“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.
You don’t realize this now, but you spend a lot of time, too much time, worrying about your body. Every day you look at yourself in the mirror and concern yourself with the current size of your body—the shape of it, the weight of it, how it fits (or doesn’t fit) into your skinny pair of jeans.
I know it’s exhausting. I know it’s hard. I know when your pant size moves up, you do everything you can to move it back down. I know you feel like your body isn’t quite good enough and like you always need to be working on it somehow— to change it, to make it better.
But I want you to know that a decade from now, you won’t worry about your body every day. A decade from now, you will have experienced the merciful grace of living through intense sickness and emotional pain with a body that made it through both. Your own feet will have carried you thousands of miles across your own city and across the world, without breaking down or failing you. You will have lived through the beautiful, painful gift of carrying and birthing two children, and then feeding those children from your own body. You will be amazed at what your body has done.
You will be amazed at what your body has done.
A decade from now, you will be at a comfortable peace with the body that you have been given. It is all you have. It is yours. It is a wonder.
And that number on the scale that you think about so often? Let me tell you that no one other than you (and perhaps a doctor or two) know or care about that number. What matters more is the health of your body, the flexibility of your limbs, the amount of water you drink every day. That number will go up and down like the waves in the ocean, but your body can be healthy and strong even as that number changes.
Your weight is a number that does not define or even identify you. It has nothing to do with your eternal value or earthly import, but you will be living in this body for the rest of your life. Try to think long-term about caring for it and preparing it for a lifetime of work, service and love.
You will be living in this body for the rest of your life.
Another thing I have to tell you now, so you don’t forget in the demanding years ahead, is that it’s not the size and shape of your body that makes sex wonderful. Our culture is obsessed with sex, and part of the angst about the size and shape of your body stems from that obsession. It’s the other aspects of sex, the emotional, the spiritual and the relational aspects, these are the things that make sex deeply satisfying, over and over again, with the same person, in the context of marriage.
It isn’t the shape or size of a body that makes sex wonderful—it’s the context of sex within a loving marriage to a fun and thoughtful spouse that gives sex its power and delight. Deep down, I think you already know this.
And one more thing— lean in here because it’s taken me a full decade to learn this one— when you look in the mirror for lumps and bumps in the “wrong places” and choose your clothes based on how attractive you think you will look to others, you are no longer living in freedom. You have shackled yourself to an untenable law that no one is holding you to but yourself.
Hear me out: wanting to be attractive isn’t a bad thing. Now, in my mid-30s, I still want to be a beautiful woman, but the way that you’re approaching your body now is poisoning your mind against yourself. You operate from the lens that culture has given to you, rather than intentionally choosing a grid for beauty that leaves space for the miraculous uniqueness that every person in this world is endowed with— yourself included.
Your body’s main purpose is not to attract others. Your body’s main purpose is to help you accomplish what you’ve been put on this earth to do.
So go do that, with joy and freedom. That body you’re walking in is a miracle.
How can we honor and love the bodies we are living in? What advice do you have for your younger self?
Images via We are the Rhoads, Darling Issue 16