Countless articles promote the idea that you are beautiful just the way you are. “Be satisfied with the body God gave you.” “Love yourself.” “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
There are studies of the psychological benefits of being happy with yourself, statistics about how many people aren’t, and expositions on how to be content. But I believe they all miss a very important point: the effect your self-image has on other people.
A few days ago, my four year old sister was playing in my room and randomly started doing all the stretches and exercises she knew. I smiled at her pushups and the way she flicked her hair out of her face with a serious expression. But my smile disappeared when she told me that she was doing it so that she could have a “little tummy.”
This girl doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body, but she decided that she needed to exercise so that she could look better. That her tummy wasn’t little enough. What on earth possessed her to think that?
There are, of course, the TV shows, toys, and ads to point to. She was born into a world that teaches her to look a certain way – to get there however she can.
But what about the people around her?
I would like to propose the idea that when you show contempt for your body and appearance, it has a real effect on those around you. How many times has my sister seen me look in the mirror and say it’ll have to do for the day? It’s obviously stuck with her.
The way we look at ourselves says a lot about who we are and other people pick up on that. When a girl that you think is especially pretty complains about the way she looks, your heart falls a bit. If she isn’t good enough, how could you ever be?
1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build one another up.” It’s not encouraging to lead someone into discontent with how they look.
I’m especially speaking to those of us with younger siblings. Part of our job is to set the example for them in godliness. They do follow us, whether we realize it or not. They look up to us and want to be like us, and we must turn that to their benefit. It pained me to hear my sister talking about why she wanted to exercise. I don’t want her to think that way about herself. But that way of thinking is a direct reflection of the people she is around, including me.
How do you want your friends, siblings, peers to view themselves? Set an example in that, not in dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Encourage them and build them up by having a healthy view of yourself. They’ll catch on.