5/17/2016

Beauty Makes an Ugly God- My Struggle With Body Image

What time is it? 
IT'S SUMMER TIME!  
(it's our vacation)
Guys, I am so excited about summer! With it comes reading mornings, crazy sleepovers, and sunny days by the water. But with summer time also comes something many dread: swimsuit season. 
In case you haven't noticed, some of the most popular personal resolutions center around health and fitness. We want to exercise more, eat better, and make our skin glow. No more sugar! No more elevators! No more french fries! We are on a mission, and this summer we will finally get it.
Fitwirr
But I must ask this question, what is it? Will we be happy on the other side?
I've struggled (who am I kidding, I'm still struggling) with the tricky balance of healthy living and body image for a while now. It is not a pretty story. It holds shame and mistakes. I'm afraid of what you will think of me. So this post sat in my draft box for almost half a year now, waiting. What changed my mind? Well, even more than that fear, I need to tell you this story, because I don't want it to be your story. Will you listen as I warn you that a bikini body will not give you what you want?
Let's start at the beginning: I've always been skinny.
I remember when I was young how my Mom would brag on my long and lean limbs and how I felt special because I possessed the body everyone seemed to want. My thighs didn't touch and I could wrap my tiny hand around my arms. Even better, I could eat frozen pizza and ice cream every day and nothing would change! (That's a pretty great bonus.) 
The benefits of my body shone brighter in respect to ballet, for I have what people call a "ballet body." Every time someone would tell me these things, I smiled. Little did I know how these well-intended comments would seep into my soul and provide a platform for Satan to tempt me into one of the biggest struggles of my life.
Then puberty started coming, and my body, the body I loved and felt special in, started to change. Now don't overestimate the effects of puberty on me. I am not a curvy girl. But my thighs neared each other. In little ways, my body began to change from that of a little girl to that of a young woman, which is a good thing.
But I feared losing what I learned to love. I feared that this slender, long body wouldn't be the slenderest or the longest. I feared fat. I feared un-toned muscles. I feared. And in fear, I didn't trust God, and so I took things into my own hands. I started eating healthier, exercising more, and thinking too much about what I looked like. 
The mirror became a standard, one which could elevate or destroy in one moment, but one which didn't show the whole truth.
Here comes the part that I don't like to talk about, but I will anyway. It is the time when the lies grew the loudest, late 2014. The lies masqueraded themselves as a healthy lifestyle, but it was not completely healthy. Underneath it all, I think I just wanted to see if I could attain this impossible image of beauty that I believed would make me the most desirable in both ballet and culture.
I didn't make super horrible decisions, and for many people, what I did would be fine. I ate less carbs and more produce. I cut out soda and restricted sugar. I worked out more on the weekends. But I obsessed over it all. I didn't realize this at first, but I wasn't eating enough. The foods that I ate didn't contain enough calories, even though they filled me up.
And so I lost weight.
This picture captures me during the time that I lost weight
Again, for many people, this wouldn't mean unhealthy things, but I already bordered on underweight, so this harmed me. But I didn't want it to stop, not all of the way. Finally, I felt like I achieved the ideal I sought for. I was a shade over one hundred pounds at five foot seven.
But the rest of me felt ashamed. I still didn't love my body, for it only reminded me of my sin. I looked like what I thought the world wanted me to look like, finally going to the other side of the fence, but I didn't feel happier or more content.
How did I let this get so out of hand? Why did I believe these lies? What could I do, for these insecurities seemed inescapable?
I realized that I idolized what I looked like. I worshipped skinny instead of God. And with tears streaming down my face, I repented. Confessed. Daily I confess these struggles to God, and the cross is enough to forgive me. The shame is taken away, and a new way of life presents itself before me.
This way of life eats lots of peanut butter. It keeps many of the good habits, like lots of fruits and veggies, but it recognizes that carbs aren't bad. Fat is necessary. And food should be fun, not an obstacle. My worth is more than how I look in a swimsuit or a leotard. My worth is in my identity as God's daughter, a Princess. 

This way isn't easy. I still struggle with the temptation to idolize outward appearance, and, more than not, I fall. I probably could still gain some more weight and definitely need to change some more thoughts on health and fitness. But I'm never going back. This summer, I want to love my identity in Christ.
Who am I to draw with a Rosa Art crayon on top of a masterpiece? God made me a certain way and instead of seeking the perfect bikini body, I want to embrace my worth as God's creation. I want to live a healthy, secure, and joyful life in Christ's mission as His beloved daughter.
Dear sisters in Christ, as the world tells us to work hard for the perfect bikini body, keep in mind that not all that appears healthy glorifies God. Please, please, don't let health, fitness, or beauty become your god. They make for pretty lousy gods. Trust me, a bikini body won't satisfy, that's God's job. So let's start to live, worshipping God for the gifts He's given us through our physical bodies.
If you want ideas about what this living in inner beauty looks like, check out my newest Odyssey article. 

5 Things to Seek More Than a Bikini Body
Have you struggled with worshipping the ugly god of beauty? What have you learned through that process? How can I pray with you? Do you still have that HSM2 song stuck in your head? 
Princess Hannah

38 comments:

  1. Hey, Hannah! Thank you so much for sharing this and being sincere and personal. Talking about our struggles and insecurities is hard cause it's personal and we feel ashamed, but it's so good to know that we all go through this or things like this, and that we aren't alone. I've always struggled with confidence, one of the reasons why is a result of acne. Within the last 8 months this battle has been extremely hard so much that I have felt like giving up multiple times. But, within these last 8 months I have seen God move me and work through me in crazy amazing ways. It's been a rough but kinda eye-opening journey. It's realizing that I am His beautiful masterpiece, His daughter, His love. Who cares what the world thinks when I know what my God thinks. This is something that I am still struggling with , but through all of it He has helped me to love myself and see myself the way that He does. I have obsessed myself with perfect glowing skin when I really really need to obsesse myself with the Creator of all beauty.
    So thankful for the lessons that I have learned and for the lessons that I will continue to learn.
    So, thank you Hannah for sharing and encouraging ��
    God Bless
    Allie Blue

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    1. "Who cares what the world things when I know what my God thinks." YES YES YES!!! I feel you. The obsession, the rerouting of our minds. I feel like losing some battles too, especially because no one will know if I thought an insecure thought or compared myself to that other girl.

      This is when we must saturate our minds with the thoughts of Christ. And I'm bad at this. Your comment gave me hope that I'm not alone and that there is a God who thinks of us as beautiful.

      Isn't it time that we started living that way?

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    2. It is completely time that we start living that! I really don't want to live like I have and little by little that is changing. The struggle is real , that is for sure, but it's nice to know that we aren't alone in our struggles. God has made us all beautiful in all shapes and sizes and loves us unconditionally! What a comfort that is!

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    3. "The struggle is real, but so is God." I read that somewhere and just fell in love with that quote.

      Yes, we are not alone, and we need to keep each other accountable so that we don't fall into these internal struggles.

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  2. Oh. My. Word. What do I even say to this???????!! Such a beautiful testimony of God's grace in you. This is seriously such an encouragement and such a helpful read and important reminder. THANK YOU so much for sharing :) Now, I'm off to read your other post!
    ps YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

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    1. Olivia, thankyou.

      It isn't a beautiful thing to go through, but I put my hope in the God who defines beauty. There are so many times when I lose the battle and think something prideful or insecure (they are one and the same). But God is teaching me the warfare of the mind. Little by little He transforms my thoughts that I might test and approve what His will is, His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

      (Sometimes I just spurt out scripture.)

      YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL TOOOOO!!! Like, the way that you see life makes me look out side my window and into my heart just a bit differently.

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    2. yes yes and yes. I love just hearing you speak :') through the computer, so I guess I like watching you think. I don't know. ALSO, thank you times a million for what you said :'))))))))))) seriously, so many feels. that means so much to me. THANK YOU <3

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    3. Don't you just love blogging friends???

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  3. This was such an encouragement. I'm a new reader and I love your blog! You truly seem to be just that... a princess for Jesus and it shines through, even through a computer screen. Identity in Christ is something I feel like God has been pushing on my heart, and I too want to grow in my identity firmly rooted in Christ this summer. God bless!

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    1. Lyllika,

      I am so glad to meet you! And thank you for your lovely words.

      Identity is so crucial. It is the core of who we are , the inner being of what God does in our hearts. I too have spent much time contemplating my identity. Whereas I know that it is in Christ and that grace defines my life, I so often act as though I am also defined by my appearance or abilities.

      THIS IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE!!!

      We are, as I like to say, Princesses. We are cherished. We are loved. We have a mission. And let's start to live every moment in belief of those truths.

      Yes, this summer, let us firmly root ourselves in the love of Christ. I can't wait to go on this journey together!

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  4. Oh my goodness.

    Hannah.

    Olivia said it perfectly- this was such a beautiful testimony of God's grace in you. And when you were describing your struggles, I honestly felt like I was reading about myself. When I was little, I was the same way- super, super skinny. and as I've gotten older, I've ended up with curves. And sometimes, that's been hard to accept, especially in going back to ballet and being surrounded by a ton of stick-thin girls. So this post was so, so encouraging. It was also slightly ironic, because in reading your blog and getting to know you, I've honestly thought SO many times- "Man, she's so beautiful and so thin. I'd kill to look like that." XD "Who am I to draw with a Rosa Art crayon on top of a masterpiece?" <-- I just might make myself a little sticky note that says that and hang it on my wall, because it's such a perfect reminder. Thank you so much for sharing this post, Hannah. You are so beautiful, inside and out. <3

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    1. Grace, every time I read your comments and posts all I can do it think WE SHOULD BE NEIGHBORS AND TALK UNTIL THE WEE HOURS OF THE MORNING LIKE ALL OF THE TIME!!!

      But yes, body changes are hard to accept (even if they're small.) Ballet makes this like 100x harder. There is such an impossible standard when it comes to ballet and so many girls to compare yourself to. Agh!

      Speaking of comparison, it is nasty. Just plain nasty. I think I'm going to write about that soon. Don't compare yourself to anything, least of all me (after all, we're almost the same person).

      :) I'm pretty fond of that saying myself. I thought of it a couple of years ago and it makes so much sense to me! I'm so glad that you found encouragement in this post. It was pretty hard to publish, if I have to be honest. But worth it. I just want Christ to be glorified. Oh, that I may be more like Christ!

      Let's live in His beauty moment by tempting moment, Grace. God is with us. He will not fail.

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    2. ^^^^^^^ YES I WANT TO READ ALL YOUR THOUGHTS ON COMPARISON. *waits eagerly for wise words to pour out of your lovely blog and into my mouth*

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    3. "Who am I to draw with a Rosa Art crayon on top of a masterpiece?" <<<<<<<<<<<<<<< SAME SAME SAME JUST PUT THIS ON A STICKY NOTE ♥

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    4. I have a post already titled for the comparison post, I just need some space to think... It's coming, Abbiee.

      And guys, thank you so much for loving that quote. I might just make a graphic and post it... I could make a graphic with Rosa Art crayons...

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    5. WE SHOULD TOTALLY BE NEIGHBORS, HANNAH!

      I'm totally putting this on a sticky note. You in, Olivia? AHH YESS HANNAH A GRAPHIC WOULD BE EVEN BETTER.

      I can't wait to see your post on comparison. You actually inspired me to write one of my own, and I started drafting it last night. Not sure yet if it'll go anywhere, but I guess we'll see!

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    6. I CAN'T WAIT FOR YOUR POST GRACE!!!! Like, fjdslafjdksljfsakdljfsdaklfjlghjfdsfmkldsnvjfa

      And yes, I think I will post the graphic and maybe a follow up post sometime in the future, although I know not when.

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  5. I love you for being so brave in sharing this <3

    We have like, really similar stories. I grew up super skinny and when I hit puberty I lost it. and it consumed me. people didnt tell me I looked skinny anymore. they told me I looked "healthy." or that I had "finally put on weight!!1" and I hated it. It took years for me to be mentally healthy again and to learn to be okay with how I looked. Ive been struggling again but God is with me and He'll get me through it.

    thank you for sharing that beautiful message with us. you seriously are a gorgeous girl. inside and out :) your courage is inspiring. stay strong gorgeous!

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    1. It is so hard when we put our identity in something so shifting. I just finished this Timothy Keller book called "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness" and it hit hard on how our identities should be in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

      I am SO GLAD that you are learning how to put your identity in Jesus. But, man, isn't it hard? Mirrors and comparison lerk at every corner and tempt us to lose our joy in Christ's fulfilment in us.

      Thank you for your comment, it means a lot.

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  6. No words for this. THANK YOU for being brave and posting this!
    asdghjkl I don't even know what to say. Wow.

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    1. This melts my heart. I am so glad that you enjoyed it and it inspired you. Let's keep choosing Jesus as our identity.

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  7. FIRST: you. youyouyou. CAN I HUG YOU?? LIKE NOW, PREFERABLY? <3 "Who am I to draw with a Rosa Art crayon on top of a masterpiece?" < ALSO CAN THIS BE MY MANTRA FOREVER AND ALWAYS?? You know whut up, girl. And even more so, you were able to express it all in such an open, human, raw, beautiful, and heartfelt way. Also I love LOVE the title of this post. gah. ♥

    I CAN RELATE TO THIS SO MUCH. Actually, it's almost crazy how your story identically parallels mine. x) I fell down the same path of self-destruction not long ago (probably peaking in summer of 2013 I want to say??) and just seeing the pictures in this post brings me back to those times and those struggles were so hard to get through. I had an obsession with body image/losing weight too. How can we be capable of turning in on ourselves with so much hurt and damage?? UGH I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT. Anyway, it was a very dark time for me, and I obviously won't go into it too much here, but let's just say that I took things so far, I was living with health damage for the following two years (even though I'd healed my mind, the repercussions were hitting hard.) It wasn't pretty. :( but the grace of God is the only thing that can get us through, I think. I know that's what got me through it, too. Just knowing that He loves me exactly as I am, and He doesn't want me to change a thing about myself -- just to shine brighter with Love and Light.

    RT OLIVIA -- THIS IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL TESTIMONY. Thank you for sharing it, Hannah. <3 You're a brave, beautiful person inside and out and you're also my freaking role model okay?? OKAY. *hugs*

    love,
    abbiee

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    1. ABBIEEEEE!!!! Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

      I would love to hear your story in a post (unless you've already posted it and I somehow missed it, if so then LINKKKK). And I must mirror your question, why do we put ourselves through this trouble and pain when we have everything that we need in Jesus? Why do we run after self-destruction when even the most beautiful person isn't fulfilled by beauty? Why do we seek after something that can never fill the place of Jesus?

      And yes, the physical side of these insecurities are not good. I didn't mention this in the post, but I skipped my period for 6 months. I was getting worried when I finally had to change my heart and mind and then my body accordingly.

      It's hard to continue to put our faith in the invisible kingdom when the visible prides thrusts themselves into our faces and hearts. Thank you so much for encouraging me through this beautiful comment. Let's put our identity in the finished work of Jesus, resting in His grace that fills our hearts until they overflow.

      *hugs and chocolate chip cookies*

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    2. THANK YOU FOR THIS (AND THE COOKIES TBH *noms them*) Hmm I don't think I really explicitly talked about it in a post?? But I did write a slam poem about it here. Once I got over the whole struggle (well most of it, anyhow) all those emotions just kind of poured out into a spoken word thing. ^.^

      OMG YES. I'm glad I'm not alone with the physical effects thing. :/ As it happens, I lost my period for a while too (like over a year. I eventually had to see a homeopathic doctor and it took a loooong time to get my body back into working order) so yeah -- it was pretty scary. I know exactly what you mean, girl. <3

      I'm sosososo happy my comment encouraged you!! that makes me so insanely overjoyed. :) "Let's put our identity in the finished work of Jesus, resting in His grace that fills our hearts until they overflow." << YES YES YES TO THIS ALL DAY. PREACH IT, SISTER! ♥

      love,
      abbiee

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  8. Wow. Your posts are always so Christian-focused! Great work, girl!
    PS: you are beautiful. No kiddin.
    -Mic

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    1. Thank you SO MUCH Michalia! My prayer for this blog is that Christ be glorified and it makes me so glad that God is answering my prayers!

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  9. Ahhh, this, this is something I've been struggling with lately too. I don't know that I obsess over it outwardly (I still eat unhealthy foods on a fairly regular basis, though not near as much as I used to), but this is definitely something that consumes my mind on a daily basis, and I know Satan is messing with my relationship with my Savior. This was a real encouragement, Hannah.

    P.S. I love your reference to Rosa Art crayons. They're seriously one of my least favorite brands of crayons.

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    1. YOU ARE SO RIGHT!!! This is a battle of the heart, and the mind thinks what the heart centers on and then our bodies follow.

      My path the bodily destruction started in my mind when I, like you, still ate whatever I wanted. I just worried about it and tried to rationalize and justify what I ate/looked like. PLEASE STOP THESE THOUGHTS RIGHT NOW!!!! Don't let them grow and turn into something much bigger than you bargained for. Fight the battle every day in the finished grace of God. And email me if you want any tips on this.

      Yes, Rosa Art crayons stink just like our attempts to "beautify" God's creation as expressed through our bodies.

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    2. I just now read your reply to my comment! I might take you up on the suggestion to email you. Maybe? Thanks for being open and honest with your readers. It does not go unnoticed. :)

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  10. ♥ HANNAH!!! ♥
    You are so sweet to become vulnerable and share your struggles on here. You have a lovely testimony of how God changed your outlook in life. And it is very, very easy to have idols that we don't even realize. =( Thank you so much for sharing your precious thoughts and past failures. I can tell that you are moving past your mistakes and focusing on Jesus, the only True Goal!

    You are such a gorgeous young woman! Don't ever doubt that. But I'm so proud of you for basing your worth not on yourself but on Jesus! That is a sign of True Beauty!

    1 Peter 3:4, "Rather let (adornment) be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."

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    1. Yes, I didn't realize that I idolized beauty until it grew into an ugly, ugly god in my life. And it is a step-by-step process, and I don't want to have you think that I win all of the time. Most of the time, the little thoughts escape me. I have to force myself the chose Jesus, because on my own I want to chose skinny.

      Your encouragement is so uplifting and beautiful, showing your true beauty as well! That verse is fabulous! What translation is that?

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    2. Hannah, I usually use NKJV. =) Which translation do you prefer?

      Yes, everything is step-by-step...which is so hard. All the more reason for us to trust in God every step of the way!

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    3. I use NIV and ESV with bits of NLT and even The Message every now and then, although I do not use The Message as a strict Bible.

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  11. This is such a beautiful, honest post Hannah - thank you for sharing! I definitely understand the struggle with body image: I've always been short, and one my insecurities is my short legs. I used to agonize over whether I was skinny enough, read up and attempted to follow multiple diets that just ended up failing and I would feel worse about myself. I think it only really started looking up when I abandoned all dieting, and just tried to make decent decisions (eat veggies & not too much ice cream and all that). Then, when I was comfortable with that I cut sugar out of my diet for Lent and haven't looked back. I realized I use sugar as an emotional crutch, instead of praying or talking out my worries with my mom/friends. Removing it has been such a good thing for me, but that doesn't mean it's the cure-all for everyone. And I definitely feel that I had to be at a certain place in my relationship with God and with myself before I was ready to do this. If I had tried to do it when I was in that darker place of just trying to get rid of fat for the sake of "skinny", it wouldn't have endured. Now, by God's grace, it has. :)

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your testimony. You're beautiful & I think it's wonderful that you truly realized that, not just in the worlds eyes but God's. All the love! <3

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    1. Yes, I have never fasted from food before because I knew that in my heart I would think "and this will make me skinnier." But I understand how food can just as easily take the place of God in our lives, even if it is lack of food or strictly healthy food. Hearing your story of confidence in Christ really encourages me and gives me hope that this can end with joy and beauty.

      Thank you so much for your comment!

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  12. I was going to comment, and then I read all those other comments and they basically said everything I wanted to say. But I'm going to say it anyway. :) I relate to this SO MUUUUUUUCH. I've struggle with body image for about 5 years now. At one point, my parents were looking for a counselor because I was becoming anorexic. I eventually pulled out of it, with the help of God and my parents. It was such a dark time in my life, and now I'm passionate about helping other girls understand their worth and being able to accept themselves just the way they are, while still being a good steward of the body they've been given by our heavenly Father. Thank you so much for sharing your story! And you're freakin' gorgeous btw XD. (&I've enjoyed reading all your posts) :)

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    1. Colleen, I'm SUPER HAPPY to meet you! And girl, never be afraid to comment because other people said the same thing. I love hearing these words!

      Yes, body image is rough. My parents almost made me go to a counselor as well, but God changed my thoughts just in time before I became anorexic. I credit God's grace and love in my life to the fact that I've never been anorexic. Without Him, I don't want to know what my story would have been.

      It makes my heart happy to see how God worked in your story as well! Let's keep pressing forward into God's grace and beauty! Thanks again for commenting!

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  13. hi i just found your blog and wow! just wow. this is exactly what i need right now. i am currently struggling with this kind of thing. i get told i am fat and in know i am not but i still watch what i eat, how much i eat and all that.
    i am struggling through this. thank you for sharing <3

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