Recently, “E” Magazine reported on an animated Gif file circulating among Jennifer Lawrence fans. It is an older picture of Lawrence from the cover of Flare Magazine. The animated Gif file reveals that they took Ms. Lawrence’s picture–an actress considered by many to be very beautiful–and then proceeded to photoshop it. Here is the website showing the original photo and then how they doctored it.
They made her skinny in places, more pronounced in others and changed her shape completely. Fans around the world are outraged, mainly because she has been on a crusade against this kind of body image tinkering. Here is an interview she did with BBC Television where she expresses her view that every women needs to have a strong image of who they are. This includes viewing their own bodies realistically.
In counseling, I see hundreds of women obsessed with poor body image. They want to blame others for their personal beliefs–and certainly other people are contributing factors in what they believe–but blaming others does not solve the problem. Each person needs to recognize they chose to believe every thing they hold onto. Until a person owns those false beliefs and discards them, they will not be free.
The media, parents, friends, and enemies–including the enemy of our souls–may all feed us false beliefs about our bodies. Let me identify the three main false beliefs:
1. Shame: This is a belief which says ‘There is something essentially wrong with me’. The idea of “wrongness” is completely subjective and has no real basis in fact. What is “wrong” in one setting is “perfect” in another. This includes body size, body shape, and body parts. One culture prizes Aquiline noses (long and curved) where another culture champions small noses. Which one is right? Neither of course. But the belief that says “there is something wrong with me” goes deeper. This belief destroys the idea that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. Since there is no objective standard of the right or wrong body type, then anything we believe about ourselves which ends in us concluding “there is something wrong with me” is completely false.
2. Fear: This belief focuses on how we are perceived. “I will not be accepted for how I look” gives other people the right to speak into how we should look. No longer do we decide if we our bodies are acceptable–we give that right to others. This fear also centers on the idea that we can accurately predict how others see us. This belief is false because even if we are mostly accurate in our assessments, we cannot be completely accurate. Humans are completely different in their preferences. What 100 people dislike, another 100 people may like. But the fear that “all” people will react the same way to us causes us to change who we are–or wish we could change who we are.
3. Helplessness: This is the idea that our bodies are in charge and we cannot do anything about it. For the most part, helpless beliefs are formed when we tried to change something while not doing so with our entire will. For instance, take a young child who comfort eats. This child eats when they are emotionally stressed. They do this because the food makes them feel better. They may do this enough so they become heavier than their friends. At some point–probably during adolescence–they decide it is time to lose weight. The problem is, even though they want to take charge of their body and lose weight, they don’t want to let go of comfort-eating. Therefore, they hinder their own weight-loss efforts. When they fail at this, they believe they are helpless to change the way their body functions. This can result in them choosing to depress themselves and keep their body behaving differently than their ideal vision of themselves. This helplessness gets seeded into their beliefs and they soon react as if they can never change anything their body is doing.
These three false body beliefs–shame, fear and helplessness–torture so many people. But they don’t need to. The solution is to admit these beliefs are choices you made at some point in your life. They don’t feel like lies because you have fed and cared for them for so long.
The secret to overcoming them is to ask God about them. God made you and knows who you are. He knows how you are perceived. He is the one who says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength”.
I counseled a woman years ago who struggled with being “overweight”. (I put that word in parentheses because I do not accept the concept of “overweight”. I think it is a false concept designed by the enemy to have a false measuring stick of our value). She believed she would never be acceptable to others unless she reached a particular weight value. In our counseling, I asked her to listen to what God had to say about it.
After several weeks of doing this, she stopped dieting and started to find out more about how God saw her. God showed her the problem had nothing to do with her weight. Her life was being ruled by one resentment she had after another. She decided to let go of all her resentments over a 6-month period. Because she no longer held onto her griefs and pain, she started eating differently. She got out of the house more. She dressed differently. Inexplicably, her body began to take on a different shape.
She had no idea if she lost or gained weight because she threw out her bathroom scale. God showed her that the weight was a measurement of gravity, not worth.
When we get to what God has to say about our bodies, we will inevitably change how we see them. And if we change how we see them, we won’t give in to the terror of false beliefs.