I grew up in a loving home with two parents, who are still married, and two younger sisters who are my best friends. We lived in an affluent area and were fortunate enough to attend private school from pre-K to 12th grade. We enjoyed a lot of privileges and my parents sacrificed a lot to make those happen.
Starting in 4th grade I remember my mom yelling at me about seemingly small things, like accidentally leaving a book at school or not wearing a “mom-approved” outfit to church. When a pimple popped up on my face, I wasn’t “taking care of my body.” Her harsh responses did not match the nature of the incident. But I thought all moms responded in a similar way. In order to avoid her anger, I strived for perfection.
As I entered middle school, I encountered more pressures while trying to navigate the awkwardness of puberty. All the girls started to fill out, but I was a late bloomer. My mom bought me a larger bra so I could “fit in.” Of course, it was VERY obvious since one day I was flat and the next I wasn’t, which only made the teasing worse. Instead of feeling more comfortable in my own skin, my mom’s message through purchasing the bra said my appearance and fitting in mattered the most.
These interactions continued through high school. I grew eight inches in one summer to be 5’11 which of course leaned me out. As a cheerleader and straight A student, I appeared to have it all but deep down I believed how I looked wasn’t good enough. The area I grew up in played a part, but the biggest influence came through what I absorbed at home. Like most daughters, I love my mom, but these behaviors significantly, and negatively, shaped my view of myself.
As I entered college, with newfound freedom, I put on a little weight the first semester, and then a little more, and then a little more. I dreaded the comments accompanying every trip home or every visit. “I can’t believe that doesn’t fit you anymore. . .All of your other friends have managed to stay trim.” The sting of so many hurtful words continued into my early and mid-20s. I was even told if I lost weight, my parents would buy me a new car. Even though so much emphasis was placed on my appearance, I never once doubted my parents’ unconditional love. Although my mom’s love was unconditional, her acceptance and approval became conditional on the number on the scale and the size of my jeans.
The enemy had a foothold and I believed his lies:
“Is my weight all people see when they look at me?” Yes.
“Is that why I’m single.” Yes. You’re not desirable. Men care about outward appearance. If I was thinner, I’d be married.
Once I’m at my goal weight, then I can start living to my fullest potential.
I’ll never get victory is this area. This will always be my story. It will always be my struggle.
Believing these lies affected how I carried myself. I sought approval from men and entered into relationships I should not have. I did not know my worth, so I constantly settled for less than God’s best. There were times I said no to events because I didn’t feel beautiful enough to attend, even though I am an extremely outgoing person. I am energized by social connections but there were seasons I allowed shame and fear to steal this from me.
The lies trickled into my work life. I battled constant insecurity that clients and coworkers wouldn’t take me seriously because… how could I be good at my job if I couldn’t even manage my own weight, or maybe they think I’m lazy because I don’t look like I work out. None of these things have ever even been said to me by a coworker! But once I started believing one lie the rest became easier.
I am a words of affirmation person, so my spiritual enemy, Satan, used someone in my life who was supposed to affirm and speak life over me to deeply wound me. The Bible says the devil is cunning; he had a foothold and I allowed him to exploit it. I wish I could say I don’t still struggle. I do. I am learning to cling to God’s promises and remind myself who He says I am.
Isaiah 43:1b-4 (The Message, emphasis mine)
“Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end — Because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.”
“I made you, I created you.” Psalm 119:73
“You are my gift to the world.” Psalm 127:3
“I made you wonderful.” Psalm 139:14
I have been blessed with incredible friends, including my sisters and mentors, who have spoken life into me. They’ve walked along side me through the tears, anger, and depression. They have replaced the lies with beautiful truths and positivity. They point me and draw me closer to God. I also have walked through counseling to heal from the painful words and learn to set boundaries in unhealthy relationships.
I began to pray for my mom and our relationship as I healed. I wanted the Lord to give me His eyes for her. Several years ago, we reached a turning point. She shared something painful she endured as a child which was never dealt with, causing some of her anger and control issues. My heart softened over time and my anger and bitterness transformed into compassion. I forgave her, recognizing she too battled her own insecurities and I had unintentionally become a casualty of that battle.
I’m a work in progress. I still have boundaries in place. My mom and I don’t go shopping or eat meals together. These boundaries exist for the benefit of both of us, giving us a healthier relationship. I struggle with anxiety before family gatherings. I eat beforehand and try to wear my most slimming outfit. As I said, I’m a work in progress. I’ve come to recognize I don’t have to carry her, or anyone else’s, insecurities. My imperfections will never override God’s promises. I haven’t missed out on what was meant for me. My past does not define me. My weight does not define me. I am Worthy. I am Chosen. I am Loved. I am His.