The letter “I” had me stumped this week.
By definition, identity is “what a thing or person is; a name, classification, etc.”
We find our identities by identifying with others around similarities like names (family), gender, age, backgrounds (shared locations and activities), attitudes and opinions (religion, politics, and artistic preferences fall into this category), among any number of other possibilities. The ways in which we define our individual identities are as varied and unusual as we are.
But what happens when your process of identification is skewed? I wept through an entire episode of “What Not to Wear” this week. The fashion victim of the week’s entire sense of self-worth was wrapped up in how she looked. No, she wasn’t a Barbie-wanna-be, spending hours doing her makeup and hair and agonizing over her wardrobe. She’d gone the other direction… adopting an unflattering uniform of khaki pants and polo shirts and basically ignoring her appearance because she hated how she looked. She’d gained a few pounds, and couldn’t assimilate her new shape into her personal identity.
I can relate. Seven years after losing almost 30 pounds (thanks to obsessive calorie-counting and exercise) I’ve managed to gain half of that back in the last year. Chalk it up to stress, age, whatever… I’m still well within a “healthy” weight and BMI. I’m still exercising consistently. But I’ve lost the OCD-type of willpower it took to measure out 10 grams of chocolate chips and call it dessert. I’ve lost the urge to avoid foods like scrambled eggs and cheese and movie popcorn under the quest for “skinny.”
|Christina Hendricks… beautiful!|
I reached skinny, you see… at least according to friends and family. I got down to a weight my husband and children labeled “skeletal” and my physician warned “do not lose any more weight.” But I still wasn’t satisfied. I still didn’t feel “good” about myself. Today, despite the “you look great!” comments from friends and family about my softer, rounder figure, I’m still struggling. It’s an identity crisis, and it has nothing to do with what I weigh or how I look in the mirror.
The crisis comes from deep within. Whether I slap on a “skinny” label or a “fat” label, or any other label, the crisis is rooted in a lack of self-acceptance. Basically, I don’t like “me.” Ouch. Managing the externals — weight, hair, clothing, makeup — is like taking Tylenol to control chronic pain… a temporary solution at best.
I’m supposed to find my identity in Christ, I know. In spite of my shortcomings, flaws, and failures, He loves me, accepts me, adopted me, receives me, rejoices over me… and yet I dislike myself. How rude of me! In my opinion, it’s a heck of a lot easier to accept and offer grace and mercy and kindness to someone else than it is to offer the same to myself.
I keep thinking: What if I just let myself BE? What if I ate what I wanted, exercised as I pleased, and let the fat molecules fall where they may? Is that so terrible? Is that a sin? What if I wind up curvy and fluffy (with short hair, to boot!)? What if I have to buy new clothes to accommodate my new size? Would that be so bad?
And then, in the grand scheme of things, does any of that really matter, anyway?