What does it mean to truly love yourself? For the larger half of my life, I struggled with this. I would look in the mirror and notice all my imperfections first. I would sit down and pinch the rolls of my stomach. I would try on clothes that were too small and get discouraged at the places where they squeezed, hugged, and accented my insecurities. I would obsess over photos of me, finding every little thing that was ‘wrong.’
I was in a continual state of ‘not good enough.’
There were so many things I wanted to change, to mold, to fix.
I was looking at myself through the eyes of the media, of celebrities, of silly Photoshopped characters I saw on TV—everyone and anyone who had an opinion (especially my self-sabotaging self). I was searching for acceptance through my outward, physical appearance. And I was basing my self-worth on my body alone.
I’m not sure exactly when my perspective started to shift, but it was around the time I broke up with a long-term boyfriend and started to work on myself and my faith. It was when I began turning my negative energy to positivity. When I started smiling in the mirror instead of nit-picking every scar, hair, and blemish. When I began running, not to punish myself, but for the pure enjoyment of it. When I stopped restricting, stopped obsessing over every meal, stopped counting every calorie and instead began to accept that I loved to eat and it was okay, healthy even, to eat.
I started feeling self-love when I reminded myself that I was God’s creation, wonderfully made in His image, flaws and fat rolls and imperfections and all.
It was a slow, slow process. But I began looking at myself with love rather than hate. I began feeding myself healthy food and healthy words of encouragement, celebrating curves and hips and stretchmarks and laugh-lines and scars and cheeseburgers. (God bless cheeseburgers.)
I started to read more Bible verses about being a woman. I went on long runs to find my rhythm and endurance. I pushed myself at the gym to reach and to exceed my limits. I prayed, and took pictures that I didn’t hate, and smiled at my reflection in the mirror.
I told myself I was beautiful—not perfect—but beautiful all the same. Because being beautiful is not dependent upon the standards of the world or the negative words in my head. Beauty comes from God.
And in my little journey, one thing I’ve realized is that being a Christian and loving your body don’t have to live on opposite ends of the spectrum. You don’t have to choose between being a follower of God and being confident in your own skin.
In all honestly, I think some believers have it wrong. Some Christian (women, especially) think that you have to be modest and hidden and secretive about your body, forever keeping it from the world because to show it would be a sin.
I don’t agree.
Of course being a women of faith comes with a natural sense of modesty, which is positive. Obviously flaunting your body in provocative ways or being ‘showy’ in what could be considered a ‘sexual’ or ‘suggestive’ manner might not be the best representation of your faith. But this doesn’t mean you have to hide your body to be ‘less of a temptation’ or to be a more ‘honorable’ woman. Those are negative, society-created, self-restricting terms, and not how God sees you.
I firmly believe that you can love both your body and your God. And that as daughters of Christ, we are encouraged to celebrate our bodies, as we are His creations.
Which, in my eyes, means you wear what makes you feel good. And if that’s a bikini because you’ve been hitting the gym and feel like you (finally!) have that summer beach body—go for it. If that means a conservative dress because you feel that represents who you are as a woman—by all means, girl! Do you!
There are no concrete rules for how to dress as a contemporary Christian woman. Yes, there are Bible verses that say, “She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” (Proverbs 31:25), but does that explicitly mean you are ‘less dignified’ or ‘less of a woman of faith’ if you wear a cocktail dress out on a Saturday night or a tank-top in the summer? Heck no.
In today’s world, we’re left to our own interpretations of the Bible, which can be tricky. But when we read verses like, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:10) and “So God created human beings[a] in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27), I honestly believe that we must also remember being created by Him and in His likeness means we should celebrate ourselves and the way He’s made us.
We were created in His image—our bodies, our muscles, our curves, our breasts, our butts, our wrinkles, our rolls, our smiles, our shoulders. Instead of hiding, we should stand proudly and confidently.
A few weeks ago, I had a wonderful conversation with fellow Christian and friend, Maddie James, who is the curator of the Facebook page Everyday Beauty, and artist who specializes in nude sketches of Christian women. When I first started talking to her, I was honestly very resistant. A million questions were rolling around my mind and I couldn’t understand how her craft—drawing naked women—could honor her or her subjects’ Christian faith. Didn’t this flirt on the line of pornography? And aren’t we, especially as Christian women, supposed to keep our bodies sacred and hidden? I was toying with these world-imposed questions in my head.
But Maddie said this, and I’ll honestly never forget it, as it’s what made me realize my own passion for this subject of self-love and God-love:
“Our ideas of perfection are distorted and warped. We have taken what He called ‘very good’ and called it pornographic.
Along with my desire for every Christian woman to see herself as a masterpiece, is my desire to see Christians forsake the pornographic view of the human form. Especially American Christians seem to view any and all presentation of the human figure, and especially the female form, as pornography.
My heart’s desire is to reclaim a right Biblical understanding of the body for the kingdom. I long for Christian women to see their own bodies as innocent, pure, and holy, just as so much of classical art portrays the body as innocent and beautiful.”
And wow, isn’t she right?
For some reason we’ve been conditioned to see our female bodies as pornographic, as ‘tempting’ as ‘sinful’ as ‘dirty’ as ‘lustful’ or even as objects. We’ve shifted so far from God’s original view of us—as perfect in His eyes—to thinking that there’s so much of ourselves to fix, to improve, to change, and to hide.
But that’s not how He sees us, or wants us to see ourselves.
And it’s about time we changed that view.
So I don’t know where you are on your journey of self-love. Maybe you’re like how I was, staring at your reflection with disgust. Maybe you’re recovering from an abusive relationship, trying to regain a sense of self. Maybe you’re confused about who you are or how to feel. Maybe you’re just beginning to wear clothes that make you feel good. Or maybe you’re trying to balance your faith and your sense of confidence without seeming like you’re trying to attract attention in a negative way.
I just want to encourage you.
Loving yourself doesn’t mean you’re putting yourself over God. He wants you to love yourself—body, soul, brain. Wearing a cute, maybe slightly low-cut top because you love the way it looks doesn’t mean you’re less of a Christian or that you’re ‘seeking attention’ or ‘focused on the wrong things.’ There is no rulebook for this, no how-to manual for being a contemporary Christian woman.
But there is the Bible, where God says this, “And I want women to be modest in their appearance. They should wear decent and appropriate clothing and not draw attention to themselves by the way they fix their hair or by wearing gold or pearls or expensive clothes. For women who claim to be devoted to God should make themselves attractive by the good things they do.” (1 Timothy 2: 9-10) which reminds us that our worth and beauty are based upon the way we love God and others—not on the clothes we wear or the accessories we adorn.
Our bodies are not the sole representation of our identities or what kind of Christians we are. The way we live out our faith and love for God is.
So on the days you’re trying to navigate this journey of self-love, on the days where you’re learning how to define who you are in both His eyes and your eyes, on the days you’re slipping into that dress, that skirt, that cute outfit and questioning whether you should—remember that you are loved by Him not because of what is on the outside, but because of who you are inside.
You are loved not because of your body, but because of your soul. And because you are His, and always will be.
So be free, shine bright, and walk in His ways.
You are His creation, fearfully and wonderfully made.