When I was younger I thought I had to be skinny and look a certain way for people to like me. Don’t ask me why I needed to be liked so much. That’s a question for my therapist. Needless to say I did my best to make my body fit what my mind told me I had to be. I did some pretty unhealthy things to succeed in my goals. I was pretty hard on myself. Time passed and I met my sweetheart and was blessed with a family. In those years I did a lot of growing. I was finally satisfied with my life. And I finally told that little voice in my head that whispered that I had to be skinny to be important to go stuff it. I accepted myself. I had worked so SO hard to be a mom, that my permanently 4 months pregnant belly now felt like a badge of honor. Still there are times that I can’t help but wish for an ideal figure. It’s a normal human weakness, I know. But then I had an awesome experience. I got to go to Hawaii.
Have you ever been to Hawaii, or another similar tropical place? People don’t wear clothes. Well, they cover the essentials, but it’s nothing like what I was used to. But you know what I learned in Hawaii amongst the clothing averse? I learned that most of us are pudgy. And I learned that even with that extra weight most of us still look pretty good in a bathing suit. We don’t have to be Victoria’s Secret models to be confident. The human body is beautiful! And we need to relax and appreciate it for what it is. It’s a powerful tool to help us experience this world, and learn the lessons we need to return back to our Heavenly Father.
Not everyone would agree with me. I remember walking down the Lanai of the hotel and passing a high end skin care store. You know the kind. The one who only hires those with exotic accents and a tenacious selling style that turns a simple handshake into a $2,000 sale. I made the mistake of saying hello to the guy standing in the doorway. And before I knew it he had me in a chair and was smearing mystery cream on my face. He pronounced that I needed X for the crow’s feet I didn’t know I had. He said I needed Y to remove sunspots and shrink my huge pores. And then he grabbed my face and began pulling on my cheeks and eyes and neck. He told me that if I was willing to pay for it he had something that would give me a nonsurgical face lift. He made it seem imperative that I have everything in the store! I was nearly sucked in. And after leaving his clutches I was baffled that he would label me, and try to build insecurities in my heart, just to make a buck. But my eyes were opened. How many magazines and ads scream the same thing at us everywhere we go?
I’m a product of my generation. I learned what I was supposed to look like from the magazine racks. It wasn’t until I was an adult and had my own child that I began to see what real people look like. My vision of physical perfection was absolutely unattainable, and I didn’t even know it. No wonder I was always so hard on myself! Did you know that a few years ago the newest hot model that took Fashion Week by storm was a 14 year old BOY in drag? After I learned that I threw my hands up and completely gave up on the fashion world. I still dress stylishly, but I’ve stopped trying to fit the shape that retailers are trying to sell. And I’ve started trying to love myself the way I am. Not the me I will be when I lose weight, the me right now. As I’ve done so, it’s became clear to me that we ALL need to do the same thing. Everyone is beautiful, and everyone has gifts and strengths to be proud of. We aren’t here on Earth to focus on perfecting our physical form. But I think that is exactly what the Adversary wants us to do. Because what better way to distract us from what really matters? We are here to become like our Heavenly Father. But when we are obsessed with our looks we can’t function like we are supposed to. Its only when we relax and let go and focus outward that we begin to feel the true joy of service. When we forget ourselves and serve the Lord our insecurities fall away. And we are filled with His light and His love. There is nothing more healing.
Last week I heard one more little phrase that has cemented itself in my mind, and seems to be adding to this new found philosophy. Someone mentioned something called Self Compassion. As I pondered this concept I realized how truly powerful it is. I looked in the mirror and I saw why we need to have it to really gain stronger self esteem. Let me illustrate what I mean. At one point in our lives we are all at our peak. We are in our teens and twenties and we are feeling invincible and enjoying the adventure of finding our way in the world. We don’t think much about 20-50 years down the road and what changes we will experience in that time. But time sneaks up on us. And suddenly we are shocked by what we see in the mirror. Guess what? That is the way it’s supposed to be. Time changes us. It makes muscles softer, and skin baggier. It turns babies into adults and adults into old men. But it also makes hearts softer, and life fuller. This world is temporary, and I am only now beginning to catch on to what that really means. It means my obsession early in life with being skinny was misguided. And it means that illnesses, disease, and loss of major body parts, isn’t a permanent condition. It means that one of these fine days we will be resurrected whole and new and THAT body will be perfect. And until then, we need to have compassion on ourselves. We need to love our bodies as they are, and allow our minds and hearts to seek the growth of talents and relationships that will have eternal and lasting significance. Crow’s feet are an accessory that not everyone lives long enough to earn. And grand children (I hear) are even more beloved than children. My child is currently 6, and the light of my life, so that is pretty amazing to me. And it’s also far along the horizon at the moment. But when I relax about my looks and strengthen my soul, when I let myself be imperfect and enjoy the ride, I begin to see how wonderful those days will be. And instead of fighting the clock I can love every passing minute and see the joy that is building as I continue on life’s journey.
So I challenge you to do the same. Look in the mirror, have compassion on yourself, and focus on building your insides. Develop a talent, help a loved one, join a club, make a friend. Enjoy this life we have and stop being so hard on yourself. One day you’ll have a perfect body, but it’s not going to be today. And that’s ok!
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.