Last Updated on March 20, 2018

In early childhood, I was a tad bit chubby. Some people pointed out that it was baby fat. Others felt they were doing me a favor by citing that it was caused by my love of peanut butter. One day in preschool, I sat in a lunch room and listened to all the older kids debate why I had a rounded tummy.

When I was eight, my mother took me to our favorite clothing store to buy a new dress. I skipped over all the shorts and pants — I refused to wear those because they made me look fat, although I lacked the sophistication to voice this to my mother. We made our purchase and had almost escaped when the store’s owner asked me to try on a new shipment. He thought I would look adorable in this little capri outfit. I fussed and refused, but my mother won. In utter humiliation, I pulled on the capris and refused to stare at my (perceived) enormous thighs in the mirror. I hated myself in that outfit. I just knew I was fat and ugly.

Despite what I just shared from my childhood memories, it may surprise you that I’ve been relatively thin most of my life. I look back at pictures, and if I didn’t know it was me, I would think the girl was thin and in good shape, maybe even too skinny at times. I’ve spent years soul-searching to figure out why I have such an obsession with my weight. Back when I owned a scale, I became a slave to it, weighing myself 10 or 20 times a day. A pound up could crush me and ruin my entire outlook. A pound down and I was elated. The same goes for clothes.

Were they loose? Good day ahead. Were they tight? I spent (and sometimes still do spend) half my time wallowing in self-loathing. Again, I ask why?

I could cite a myriad of reasons: media, jealousy of others, needing control, pursuit of elusive perfection … I could go on. But as I analyze each of these, I realize they all have a common root: fear — fear I do not fit in, fear others will reject me, fear if I gain one pound I will gain 50, fear if I am imperfect then I am unworthy. … But it all comes down to fear.

I do not blame others or point fingers for this fear, but it is something I must confront. It manifested itself in other areas: desiring too much attention from the opposite sex, wearing too much makeup too young, controlling what I ate, and acting controlling toward others. Eventually it spiraled into a cycle of fasting and extreme exercise.

I believe all the fasting, exercising, and other behaviors have had a negative impact on me physically. I have GI issues and deal with daily pain in my joints and muscles, yet that does not stop me from sliding back into fear mode. The worse my stress becomes, the more negative my thinking becomes.

I have had to make adjustments for my high-stress personality. I must understand my limits. I need more sleep than the average person, and I cannot say yes to everything. I take a daily medication for anxiety and depression to help with the physical pain. Busyness does not improve my outlook. I need quiet time, and I need to spend time daily reading the Bible.

When those fears of imperfection come, the ultimate help for me is to focus on who I am in God’s eyes — an imperfect person who has been absolved through the only perfect person to have ever lived: Jesus. In addition, I have been given a life with an autistic child that is so far out of my control, I cannot even attempt to make it all work in my narrow view of perfection.

I share this with you so you can recognize this pattern in yourself, your child, or someone else around you. May the grace of the only perfect One be with you.

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  1. Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt! I found it very healing to figure out what was at the bottom of my unhealthy relationship with food and body image problems, and then deal with that, and not the symptoms. But, I still have issues, like you said, with fears of imperfection, of letting people down, and just general anxiety. I believe most women with eating disorders, who are too thin, who starve themselves, or purge themselves, are self-loathers who need to really learn about the grace of God and experience it. It's real, and it make all the difference in the world. We women can be too hard on ourselves, and on each other. But, that's just my opinion!

    1. Thanks, Suzanne!

      Your comment is full of hard-earned wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thank you, Jennifer! I so enjoy reading your writings! Sometimes I still feel like a teenager when I fall back into self-image struggles. You mentioned some physical issues… for a long time I thought my physical issues were a result of my unhealthy lifestyle (not eating enough, poor food choices, etc) when I was a teenager… I, too have GI issues, joint and muscle pain, extreme fatigue, anxiety (and more). I do think my past habits made my body more prone to these in my struggle with Chronic Lyme Disease. The illness started almost 20 years ago after a rock climbing trip… it took a long time to figure out that it was Lyme Disease. I mention it to you only because the symptoms you shared are so similar and Lyme seems to take our bodies weaknesses and prey on them. I guess I thought if there was a chance it could be that, you might find some other things could help alleviate some of the pain (though I will say it is a rocky path with lots of stumbles trying to figure things out). There is more I could share, but it seems strange to write it all here… if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me.

    Thank you for so willingly sharing your heart with us readers!! You are such an encouragement to me!!