My darling, you are lovely, so very lovely— Song of Songs 4:1 CEV
A recent study done by psychologist, Ann Kearney-Cooke, Ph.D, showed that 97% of women have body image issues. On average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily. A disturbing number of women reported having 30, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts a day like these: “You are a fat, worthless pig.” “You’re too thin. No man is ever going to want you.” “Ugly. Big. Gross.”. Sadly, these findings are not unusual.
- Other research suggests that 86% of all women are dissatisfied with their bodies and want to lose weight.
- Another recent survey found that only 2% of women in the world would describe themselves as “beautiful.”
- One study found that 63% of female participants identified weight as the key factor in determining how they felt about themselves.
Margo Maine, a clinical psychologist, in her book, Body Wars, asserts that this epidemic of self-hatred, disordered eating and body dissatisfaction is due to a sociocultural war. Each chapter in her book addresses an issue that contributes to women’s discontent with their bodies within a sociocultural perspective. She teaches women to reclaim their bodies and offers the following ways to improve body image:
- Affirm that your body is perfect just the way it is.
- Think of your body as a tool. Create an inventory of all the things you can do with it.
- Walk with your head high with pride and confidence in yourself as a person, not a size.
- Create a list of people you admire who have contributed to your life, your community, or the world. Was their appearance important to their success and accomplishments?
- Don’t let your size keep you from doing things you enjoy.
- Replace the time you spend criticizing your appearance with more positive, satisfying pursuits.
- Let your inner beauty and individuality shine.
- Think back to a time in your life when you liked and enjoyed your body. Get in touch with those feelings now.
- Beauty is not just skin-deep. It is a reflection of your whole self. Love and enjoy the person inside.
While I agree with many of Maine’s assertions and found her list helpful, I still came away thinking this is not just a sociocultural battle but it is a spiritual battle as well. As one who has struggled my whole life, I can’t even begin to estimate how much of my life has been squandered with thoughts of poor self-image. As women of faith, should we be part of these statistics?
Recently, my youngest daughter was doing her daily devotions when she realized the next book on her Bible reading plan was Song of Solomon. She hollered from the living room loud enough for me to hear her in the kitchen where I was doing dishes, “Mom, am I allowed to read Song of Solomon?” I quickly made my way to where she was sitting. “What?” I asked, curiously wondering why she thought she shouldn’t read it. After a short discussion, I learned that she had been told it was only for adults. Undeniably, the book can get a little sensual in places which made me sympathize with rather than criticize the poor Sunday School teacher who told her not to read it. However, as a 15-year-old adolescent, I feel it is essential she read Song of Songs. Especially, during this epidemic of poor self images! I believe with many commentators, that the book is an allegory of Christ’s love for the church and as Watchman Nee commented, Christ’s love for every one of us as individual believers. Consistently, the lover of our souls calls out to us, “You are lovely. You are beautiful.” (Song of Songs 1:15, 2:14, 4:1, 6:4, 7:1, 7:6)
A few days ago, I came across this nugget while doing the Bible Study by Jennifer Rothschild, Me, Myself and Lies: A Thought Closet Makeover. She tells the story of how one day when she was jogging on the treadmill, she began to mentally beat herself up for letting her weight fluctuate. Precisely at that time, through her ear phones, her audio Bible began to declare Psalms 84:1, “How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord Almighty.” As soon as she heard it, she began to laugh at God’s sense of humor and timing. She thought about how 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19 stated that our bodies are the temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. And now God’s word was declaring His dwelling place is lovely!
Dear Creator, remind us that we are made in YOUR image and you declared it good. (Genesis 1:31) May we understand that if you say we are lovely, then no matter what our culture says or even what we say to ourselves, we are lovely. Forgive us for the years we waste obsessing about our appearance. We are your dwelling place. Your presence dwells within us. Therefore, WE ARE LOVELY! LH