I come from two large families–literally and figuratively. People tend to be short and on the heavy side on both sides of the family. No matter how skinny and fit they start out, most end up overweight. When I was younger, I was fit. I ran all the time and walked or biked everywhere. I wasn’t in any organized sports and I wasn’t biking or running to maintain my weight; it was something I enjoyed doing. The fact I stayed in shape because of these activities was a bonus I didn’t even acknowledge.
Even though I wasn’t too concerned about my weight, I was always threatened with getting fat. It grew especially bad after I went to college. Every time I would eat anything in front of certain family members, they would joke that if I ate that I would “become one of the butt sisters.” They would point out that I was putting on weight and I needed to do something. They would pat my stomach or make comments on my body parts. It grew to be a constant battle to be around family because of the harsh criticisms. For perspective, at the time this was at its peak, I was 115-120 pound at 4’11: curvy, but not fat by any estimation.
Backing up in this story, I had low self-esteem for most of my life, mostly centered around my looks. All I had was a nice figure, long hair, and pretty eyes. I didn’t dwell on my perceived lack of looks because I was a genius, a literary prodigy. But in 2006, when the criticism reached its zenith, I was sitting out a year of college because of inadequate financial aid, living in a different state, working two and three jobs, and feeling so far off course no map could tell me how to get back on track. The very last thing I needed was to have my remaining virtues criticized.
It had taken me a while to find self-esteem, and everyone was knocking it down. I saw the weight gain as inevitable looking at both sides of my family and family history. I was fighting against the tide. I wasn’t intentionally letting myself go; it was biology. I could do my best and maintain what I could, but it was out of my hands.
But I had hope that one day, who I was would be enough for someone besides my immediate family. One day I would marry someone who loved me for who I was as a person, not just a physical body. I would be accepted, and we would grow better together in all areas, including this one. Someone would accept me where I was and be willing to start building from there.
My greatest fear was that my family would be right, that I wouldn’t get married because I talked too much and weighed too to be an attractive prospect. No one would be sold on me enough to marry me. I couldn’t be who I was and get married. My outside would be a bigger impediment than my inside was an attraction, and I would always fall short. I fell short with financial aid, writing, and all the things I had been good at; why would something I knew I wasn’t good at be any different?
People like to say God has a sense of humor when they find themselves in situations that they’ve actively avoided or with people they’ve actively avoided, like when people say your mate is a mirror and mean the other person helps them see things in themselves they weren’t able to see before. I believe that God makes us face things we don’t want to face for our growth and good. For me, one of those things is my how I look and the way I treat my body. I’m in a position where the thing I don’t want to deal with is the one thing holding me back from where I want to go, and I have no idea how to move forward.
Maybe I’m supposed to realize I’m worth more than my looks and walk away from demands that I fit into a certain mold physically. Maybe I’m supposed to learn to take better care of myself and still not accept a conditional acceptance from anyone. Or maybe I’m being nudged to conquer this because it’s holding me back in other areas in which God is trying to move me forward. I confess I have no idea what God is doing or why this has come to a head. But I know I’m going to give this my best shot–not to please others, or even myself, but to see what it is God is trying to show me.