For most of my life, I struggled with the idea of ever being able to love my body. My body always represented the many spoken and unspoken statements that had been introduced into my life starting at a young age.
The spoken messages were:
- “You have no brains, only a good body. The only thing you can do is be a prostitute or a stripper.”
- “Men only want women who are thin and look sexy.”
- “Fat people are disgusting, make sure you never get fat.”
There were also the unspoken messages.
- Men wanting only sex from me but no relationship.
- My abusers who were kind to me during times of sexual interaction but beat me most other times.
- My abusers tried to use my body for their profit.
How could I love a body that betrayed me and was a source of shame? I didn’t ask for this type of body. I didn’t ask for these messages and I could not control them or the people involved. Sometimes my body even betrayed me by allowing me to experience sexual feelings I didn’t want to feel during times of abuse.
For years I did many things to try and destroy my body. Contempt and self-harming behaviors were a way I tried to control the betrayal and hatred I felt. All my attempts to punish my body only reiterated what my abusers tried to convince me of—I believed my body was no good in itself and I had a difficult time reconciling how to look at myself differently. As time went on and I was out of my abuser’s physical control, I gained a lot of weight and again I knew I did not measure up. My body was a mess and I hated the way it looked!
Where could I go to be free of these messages that were so deeply imprinted on my heart and weaved throughout my very being? Could I ever be free to love my body the way I saw other people were loving of theirs?
I began asking God what He felt about me. I believed He created me even though, at the time, I wasn’t sure why. It was during this time that I made a choice to not let this issue drop and continued pursuing Him to see what truth looked like. That choice took me to the Bible where I could find the answers I needed through His word. God was the only source of truth that could convince me that I might be able to see myself in a different light.
It was only through God’s truths and what He said about me that was able to change the internal and external damage that was done to me. For example, God tells me in Psalm 139 that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. He created my inmost being, He knit me together in my mother’s womb for a purpose. The Lord of the universe created me! That in itself is too huge for me to fathom but it also is something that I should not take lightly. My purpose is not to destroy what He created. Instead, I can honor my body as a gift from God even when I don’t like how it operates or what it looks like.
“The spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63
God intentionally let me know that my spirit is more valuable to Him than my body.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at, man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7
Clearly, God does not define me by what my body looks like. The false identity that I had lived with my whole life, was passed down to me, and I had held onto it and allowed it to control my emotions and decisions. God showed me the ways I had allowed my body image to become an idol in my life.
I decided to put a stake in the ground and make my new ideas into something more than ethereal thinking. I decided to take a Barbie doll and bury it in a flower garden in my backyard. Burying the Barbie doll was a way of burying the false illusions and messages I had learned growing up and a tangible way to proclaim a new message. After I buried the Barbie, I planted a “Knockout Rose” to remind myself that I knocked out the false illusions that I was taught and had embraced as a younger child and woman.
Even though I don’t like the way my body looks now, I know that my body does not define who I am as a woman. It is only the shell that I temporarily live in. It is a gift from God that houses the deepest parts of me. It no longer matters what other’s think about my body, I know who God says I am and my desire is to live in that truth. Do I live it perfectly? No, but I have a garden with a beautiful rose bush to remind me of the precious truths that I learned.
Are there lies that you are not willing to let go of concerning your body? Do you truly want to be free? Are you willing to seek out God’s truth about you and put a stake in the ground to remind you of that truth? I pray that you do.
Ginger Taddeo, was a victim of childhood sexual and physical abuse for ten years. She now writes and speaks sharing hope with others who have suffered. Ginger is also involved with the ministry Freedom Challenge which is an organization that rescues women and children from human trafficking. She has been married for 35 years and has two grown, married children.