It’s just a number. It’s just a number.
That’s what I was telling myself yesterday when I was pulling on a pair of jeans in the dressing room. Size doesn’t matter. Who cares if you’re now a bigger size? It’s just a number.
I have to give myself pep-talks whenever I go shopping. When I pull on a pair of pants in my ideal size, I hold my breath, hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’ll fit. When the pants don’t fit, I pull them off and reach for the bigger size, all the while commanding myself not to cry.
For as long as I can remember, self-esteem has been one of my “issues.” Even when I was 13 years old and a size 2, I wanted to be skinnier than I was. I can’t think of a time when I was content with my body—I always wanted to be smaller, smaller, smaller. I had this mentality circulating inside of me: big=bad.
So where did this mentality come from? I think it’s complicated. Of course, there’s the culture I’m immersed in. It’s the culture where you only ever see skinny girls on TV, the culture with fat-shaming and standard sizing. Then there were the women around me when I was growing up, women I respected, women who were always on a diet. I unwittingly let the culture and the women around me seep in my psyche.
Of course, I kept it hidden pretty well. I talked about body confidence with my friends, let others think that I didn’t care when my size started to creep upward. But deep down, I did care. It bothered me a lot and I kept tight reigns on all things pertaining to exercise and diet. I needed to have a sense of control. Control meant I was doing something right. Control meant that I wasn’t bad.
I’ve come a long way since then. I don’t restrict my eating and I don’t obsessively exercise. This means I have a healthier mindset, but it also means I’m not as small as I once was. It’s a big trade-off I’m slowly beginning to make. I buy the bigger pair of pants when I have to. Yet, underneath all of this, there is still that constant nagging: Your stomach isn’t flat so you aren’t a good person. Even though I’ve adopted a healthier mindset, my stomach remains my little demon.
At church, our pastor has been making his way through the ten commandments during his sermons. I tend to think of the ten commandments as outdated, not really pertinent to my every-day living. But one of the commandments stuck out to be this time as we were listing them liturgically.
It was this one that stuck out to me: You shall not covet…
[What does it mean to covet? Think jealousy.]
My mind strayed a little and I thought, “What do I covet?” Maybe it was an excuse to tune out for a while, but my thoughts wandered into application mode.
Is it a surprise that my self-esteem immediately came to mind? Not really. Because I know that, more than anything, I covet a different body. I covet a smaller, skinnier version of myself, someone dainty in an extra small. I’m jealous of anyone who is smaller than I am, and I compare myself to anyone I’m around. “Am I smaller than that person? Okay, I can feel good today. Not smaller? Time to feel bad about myself.” I covet flat stomachs.
This didn’t exactly strike me as a new thought. I’m self-aware enough to know that I compare myself a lot. But, sitting in church that day, what did strike me was just how old this issue is for me. I’ve been coveting others’ bodies for over ten years. God knows it and I know it.
If God thinks it’s important enough to put the whole jealousy thing into the freaking ten commandments, it’s probably something to pay attention to.
And besides, this whole coveting thing is getting old. It’s time to stop.
The problem is that I’ve been dealing with it for so long that I’m not sure I know how to put an end to it. It seems impossible. There have been times in the past when I’ve “finally put my foot down” only to have the insecurity creep up a few months later. I don’t want this to be like those times. I want this to stick. I’m older now, aren’t I? Surely I can take this whole coveting thing by the shoulders and give it a shake once and for all. (Okay, so there probably isn’t a “once and for all.” It’s probably more like an entire lifetime thing. But better to start now.)
Over the next few weeks, I plan to be hyper aware of all things body, comparison, insecurity, and jealousy. I want to be able to catch myself in the act, so to speak. With awareness, hopefully, comes potential change.
I hope to give you an update in the next post or so. I know it’s going to be hard to talk openly about insecurity, but I also know it’s important. I’ll let you know how it’s going.
I invite you to join me. Pay attention to when you compare yourself to another person. What do you covet?