One of the nicest things about my room at University is it lacks a full-length mirror. Okay, so this does mean that today it wasn’t til the afternoon that I realised the tights I was wearing totally clashed with my dress. But on the whole, it’s a good thing. It means I get to avoid my body. When I go home, I have to confront it. No more pretending that from the neck down I could be mistaken for Scarlet Johannsen. No more diverting my own gaze, and that of other people, with dyeing my hair something ridiculous with alarming frequency. It demands a response. And it’s never a cheery one.
I’m not comparing myself to A-list models here. Even using passers-by in the street as a reference point, I know my ins-and-outs don’t in-and-out the way they’re ‘supposed’ to. The word that leaps into mind when I think of my figure is ‘pathetic’.
The cliché that rolls off the tongue is that it’s what’s inside that counts. And that’s true, to an extent. But even if I were to list the most flattering adjectives that I think have any bearing on my personality, even those are horribly contingent. My levels of coherence drop rapidly out of office hours, any generosity or charity is drained for the day once it’s been tapped once or twice, and wit can very quickly slip into overbearing giddiness. So if I root my self-worth on my appearance, then what happens if disaster strikes and that changes beyond recognition? Or, more simply, what about the onset of wrinkles? And if I root it on my CV-able attributes, then what happens when I am in a grump, tired, feeling ill? It’s a house of cards and collapse is essentially inevitable.
I suppose what most strikes me about how I see my body is how isolating it is. ‘Flaws’ are socially defined. I don’t have an objective problem with any part of my body: I always leap to “I’m so x/y/z that no one could find me attractive”. It’s the feeling of ‘flaws’ having to be hidden from the rest of the world that gives them that power to belittle…
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
In other words, it’s not what’s inside, it’s who is inside that counts.
This isn’t just a like on a Facebook profile photo, this isn’t just good lighting, or getting your angle just right. This is the Lord of all condescending to dwell inside that body that you pinch and prod and cast antagonistic glances at. This is Him dwelling just as much behind those bits that make you cringe as much as the bits that you think are your best features. This is your body as a temple whether it’s hurting and broken, whether it’s gained or lost weight, whether it’s scarred- well, you know the criticisms you level at it in the shower, so I’ll let you fill in the gaps.
So I guess I’d like to challenge you, if you’re a Christian, to talk to any part of your body which you’re disappointed by, and remind yourself what power and love is filling those ‘flaws’.
On one hand, I’d love to tell you you’re beautiful. I’d love you to not feel intimidated by glossy magazines and billboards or your friend who’s ‘the fit one’. But beauty always comes at someone else’s expense. To be beautiful, someone else has to be ugly. So, I’d rather suggest that we ditch the scale and rejoice in how our aesthetics are all equally utterly insignificant.