An Open Letter: Thoughts on Eating Disorders, Self Esteem, and Body Image

August 19, 2015 0 Comments

One image that I won’t ever be able to get out of my mind is that of a young girl I passed while walking through the streets of Fremantle, Western Australia last December. I saw her at first from a distance and she stuck out from the crowd because she was incredibly thin, to the point where she looked sickly. Her limbs were like sticks and her collarbones stuck out dramatically from her chest. As we drew closer I couldn’t help but notice the cut marks all along her arms and her wrists…and what struck me even deeper was the sadness that I saw in her eyes. My heart broke for her. And I wanted more than anything to, in that moment, stop her, look her in the eyes and tell her that she is loved, worthy, and beautiful. I wondered if anyone had ever told her that.

It broke my heart because I know that she is just one of millions of other women out there who have a constant internal battle raging in their minds – a battle that has driven them to hate themselves, and that has kept them from being able to see their true value, beauty and worth.

I am so passionate about this because it is personal for me. For much of my teen years I struggled with body image issues. Few people could have ever known because I came off as a very confidant young woman, but deep down I had insecurities which eventually led to an over-exercise eating disorder. I felt that my healthy, curvy body didn’t meet the standard culture set for me (to be stick skinny) so at the age of seventeen I started running excessively and restricting my diet and very quickly developed an over-exercise eating disorder. I began losing more weight than was healthy for my body and quite honestly enjoyed the comments from people and the ability to fit into size zero jeans. Being thin and “fit” very quickly became an obsession and huge part of my identity. By cultures standards I was completely healthy. I had the perfectly slim and toned body that media depicted as healthy so I was never able to admit or even recognize that I had a disorder. But eventually I started to have serious physical repercussions from being so under weight and having so little body fat. I had to see doctors and specialists who could try to help me figure out what was happening and how I could get my body back up to a healthy weight. For much of that time I was still blind to it. It took my family and close friends being real with me to eventually discover the degree to which my desire to be “fit” and “healthy” had become an obsession. Once I saw it for what it was, I was humbled and broken and within a couple of years was able to get full freedom from my disorder.

I share this because I know my story is just one of many. I know there are millions of women out there who battle on a daily basis with their body image and have allowed the lies and message of media to shove them into a corner and make them feel horrible about themselves. AND that to me isn’t okay. That to me is an injustice. Because it is not the truth. I want more than anything for women to know the truth about themselves.

And in order to discover the truth about yourself you must understand that freedom doesn’t come through just “falling in love with yourself” as culture teaches. It comes instead through seeing yourself the way God sees you and being able to love yourself not out of some prideful vanity but solely because Christ first loved you. This is where true freedom came from in my own life and it was powerful. I absolutely love the way fellow blogger, Allie Marie Smith puts this. She says, “The truth is you haven’t been wired to fall in love with yourself, but to fall in love with the One who made you. In falling in love with our Maker, we will discover our true value. We can then love others and even ourselves because He first loved us.”

This is the foundation for everything and only when we discover this and make it a reality in our own lives will we be able to see our full true beauty. I look around at women in our culture who we label as beautiful primarily because they are sex-icons…Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna, etc. Their beauty is based in the validation of a culture at one fading moment in history. It is based on the size of their breasts, the circumference of their waist, and the shapeliness of their hips. They prance around television and magazine covers as if they own the world. As women passionately pursuing Christ, we possess the most epic beauty known to man yet we allow culture to shove us quietly into a corner and make us feel insecure the minute we don’t meet their definition of beauty.  I long to see women in the church redefine cultures standard of beauty. I for one want to be a woman who possesses the unfading beauty that scripture speaks of. To be gentle yet strong, humble yet confident, pure of heart yet understanding the role of my beauty and sexuality, servant-hearted yet a leader, meek yet a warrior… To be a woman that this world is not worthy of (Hebrews 11:38). And this is possible only through falling hopelessly in love with your Creator and allowing Him to transform your heart, your mind, and your perspective. You are loved, beautiful, and worthy because He first loved you.

Mandy Dobbelmann

Founder and editor of Forte E Bello. Mandy is writer, singer/songwriter, and music teacher with a love for life, people, adventure and living simply. She is passionate about using her gift for writing and music to be a voice for change.