoughts like, "I just want to 'feel' thin." I just want to look at myself and "feel" pretty. I just want to look like so-and-so. Does anyone out there feel me?!
It’s my own striving for perfection, and while I know it’s not holy, while I know it’s not reality, sometimes it’s the honest side of things isn’t it? What’s a gal to do when we know the truth, when we desire righteous thinking, when in the depth of our souls we cry out “less of me Lord and more of you,” but we - just – want – to – feel – pretty? Well, I believe there are a few answers.
When I find myself stuck in the pit of self-destructive thoughts, the first thing I do is to get VERY intentional about NOT looking. I intentionally work on not noticing myself. Time and time again in God’s Word we see examples of people stumbling big time simply because of what they were looking at! The eyes are an important part of the overall health of a person and when our eyes are protected and healthy our whole mind and body thrives. Years ago I wrote a devotional entirely dedicated to this strategy. I still apply this very very often! You can read that devotional here https://dashingdish.com/blog/dashing-devotional-a-false-reflection
When I’ve really lost my joy over how I feel about myself, I can almost ALWAYS connect the dots back to one of two things (the second we’ll talk about next). First, almost without fail I’ve been comparing myself to others. Comparison has become easier to do than EVER before. We are absolutely besieged by sources of visual comparison. People post their most amazing pictures on Facebook and Instagram. We look at Pinterest photos of perfectly sculpted arms, backs and booty's. We Pin cute outfits on women we long to look like. We read blogs accompanied by endless photos of how we could, "look like a,b, and c, if we’d only do x,y, and z.”
Then, as if social media doesn’t provide enough temptation, we still have the old school magazine comparison when we’re in line at Target. It’s everywhere. Friends, this is so huge - SO huge. When you’ve lost your joy and are drowning in the mud and the mire of despising how you look and feel. You must stop comparing. When you’d seriously considering trading your house for the taught tushy on the woman (ahem, the MODEL!!) from Pinterest, it’s time to stop looking. It’s time to hand comparison over as an offering to the Lord. It’s an act of obedience and critical because the “looking” subtly pulls us into idolatry, and that, will suffocate the soul. If you are there, you must take a break. You must stop looking. If my encouragement doesn’t convince you, allow the biblical significance of looking at idols to move on your heart. I encourage you to read the powerful accounts found in God’s Word!
Ask Yourself, Who Is It For?
This is the second dot I can almost always connect when I’m struggling with my physical appearance. Revelation follows when I pause and ask myself, “Who is it that am I striving to be thinner, prettier, leaner, tighter, or younger looking for?”
When I’m struggling, my answer usually goes something like this, “I totally don’t want to see so-and-so today when I feel like I’ve gained weight, she’ll think ______.” Or, “ I’m going to see so-and-so this week, she always looks so much prettier than I do, I just want to feel as pretty as her.” Maybe it’s the social media trap, “Look at how amazing everyone on Facebook looks, and I feel like I always look so awful in my pictures. How can I speak into women’s lives about loving their bodies when I just want mine to look like _____.”
Do you notice a pattern? It’s all about other people! It’s all motivated by what they think of how I look. Nowhere is there an offering to the Lord to be my best for Him. Nowhere have I declared that my worth and beauty are unfading and renewed daily in HIM. There’s not even motivation for my husband, or my own comfort and satisfaction. It’s all based on my intention and my need to gain the approval of others, and that friend, that’s a losing hand. When this is the case our only game plan is to become VERY purposeful about renewing our “why.” I talk a lot about having a sustainable why for the choices we make. This very struggle is the reason. Last year on Dashing Dish we dedicated an entire week to refining our why’s. Here is an expert from that devotional.
“What drives us, defines us. If I ask you why you desire a healthy lifestyle, do you have an instant answer? And, is your answer, your "why" for making the choices you make, sustainable? Let me clarify that. Is your "why" something lasting? Can it endure the seasons of your life? Does it have eternal impact? If not, I pray this week helps you. If so, praise God! Press on toward the prize! We all have SOMETHING that drives us. Something drives you to get up to go to the gym instead of hitting snooze. Something drives you to spend time meal prepping instead of driving thru. Something drives you. So, what is it? So many people have something driving them that is temporary, fleeting, unsustainable.
Common why's we hear: To look/feel good in my swimsuit. I'm going on vacation. My reunion is approaching. I want to feel better. I want to look good for my husband. I want more energy. Are those motivations inherently wrong? Of course not! They have some value, but all of them are very temporary and very situational. They may not endure. If you're struggling to define a very specific, very sustainable why for living in your best body, I pray this week helps you get there! Your why is your mission statement for health! It's your anchor. On the days you feel you're sinking, it's what you latch on to keep you afloat! When it's tempting to conform to the world's ways, it's your beacon - your lighthouse. It keeps you laser focused. It's that important! It's so important in fact, that we're dedicating a whole week to helping you understand and develop your why. It will mostly consist of guided questions to help identify what drives you. It's may feel like work, but OH is it worth it!!! As always you are free to private message me if you need additional guidance or with questions!
Ask Yourself, Are the Feelings Real?
Hormones are a very real contributor to my thought struggle. By the grace of God, and with the help of an amazing doctor and impressive supplements, my hormonal challenges have improved greatly. The reality of my life though is that hormones do in fact impact how I feel about myself. I know this, I understand this, and yet, I have to constantly remind myself to check in on whether how I “feel” can be trusted or not. When I’m at certain times during my cycle I tend to withdraw based solely on how I believe I look.
I “feel” like my weight is up. Is it REALLY? I have no idea because I don’t weigh myself, but I become acutely aware of how my body feels. I don’t feel pretty. It’s tough, it’s deceiving, it’s tiring, and most of the time it’s NOT accurate, but it sure does feel real. If you’re impacted by hormones, I would encourage you to read this article I shared on Dashing Dish last year, https://dashingdish.com/blog/may-hormone-article.
The Battle is In Our Minds
Once you’ve become aware of factors that may be contributing to how you fee, it’s time to recruit the one and only strategy that can truly impact us and cause us to radiate beauty. We must shift our focus to that which will never dull, wrinkle, sag, crimp, bloat, or bulge. We decide to begin speaking a different language. We begin speaking God’s language. Some people use the term, “fake it until you make it,” but I don’t love that. I prefer pray it until you believe it. When you don’t believe that you are altogether lovely it’s time to speak out. I’m talking about boots to the ground attack on the bad messages in a pursuit of the good. When we can’t see our beauty, it’s time to shift our gaze (Ps 27:4). It’s time to begin declaring first thing in the morning until our lovely heads hit our pillows at night that we are indeed enough. Is it hard? Yes. Does it take intention? Yes. Does it take endurance? You bet. Will God show up and move in our offering like we can’t even imagine. You can bank on it!
These are a few of my favorite sources of truth to declare over myself when I need to get my thinking back on track and align with my Maker's. The Lord ministers hugely to me through song. When I’m really struggling to renew my mind, singing His Word back to Him through inspired lyrics is one of the fast cures for what ails me. These are a few of the most powerful declarations I sing over myself, and back to the Lord, I pray they bless your journey as well.
“Whenever a person turns to the Lord the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. All of us, gazing with unveiled face on the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth and faithfulness.” Psalm 115:1