I have always struggled with body image. I hate my thighs, I hate that my feet are so different, I hate-hate-hate my nose, I hate that I have big, thick gymnast arms...the list goes on and on.
For the most part, I've gotten over these issues; they only come up when I try on clothes.
And actually have to see myself in the mirror in my skivvies.
And realize just how imperfect this body of mine is.
So, while trying on dresses yesterday for "fun," all of those thoughts--like voices--about my body came flooding back, the voices that used to scream at me as I chewed up food and spit it out into the garbage can. The voices that used to push me to go just one more mile. The voices that used to keep me from letting anybody in. They weren't screaming this time, but I could hear the murmurs begin the way that the whispering in classrooms does.
I ditched the dresses and headed over to Payless, since shoes were my mission for that shopping trip anyway. The shoes were easy enough to find and choose: the mirrors only show up to your ankles. I left the store with my purchases under my arm and
"Marian?" I heard from somewhere beyond my periphery. I turned around to see a woman from Jay's church. Peggy and I haven't talked much before, but I know her by sight: my height, glasses, brownish hair, freckles, overweight but happy--thrilled, actually. She sings some Sundays, and I was there when she and her husband dedicated their little girl to the Lord; Peggy absolutely beamed.
"Say, Jay's parents were at my place last night, and I realized that I went to high school with your uncle!" she told me, one eye on me the other on the dripping ice cream cone in her hand and her wandering toddler (only mothers can focus on so many things at once).
I laughed at the coincidence: everybody seems to know my family. Just as I was about to ask if she knew my dad, she piped up, "I'm so impressed by you and Jay. You're being very responsible and not choosing a big, fancy wedding. That's really encouraging to see."
Her words were full of warmth and sincerity. I wondered for a moment if she ever wasn't warm and sincere, sweet and kind; I wondered how she responded to seeing her imperfect body in the dressing room mirror.
Then it dawned on me: Peggy is beautiful. Her sweetness and kindness, her warmth and sincerity, her willingness to open her home in fellowship make Peggy beautiful in a way that dresses and shoes and any man-made product cannot.
I didn't try on any more clothing that day, but I have a feeling that I would have been far more forgiving with myself if I had. Sure, a woman can be beautiful when she puts on a pretty dress, but a woman is beautiful regardless when it radiates from within.