Cheerleader. Softball player. National Honor Society. Top 5 percent of class. Homecoming princess. Voted Most Spirited. Prom queen runner-up. All of these phrases described me in high school. Sounds pretty stellar on the surface, right?
Lonely. Insecure. Tired. Disappointed. Scared. Those are words that also described me in high school, despite the fact they were less noticeable. Sure, I had lots of friends and made good grades. What did I have to complain about?
In high school (and still to this day), I struggled with comparing myself to others. It's like the thing inside all of us — the one that tells us to be good and do good — gets out of balance. It fools me into thinking I have to be the best or even more so, be perfect.
Being a cheerleader and athlete, I quickly learned about fitness and nutrition. I learned how to take care of my body. But it seemed like no matter how hard I worked at it, there was always someone skinnier or smarter or friendlier or prettier . . . .
My body became another event at which I had to excel.
After high school, I became a college cheerleader, and it soon took over my life. Less time spent with my family and boyfriend and more time around beautiful, fit girls was not exactly the most positive environment for a girl who struggled with body image (wait, isn't that all of us?). I was obsessed with counting calories and even worse with burning calories. I worked out so much, my body fat percentage dropped to a dangerous level and was diagnosed with Athletic Amenorrea. My friends and family went from congratulating me on losing a few pounds to asking me if I was anorexic.
I often felt like no matter how hard I tried, I was never going to be good enough.
I swung back and forth with my body image. I wanted to be a leader, an encourager to those who felt the same way I did. It was much easier to see the beauty in someone else than it was for me to see it in myself.
College was exhausting for me. While I desperately tried to do my best at everything, I often felt like I was going through a spiritual desert. Once I figured out that God didn't want me to try to do it on my own anymore, I realized this stage of my life would be a time of spiritual and physical growth.
I learned that those times when I felt lost and insecure, the only safe place to turn was to God. He was my comforter. I tried to be in constant conversation with him, asking that he help me take the focus off myself and put it on others. I started looking for opportunities to compliment the other girls or go out of my way to bless someone else.
"The Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV)
The more I focused my attention on others, the more I started to dig deep and find the beauty in their spirits rather than their flesh. In turn, this made me want to do the same for myself.
It's a daily battle not to get suckered into thinking beauty is what you see in magazines or movies. It's even harder to not compare yourself to the photos you see on your friend's Facebook walls or Instagram.
All I know is that I'm motivated to stay healthy physically because it's a reflection of my spiritual health. We're called to be ambassadors of the Kingdom here on earth, and our body is the temple in which we live. I want to take care of that gift, not only for my own confidence-booster, but also because it's the vessel through which God's beauty shines.
"Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV)
CC Photo by Charlotte Astrid on Flickr