Yesterday, as I was going through my Pinterest outfit archives to save old outfit pictures for a remixed-items album on Facebook, I came across these pictures above and below, and they made me sad. Not because I was going through a bad time in any of these particular pictures or because the images themselves are depressing, but because I remember exactly what I thought of myself on any given day when these pictures were taken.
For just a moment, take a look with me at the girl in those pictures. These were taken about 2-1/2 years ago, and I had come to possibly the lightest weight I had ever been. Yet when I looked at myself on any given day, do you know what I saw?
I saw chubby.
I find it incredibly ridiculous now that I could have looked at myself then and thought I was anything but fit, yet there it was. I looked in the mirror, and I saw wide hips, chubby cheeks, a full jawline, a soft stomach, thick thighs, and a butt that had no business being so big. I saw cellulite on the backs of my legs, and fat accumulating on the sides of my knees. And yes, I also saw the small waist and the collarbones, but that wasn’t enough to convince me I still needed to lose weight.
You see, I have always, always struggled with my shape and the number on the scale. There was a time when I was overweight, and that demon never left me. Though I lost 40 pounds and went from a size 12 dress to a size 4, all I saw was the chubby girl who would always be 20 pounds heavier than her friends even on a good day. Though on the outside I looked good, on the inside, I was still this girl:
A girl who went against her yearnings to wear pretty things every day because that might make her stand out. A girl who felt ugly in the jeans and tee shirts she wore every day, but who was afraid to step out of that comfort zone because nobody else wore anything different, and she didn’t want to risk anyone just thinking she looked ridiculous. A girl who never felt comfortable in her own skin because she had jiggles where her friends were stick-straight, because she wore size 14 jeans when the other girls bemoaned having to go up to a 6, because she had once fallen into the habit of downing king-size candy bars and entire cans of Pringles in one sitting and gotten embarrassingly close to 200 pounds.
And yet, even when she finally shed the weight and discovered that people actually admired her for wearing skirts and dresses all the time, that girl above still stayed inside. The voice in her head never stopped telling her she would never be skinny because she would never reach that one number on the scale that all of her friends easily maintained.
And it’s true: even here, the scale told me I was 15 pounds over what most of my friends weighed, so I thought I was too heavy. I aspired to shed the hips and the butt and the thighs and the cellulite, to have a flatter stomach, to have more defined collarbones, and to finally reach that elusive goal weight.
At this point in time, I weighed 145 pounds. The BMI indicator told me I should be at least 135, if not 130. In my mind, my friends were all in the 125 range. All of these numbers quietly stayed on my mind, every day pulling my focus into how much cellulite I had, how long it would take to shed those pounds and reach my goal, how hopeless it seemed to ever have a truly good figure.
I didn’t obsess over my weight in the way you might think, though. As much as it might sound like I did, I could look at pictures of myself and see the good things. I was happy with my upper body, I thought I was pretty, I felt like I had a pretty darn good waist. But there was never a praise without the inevitable “but then there’s this…” comment. There was never acceptance of someone else’s compliment without the negative “yeah, well, you just haven’t seen me in shorts” thought.
And those elusive little numbers stuck with me through everything; through dating my husband, through the weight gain that comes with being in a happy relationship, through getting married and having him tell me over and over he didn’t want me to lose the butt I’ve never liked; nothing ever kicked the voice in my head telling me I still needed to reach that number, that my husband’s compliments were just because he didn’t know I could be better.
Nothing kicked those numbers out of my head, that is, until a little life started to grow inside me and push my body into a new shape, a shape it had never been before, a shape one generally does not associate with total confidence.
Somehow, something clicked in my brain, and I suddenly realized a very, very important thing: I no longer cared about the numbers.
Because here I am, currently pushing 185lbs, and those numbers no longer scare me. Obviously, most of it is pregnancy weight. But for a girl who felt defeated by a five pound weight gain at her lightest to suddenly be standing in her underwear in front of a full-length mirror admiring everything about her figure while she’s back at the very top of what she’s ever weighed, that’s a big thing.
And I want to say something to you, whoever you are reading this, wherever you are in life, whatever size you are, whatever size you want to be. Whether you think you’re too fat or too thin, whether you struggle with a number or a measurement, a ripple of cellulite or legs that just aren’t the shape you want them to be, I hope with all my heart this really clicks in your brain:
The numbers don’t matter.
The numbers on the scale are worthless. Those numbers were created by a company to appeal to and be useful to a consumer, then snatched up by the media, by corporations, by your peers, by everyone who could ever benefit from you being dissatisfied by what those numbers say, and twisted so that they somehow are supposed to encapsulate a thing they will never, ever be able to even remotely express: you.
The numbers on that scale cannot possibly ever express and represent you. They are just a basic measurement of your physical existence on this earth. They do not measure the brightness of your smile, the warmth of your voice, the sparkle of your eyes, the beauty that only you possess simply by being yourself.
They cannot tell the color of your eyes, the fullness of your lips, or the shine of your hair. They cannot dictate the way others will think of you, be affected by you, be attracted to you. They do not know the love you are given by family, the happiness you pass on to your friends, the quirks that make you interesting, nor the heart that makes you beautiful. They will never know the love of the God who created you just as you are. They cannot comprehend, when the time comes, the growth of another living being inside your own body.
They are nothing but a tool to tell you what the entire mass of your body –blood, muscle, water, organs, fat, and curves — amounts to on a numerical scale. That’s all.
I wish I had known this sooner. I see too many beautiful girls so caught up in the numbers that they do not think they will be worth anything until they reach that place where the world tells them they will be perfect. I know in myself it created a whirlpool of sadness and hopelessness and an unhealthy obsession and fixation on a number that I convinced myself I needed to reach.
But the numbers don’t matter. What does matter is this:
“For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” – Psalm 139:13b-14a
This hits home with me so much more because there is a little person being knitted together in my womb. It strikes me that just as he is beautiful, and wonderfully made, so am I, and so are you. Created to be exactly who you are, wonderful and full of mystery, fascinating and beautiful and loved, by a God who ultimately died out of His love for you.
Your worth is not about the numbers. Your worth will never be measured by the scale. Your worth cannot be even remotely expressed by those things. How could it be? You are worth so much more.
I hope you know that.