Achieving Balance: A Self-Image Confession

I stand on Val’s Stage today and admit I’ve struggled with self-image issues. With the money I’ve spent over the years on hair extensions, gel nails, eyelash extensions and makeup, Hubby and I could go on a very nice cruise (not that cruising is very desirable right now; so, no loss).

Did you know the Christian’s Handbook gives us guidelines for fashion? 1 Peter ‭3:3 instructs us, ‬“‭Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes.” Pause here while I catch my breath. Don’t be concerned? I was not raised to be unconcerned about how I look. ‬

Before I hit the teen years, my mother was bleaching my hair blond with peroxide because my natural color was dirty-looking (guess that’s why it’s called dirty-blond). No one had seen my natural hair color for five minutes since (until the coronavirus locked us in our houses and shut down the hair salons). I’ve struggled with self-image issues all my life, and I recently pegged that hair-dye moment as the beginning of a lifetime of beauty treatments that served to give me self-worth. I’m not blaming you, Mom, I’ve got a whole superficial society surrounding me where being real and raw isn’t considered attractive.

Up until this year, I also never left the house as an adult without a full face of makeup, even when I was recovering from pink eye. My friends laughed at me when I sat at the table to put on ‘my face’ in the mornings during cottage weekends. Our chances of seeing another human outside of the women in the cottage were slim. Yet, I didn’t feel complete or confident without making myself look as good as possible on the outside. More recently, I’ve pushed myself to go outside a few times to play tennis or go for a walk before my makeup routine was done, but I still try to stay somewhat hidden behind my sunglasses.

The last time I FaceTimed with my hair-bleaching mom, she had already prepared for bed, so she wouldn’t turn the iPad for me to see her. It was more of a WallTime as I stared at the Benjamin Moore Yellow Lotus wall over her shoulder while we talked. Pride in physical appearance is apparently a hereditary trait. Thank goodness I didn’t have any daughters to pass it down to. (We won’t talk about my youngest son who is on a modelling agency’s payroll.)

Now, I discover Peter is telling us – well, okay – me that I really shouldn’t care so much.
But he didn’t stop there. Verse 4 says, “You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” Huh. If I spent even half the time doing devotions or praying as I have decorating my outside appearance, you’d have to wear shades to be near my halo. Cosmopolitan doesn’t give us tips on how to attain that beauty.

Hair dye, makeup, clothing, and other add-ons aside, then, there’s my weight. Hubby claims he can’t lose weight without a scale to track his progress, so against my better judgement, I bought one. When I stepped on, it told me I was supposed to be socially distancing, and only one person should be standing on it at a time! (I’m kidding, kind of). But it did say, based on my measurements and my weight, that I am overweight – not obese, but overweight. Is one O-word worse than the other? It’s still big and round and needs some trimming, and I seriously didn’t need a name for it.

Ouch!

We all recognize that the 19 in COVID-19 refers to the number of pounds we are likely to gain during the pandemic, but it’s still shocking to discover how much of my clothes no longer fit me. And if it was only 19 extra pounds that I was carrying around, it wouldn’t be as alarming. I power walk, I bike, I lift weights, play tennis, and do ab exercises. I’m not completely sedentary. Do I have to do all of those things every day to stay in shape? I never make dessert and rarely ever eat chips or junk in the evenings. I try to balance the meat on our plates with vegetables and add cheese with moderation. I don’t drink pop or eat white bread. Is there something to this “middle-aged spread” I’ve heard about?

I admit, I love to eat out occasionally, and when I do, I enjoy French fries (sometimes even poutine!) and less healthy choices. I enjoy Irish cream in my morning coffee (with frothed milk) and wine and cheese in the afternoon. How do I balance my love of food, wine, and eating out with taking care of my body, feeling good about myself and being healthy? How do I balance my desire to look my best on the outside with my desire for inner beauty?

What I do know, as I stand under the bright lights of my stage (which reveal my facial hair and deepening pores), is that I have to love myself in order to love others. I can’t get hung up on trying to lose weight and making myself more beautiful if it means that I’m unhappy and too obsessed to see that God loves me just the way I am. He thinks I’m beautiful. He made me, after all. Who am I to be unhappy with this body he put me in? He wants me to step away from the mirror and spend more time looking for people around me who I can help; who I can show God’s love to.

It is said that when a woman is pregnant, she has a glow about her. While, at 50, I certainly don’t want that glow, Jocelyn Hamsher describes a Christian woman’s appearance as having a “Jesus-beauty glow — her face will reflect her joy, her virtuous lifestyle, and her love for others.” Maybe I’ve been striving for the wrong thing all these years. It’s time to start focusing more on the Jesus-beauty glow; on the inner beauty – “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.

You are beautiful. For you are fearfully and wonderfully made…

Psalm 139:14

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

1 Timothy 4:8

Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.

1 Timothy 4:12

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