Now, more so than ever, we live in a society where appearance seems more important than inner character. How we look and feel about our physical appearance isn’t a struggle only women face. Media platforms like TikTok and Instagram are challenging men to raise the bar on their physical looks as well.
Where should believers draw the line? When do we say enough? More importantly: Do you struggle with a negative body image?
What Causes Someone to Struggle with Body Image?
Unfortunately, culture’s standards of beauty impact women and men struggling with body image. You need only turn on the television or flip through a magazine for the bombardment of what’s acceptable to begin.
Prevailing beauty standards on social media don’t help. Beauty influencers tell you how to look. Bodybuilders flex big muscles. It’s no wonder we can fall into feeling unworthy or unattractive.
At our core, humans want to be fully accepted. We want to feel worthy and be liked by others. But when the world affects your self-esteem and body image. When the media, in all its forms, tells you what you need to look like in order to be accepted, anyone’s self-worth can crumble:
- I am not thin, therefore I am not attractive enough.
- I am not strong, therefore I am not man enough.
- I am not pretty enough, therefore no one will love me.
On and on, negative feelings of unworthiness begin to overwhelm you. Your mind begins to fixate on physical appearance or flaws.
Think back to when your parents, friend, or spouse paid you a compliment on your appearance. An affirming word is medicine to the soul.
How Social Media Impacts Self-Worth
Because we live in a high-tech world, a fallen world’s standard of beauty is within hand’s reach. Beauty influencers
abound on a variety of social media platforms. Instagram now defines today’s beauty standards. If the pressure to be attractive were not so, Tik Tok wouldn’t need the “Perfect Face” filter.
Almost subconsciously, our minds begin to transmit negative thoughts related to body image: “You are not attractive enough. You are not worthy.” Fixating on achievable appearance standards can lead to lower self-esteem levels. Having a negative body image can lead to detrimental behaviors including undereating, mild depression, or a mental condition known as body dysphoria.
When Negative Body Image Leads to Body Dysphoria
According to Webster’s Dictionary, body dysphoria is a pathological preoccupation with an imagined or slight physical defect of one’s body to the point of causing significant stress or behavioral impairment. People who battle body dysphoria see themselves as ugly.
Some symptoms include:
- Looking at oneself in the mirror constantly.
- Comparing your appearance with others frequently.
- Avoiding gatherings or other people because you don’t like how you appear.
Psychologists will diagnose and create a plan to treat body dysphoria through medication and cognitive therapy.
When Should Believers Draw the Line?
When the world’s standard of beauty begins to have a negative impact on your individual identity, you must draw the line. Consider these indicators of low self-worth:
- Are you unable to accept a compliment?
- Do you compare your physical appearance to others?
- Do you focus on your physical flaws?
- Do you over-groom or wear excessive amounts of make-up?
Beauty Standards in Ancient History
Idealized standards of beauty are ancient. In Greece, for example, physical beauty was valued. A woman’s beauty was focused on curves. Greek society prized strong, muscled men: the ideal shape to compete in the Olympic Games.
The Greek mathematician Pythagoras invented an architectural formula that lent itself to beauty and aesthetics. The more symmetrical and balanced a person’s face, the higher in physical appearance and rank. In Rome, one need only visit museums to understand how artists and sculptors idealized beauty standards by ideal proportions.
How Men are Affected by Appearance
In a recent New York Times story, Alex Hawgood reported how social media has led men to a phenomenon called bigorexia. Bigorexia is a mental condition where men who don’t feel muscular enough and follow strict eating protocols in order to become leaner and more muscular. Clearly, our flawed world’s standard of beauty isn’t only affecting women.
Appearance in the Bible
Humans—made in the image of God—take in the world with our five senses. And yet the idea of wanting something pleasing to the eye originates in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve ate fruit that appealed to their senses.
Consider Abraham: In his later years, he sent his servant to his native land to look for a suitable wife for his son Isaac. “The young woman was very attractive in appearance.” (Genesis 24:16, ESV).
Even the angel Lucifer–before being banished from heaven–was described as attractive in the Bible:
You were the signet of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering. – Ezekiel 28:11-13, ESV
The aforementioned examples tell us that created beings, whether angels or humans, were created with the ability to understand attractiveness and appeal. Thousands of years later, a fallen culture corrupts the cosmetic and beauty industries through mass marketing.
Because we live in a fallen world, we too can be influenced in achieving unattainable standards. As Christians, our bodies are not in the future state of spiritual perfection that God promises. Believers can be trapped in negative thinking regarding their body image.
Take Care of Your Own Temple
First Corinthians 6:19 NIV says, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” Although symbolic in meaning, taking care of your temple is not only important but a healthy part of grooming. Taking care of our physical bodies improves body image.
Enhancing your natural appearance through healthy eating habits and partaking in exercise will leave you feeling accomplished. These practices can improve your self-esteem. “So glorify God in your body,” verse 20 concludes.
Beloved of God, it is important to honor God with the temple he gave you. Your body is a gift and caring for yourself leads to the development of a healthier body image.
Should We Adapt to a Cosmetic Culture?
Alluring as it may be, saying yes to the word’s view of physical attractiveness will only lead to feelings of negativity. When it comes to your individual body image, it’s a good idea to create boundaries to protect your heart and mind.
If you begin adapting to unrealistic beauty standards, you are more prone to feeling lousy about your own appearance. Does this mean believers shouldn’t undergo cosmetic surgery? Maybe altering your physical appearance is something you can afford. Yet know that many have fallen into plastic surgery addiction.
If you have undergone a cosmetic enhancement, and are thinking about what else you can change about yourself, be aware that the mind of someone battling body dysphoria doesn’t consider the risks associated with cosmetic surgery.
End The Comparison Game
Comparison is a tendency most humans fall into, but when you begin comparing yourself with filtered and photoshopped women. When a steroid-pumped physique undermines your sincere efforts with natural body-building, it’s time for a full stop.
First Samuel 16:7 NIV tells us, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” If negative feelings of self-worth creep into your conscious, know this: it’s time for a heart check.
Create a Healthy Sense of Self
Take good care of the human temple with which God has graced you. Yet, be kind to yourself; don’t overdo it in the gym to keep up with the physical appearance of others. Exercise because it makes YOU feel great, not because you’re trying to measure your greatness against someone else’s. Scripture states that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. A fallen, distorted standard of what the world deems attractive is never good for your heart.
Four Simple Ways to Love Your Body:
- Unfollow beauty influencers who flood your mind with self-doubt.
- Cultivate true beauty in your inner character: kindness, gentleness, and confidence in the Lord.
- Write down encouraging Bible verses; tape them to your bathroom mirror or the dashboard of your car so you can meditate on them.
- Eat clean, unprocessed food; diets rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, and low-sugar lead to natural radiance and mental clarity.
Christian Counseling for Negative Body Image
If you are still suffering from a negative body image, a Christian counselor can help you dig into the roots of your problems. Perhaps there is unprocessed pain that drives your negative thoughts about your body. With a caring counselor’s help, you can overcome and begin to accept your value and worth from God.
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