Is it just me or does it seem like some women just have it going on in the style department? They know who they are and what they like. They always look put together and are wearing the cutest clothes. Meanwhile, I’m over here trying to figure out how to copy & paste that in real time. FYI, it doesn’t transfer so well.
TEACH ME YOUR WAYS, you beautiful people.
So here’s the thing about me.
I have PCOS. One of the hardest things about living with PCOS has been struggling with weight. PCOS is a hidden condition yet the symptoms can be very visible and degrading on your self-esteem. Things like acne, extra fluff, and too much hair where you don’t want it–you know, things that people see and automatically think “oh, she must have PCOS.” Yes, that is sarcasm there.
Aside from the obvious frustrations of readjusting diet & exercise, months of hard work with little or no improvements, and the feelings of “I’ll just be overweight forever” is the more superficial struggle of having to change up your wardrobe and trying to feel pretty when you really aren’t feelin’ it.
Until four years ago, I had never really struggled with weight issues. I thought that going up to a size 6 when I hit twenty-one was a major crisis. Not even close, Cheryl, not even close. I was able to shed the extra weight in the few months before Andrew & I were married, just to turn around and gain FIFTY in the three months to follow. It was the abnormal weight gain that caused me to go to the doctor in the first place. In the midst of that, I still had to go outside and live life.
So I had to work to find clothes that fit. I had to rediscover what styles looked right on me. And honestly, I was so disgusted with myself and felt so gross in everything that I lost interest in trying. I put all of my cute, quirky clothes in a tub and stuffed them in the attic and turned to the cheapest, most necessary clothes that I could find hoping that within the year I would be back to my normal weight and cute, quirky clothes.
As a newlywed, I wanted to feel sexy and young but instead I felt bulky and old.
The way I felt became the way that I dressed.
I felt like a stranger in my own body. I wasn’t comfortable in it—actually, I was ashamed of it.
I felt like I had failed in some way by being less than perfect.
I felt like I didn’t deserve good things, like my husband’s attraction.
I felt like everyone was giving me a look over when I went out and not in the good way.
I felt embarrassed to visit family on the holidays.
I felt like I needed to wear a sign that said “I don’t actually eat chips all day” and “Believe it or not, I worked out for two hours today.”
I felt like I needed to cover up all of the “flaws” and hope that not too many people would notice.
As the years passed, from finally being diagnosed with PCOS to realizing that it was going to take a lot more than a few months of hard work to lose the weight, I decided that I didn’t want to feel frumpy and hide in the shadows anymore.
I wanted to learn how to look and feel good at the weight that I was at.
The problem was, I wasn’t able to find much in the way of blog posts or Pinterest inspiration for this specific issue. Maybe I was searching the wrong phrase or maybe I’m the only one that is hitting a wall when it comes to this. But just in case there is another woman out there wearing the same shoes…
I feel your pain.
I know your frustration.
I understand the desire to be something beautiful—valuable and feel like it’s out of reach.
I’ve been there.
I am there.
It’s really stinkin’ degrading.
And heaven knows the lies that you have to wade through to find your self-esteem.
But know that it is possible to give those feelings the boot and realize your real worth.
This is a really hard subject for me to write about because I don’t want to encourage a shallow idea of beauty. We cheapen our own beauty if we limit it to only the physical aspect of ourselves. I also don’t want to give you the impression that you should throw in the towel and allow your body to do whatever it will. It’s a balance—mentally & physically.
Because this balance is so important, I’m dedicating two posts to this topic.
In this post I want to focus solely on how you view yourself and how to give your self-esteem a bump regardless of the number on the scale, the shape of your eyebrows, or the size of your feet. In the next post, we’ll go through some practical tips for dressing well and feeling your best.
We have to start with perspective because here’s the thing…
No matter what size or shape you are, you are always going to be able to find flaws.
As a size 4 I had a list of flaws regarding myself and my body. Now as a size 14, I’ve changed a few of the items but the list of flaws is still there in the back of my mind. A lot has changed about my body between those sizes and I am still wrestling with hating and loving my appearance.
So what has to change first? My perspective.
Until my perspective changes, I will always struggle with hating my appearance, self-respect, and appreciating the way that I was created. So let’s talk about adjusting our viewpoints–starting right at the root of it all.
IT’S A CHOICE
I’ve spent the last couple of years bummed that I haven’t been able to conquer this self esteem thing. Some days I feel like I’ve finally reached a point of contentment only to fall back into discontentment the next day, rewarding myself with an “F” for achieving such a great accomplishment. What I’ve come to realize is that true contentment in how I was created isn’t a once and done. It’s a daily choice to rely on truth (what God says about me) rather than the lies (what society says about me) that I tend to believe. The more that I consciously make that choice to dwell on truth, the easier it becomes to stay on that truth and reject the lies.
I want to go a little deeper on that thought but first let’s address a few practical (and even a bit more superficial) action steps to aid in this choice making process.
TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF IS THE HIGHEST FORM OF LOVING YOURSELF
My Beachbody coach shared this thought a few months ago and it’s stuck with me. I’ve always wrestled with combining “loving yourself” but also wanting to “improve your body.” It seems that you hear “it’s not about the number on the scale” at the same time that your Doctor is telling you that weight loss is critical to improving your PCOS symptoms and avoiding premature diabetes. Not to mention, it just feels selfish to love yourself or put your body’s needs first when you have family, friends, church, work, dinner, and spring cleaning to worry about. It all seems so contradictory.
What we busy women need to realize, is that self care actually promotes better family, friend, church, work, and “all those other things” care. When we are healthy & fulfilled, we are better prepared to serve everyone else and take on that to-do list. Plus, all those wonderful feelings overflow into the lives of everyone that we overlap with.
Loving yourself doesn’t start or end at a certain weight, rather because you respect yourself enough to work hard at being healthy is loving yourself at the highest level. You shouldn’t be trying to lose weight for approval or to be more attractive; because you already have those things. Losing weight, toning your muscles, building strength should all be about you wanting to be the best, healthiest version of yourself that you can be for God, for your family, and for yourself. Realize that RIGHT NOW, wherever you are at with your journey you can appreciate yourself for who you are, what you’re going through, and view yourself as worthy and beautiful. You know why? Because God, the creator of the universe, created you & died for you. He has declared you worthy. Your looks don’t define your worthiness. So don’t lose weight or change your hair color to gain self-respect. Take care of yourself because you respect & appreciate God’s creation (in the form of you).
ACCEPT YOUR BODY
Initially I wanted to deny all of my changes. I was hoping that they would leave as quickly as they had arrived. In my mind, I saw myself only as I had been at my “ideal” body weight and I resolved to not be happy until I was back at that same weight. But I was miserable in limbo. And at the rate I was going, I wasn’t sure when things were going to change. I had to look in the mirror and accept who I am now rather than trying to stuff myself into my old ideal.
I’m all about being healthy and I’m not suggesting giving up on bettering yourself. What I am saying is that when we are doing everything that we can to be the best, healthiest version of ourselves, there comes a point where we have to acknowledge that bodies change and that society’s ideal persona may not match our body. Accept where you are at now, the good & the not so great, and dress according to that stage, not the stage that you were at or want to be at.
REALIZE THAT YOU HAVE POSITIVE FEATURES
We ladies can list off our negative features without batting an eye but we have a harder time with our positive features. I remember being a young teen and looking in the mirror, silently affirming my worst features. Not surprisingly, they outnumbered the good things. I also remember not feeling sad about it. It was more matter-of-fact, like a way of life.
Every woman that I had ever known had their own list. It was like a rite of passage into womanhood, destined to hate parts of your body. This mentality causes us to dwell on our most unbecoming features and generally, loathe ourselves with never a moment of contentment. It doesn’t do to compare or be jealous of what others have that you lack. What about all of the beautiful things about you? I challenge you to look in the mirror and find positive things rather than negative. Pretty eyes. Great complexion. Nice legs. Be proud of those things rather than focusing on what you don’t like as much.
CHANGE YOUR BEAUTY STANDARDS
I’m not going to lie and say that negative features don’t exist, because I don’t want to see my cellulite much less share it with the world. I wholeheartedly believe that there is an appropriate way to dress no matter what size or shape you are. But there is a big difference between dressing appropriately and covering up your flaws. If we’re going to address our flaws, we have to address our beauty standards and where they came from. A lot of us have these social standards ingrained in us because it’s what we grew up observing and abiding by. Some standards are common sense, like not going out in public naked. To each their own on personal rights but I will never have the desire to be anything less than clothed in public!
But other standards are more superficial, like sporting this month’s eyebrow trend and wearing the right color of jeans. I’m sorry but these eyebrows aren’t growing any thicker and I will wear white jeans whenever I feel like it. 99.9999% of us cannot conform our bodies into society’s ever changing superficial standard because those standards have been photo-shopped and edited to an unattainable “perfection”. So you know what, society can keep their standard. Why do we try to change the beautifully unique person that God created us to be to instead match up with a photo shopped standard that we can never be? It’s frustrating and demeaning. We are created for so much more than that.
BE CONFIDENT IN WHO YOU ARE
I think we can all agree that we don’t prefer cellulite and muffin top. I have a tendency to look at my not so pretty features as failures—things that I let slip. But think about how you got those. Do you have stretch marks because your body carried, nurtured, and birthed your children? Is that weight a reminder of how hard you fight every day to beat PCOS? Do those callouses reveal how selflessly you work to serve and support your family? We can make our bodies work so HARD. Carrying our children, working long hours, fighting hard against a chronic illness—these are the real stories of real women. It can show in your body and it may not meet the criteria of society’s kind of beautiful. These things do not make you ugly or less than perfect. In fact it’s the opposite.
They tell the story of who you are, what you’ve accomplished, and what you’ve sacrificed. We go through so many chapters in life. I for one, am hoping that my “large and in charge, PCOS dominant” status is just one of many chapters. I am working hard to better myself, to make my body healthier & stronger so that I can be the best version of myself. That doesn’t mean that I hate this chapter of my life.
In fact, this chapter is teaching & growing me so much as an individual. I’m finding opportunities to be real with and encourage other women as well as learning control, discipline, balance, and deepening my perspective of true beauty. So the tire around my waist and the acne flare-ups that PCOS has gifted to me, I may not want them to stick around forever but I love what they have contributed to my growth as a person. I have nothing to be ashamed of and neither do you. I want to transform how I look at those features. Rather than seeing flaws I want to see experiences and stories.
BE CONFIDENT IN WHOSE YOU ARE
Most importantly, be confident in Whose you are. As believers, we have someone greater than ourselves to rely on for truth and what a gift that is! If all other methods fail, we can come back to the fact that in His perfect wisdom, God created us.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am FEARFULLY & WONDERFULLY made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” Psalm 139:13-14
Your big smile, impossibly thick hair, and love for dogs–that wasn’t an accident. God put that combo together intentionally.
But God took it a step further and sent his own Son to die on the cross as a sacrifice…for YOU. So that YOU do not have to remain dead in your sins. So that YOU can have a relationship with Him. So that YOU can spend eternity with Him.
Now, if that doesn’t tell you that God loves you for all that you are–dead in sin with cellulite and funky eyebrows–than I don’t know what would convince you. If we truly have faith and believe in God, that includes having faith and believing what God has declared about us as individuals–as His creation.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7
I love so much that God sees us fully, exactly as we are. He sees past the ever changing physical appearance–the good, the bad, the ugly–and looks at the heart. We can’t fool Him into thinking we’re great because we’re wearing a cute, new sweater or got a new hair cut. He knows us personally and deems us beautiful by what’s on the inside. We can’t always help the physical stuff, so personally I find it comforting that God doesn’t base my beauty on my triple chin or my big feet. I am beautiful because of who I am in Christ and how I am growing to be more like Him.
If you take away nothing else from this post, please remember this…
The right perspective of ourselves doesn’t begin with self-love, it begins with a right perspective of God.
When we are focused on God, everything else falls into place. The way we see ourselves (and our entire worldview for that matter) starts with our belief of who God is. Therein is the key to peace in your self-esteem.
I’m still going to talk about clothes, make-up, and all that fun stuff in the next post–never said there was anything wrong with all of that. But for now I’m just going to let that last thought sink in–it’s still sinking in for me.
Thanks for stopping by the blog today–it means so much to me that you did. I know that this is such a big topic to discuss, so I’d love to hear your thoughts! Oh, and stop back soon for the follow-up on this convo. Talk to you soon! xx