One of the annoying ways my body image issues manifest themselves is in the way I look at other women. When I’m around another woman (re: pretty much everywhere I go, all the time), I have a tendency to look other women up and down and without even intending. I calculate the ways they look better or worse than me, often lingering on the ways I fall short and where she hits the mark.
I realized this unintentional comparison one day when I was out for a walk with my son. He was in the stroller, and I could see a runner approaching. My comparison zeroed in on her legs. Long, lean, muscular legs. Even at my thinnest and most fit I did not have those legs. I put a TON of effort into getting that thin and fit for over a YEAR, and still, no long, lean muscular legs.
I watched her run toward me, wishing I had those legs instead of the ones carrying me at that moment. And then a question surfaced. “Why?” Would I somehow be happier? Would my life be better? Would I be more loved or appreciated?
No. I’d just find something else to compare. Something else that I wanted that someone else had. Better hair or a better car or a nicer house.
I was already outside exercising. I was already making good food choices. I was already taking the right steps toward taking care of myself, but because I didn’t LOOK a certain way, I found no joy or contentment in it. Nothing worthy of praise or gratitude. In fact, not LOOKING that way made me wonder if eating well and exercising was even worth it.
This was a heart issue, an attitude problem.
It mirrors our relationship with Christ.
Do we obey Him just for what we can get out of it? Do we take the steps of obedience, following His lead, but still look around at how other’s lives are panning out? Peter did.
In John 21, Jesus gave him his personal commission to “feed his sheep” and “follow him.” Jesus had a plan and purpose specific to Peter’s life. Jesus. God incarnate. Our Savior and Lord. The Almighty Lord gave undeserving Peter a calling to serve Him and God’s people. And Peter still turned around and pointed to the apostle John, asking Jesus, “What about him?”
Jesus’ response? “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? Follow me.”
Comparison wins us nothing. It takes our focus away from the great gifts God has given us. In Peter’s case, it was a calling to preach and convert thousands to find salvation in Christ. Yet he still asked, “What about him?” Maybe I want what you’re giving him.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 instructs us: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
God’s intention for us is gratitude, not comparison, in ALL circumstances. Gratitude for our homes, our jobs, our families, our friends, … and our bodies. Not comparison. Not wishing for the gifts he gave others.
I may never have long, lean, muscular legs, but I can be grateful. That is a choice, and an attitude hard won. If I’m willing to put so much effort into sculpting my body, why not more effort into submitting my desires to Him?
CHALLENGE: What are the features you compare to others? How can you rejoice always and pray continually for the body God gave you? Start a body image gratitude journal for all the ways you are grateful for how God has built you.