I was 10 years old on vacation visiting family. It was an unofficial family reunion. It was always pretty cool to see my family from all over congregate at my grandma’s house in Mexico. Lots of food, lots of games and lots of fun.
“Let’s race!” someone shouted. Of all the games that we played, that was the one I hated. “Take large steps,” my sister would whisper in my ear. As if that was really going to help.
I ran and watched my cousin whiz by me, touch the pole and whiz right by me again on the way back. And then someone else wanted to race me. These types of things created insecurity in me. It wasn’t too hard to beat this fat kid. All my other cousins were thin, and I only wished I was thin.
My saving grace was in junior high, when I starting growing vertically. By the beginning of my freshman year in high school, I was a full 6 feet 1 inch. But I was only tall for a little bit before I got round again. My appetite didn’t change, and once again I was a fat kid. I always imagined myself thin in the future though. I thought something would change and I would lose some weight. But summer after summer, first day of school after first day of school, nothing changed.
Until the summer before my senior year.
I finally said, “Okay, this is the last summer I’ll ever have in high school; I need to make something happen.” And I did. I started running. I hated running. It’s the whole reason I never played basketball even though I liked it.
But I was determined.
I started watching what I ate and ran several days a week. I had no real plan other than just eat less and run. It worked. My body was not used to that stress, and I lost around 30 pounds over the summer. I continued to lose another 10 during the school year, and for once I was less than 200 pounds (barely under). I use to work at a grocery store, and as regular customers came, they saw the gradual change and complimented me.
The funny thing is that I didn’t really notice I was losing weight. I noticed it mainly by the way people responded. When I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see much of a difference. Maybe it was due to my vantage point or because I saw me every day, or both. But when I looked at pictures, I did notice my body. I always avoided taking pictures because I never liked what I saw. But 40 pounds later, the mirror image still looked the same to me.
I think today we’re more aware of our flaws because of the new era of smart phones and culture. The “selfie” era. We’re taking pictures at a moment’s notice with our phones so we can post them on some social network.
“Nope, that’s ugly; please delete that.”
“Okay, I don’t like how that looks; take it again.”
“No, it’s not coming out right; forget it.”
Being more aware of how I looked made me more unsatisfied with any physical accomplishment such as losing 40 pounds. It just wasn’t enough. I still didn’t have a flat stomach. I had stretchmarks because of my quick weight loss. And God forbid I walk in front of my bedroom mirror shirtless. I would just look away as I quickly passed by. Other times, I would force myself to look and stare. “Fat ___,” I would say in frustration of what I saw.
Wearing a shirt didn’t make much of a difference. I’d stop in the mirror and stand sideways, I’d straighten up, and then I’d put my hand over my stomach, trying to convince myself that the padding in front of my abs wasn’t that bad.
Fourteen years have passed since high school. I’ve had two serious relationships within that time frame. And there’s two things that I learned concerning looks:
1) My looks didn’t matter to them as much as my character did.
2) You can be in a relationship with an extremely beautiful person and still be extremely miserable about the way you look.
Now, I don’t put as much value in my body and the way look as I used to. And that’s good, because as I’ve gotten older and some of the padding has crept up, it’s become harder to remove. I do continue to work out and make goals in terms of physique and weight, but now it’s more for health reasons and less about finding myself acceptable.
You’ll never be satisfied with a physical standard. You’ll always find something flawed about yourself. And for some of us, there are some things that we can’t change. It’s not that God made you wrong, but culturally you’ve been told that he did. 1 Samuel 16:7 says that God looks at the heart while man looks at the outside.
A skewed view of how I saw myself is a skewed view of how Christ sees me.
I had low self-esteem partly because I did not like the way I wanted to look. It led me to indulge in other addictions in my life. When I finally understood His grace—I mean really understood that he just wanted my heart—it changed the way I saw everything.
It’ll change how you see yourself and how you see others.
I stopped compromising on the heart in lieu of looks in a potential mate. Although I do at times struggle with only seeing someone as “pretty” or “good looking,” my continued prayer to my Savior is that He makes the heart my standard of beauty.
That prayer won’t just change who you date or how you see yourself, but it’ll also change your life.
Yeah, I have physical and health goals, but it doesn’t consume me anymore. So when I see that fat kid in the mirror, I smile and wave at him. And then I go about my day with the grace and freedom that I have in Christ.