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4 Struggles A Chronically Ill Woman Has About Her Body Image

Posted Jul 11 2013 8:00pm

body image 4 Struggles A Chronically Ill Woman Has About Her Body Image

Lisa Copen

Who out there has something they would like to conceal? I’m not talking about a weapon, but a big old blackhead or a rash that won’t go away? Got something you want to highlight? Tone up? If all else fails, cover up? Most of us. According to Dove research only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful and just 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves.

Summer is here, friends, and with it some of us start to wonder how we will get through the next few months of covering up our body because it’s not “beach worthy,” yet we are so hot we can feel the sweat rolling down our back.

Here are a few areas I see myself and others with chronic illness struggling with when it comes to our body image:

Body image and self-esteem is a big hurdle for those of us who are ill. We are in a constant battle with ourselves as we look at the magazines with covers explaining what to do, TV programs that tell us what diet fads to try.

Last week my mom called and told me about something Dr. Oz was talking about. I told her it was just another fad. And then I admitted it. “Ummm. Well, I know I said it was all a fad, but I confess, I just ordered Garcinia Cambogia that he had talked about on his program.”

We all fall into the desire not to just be healthier, but look healthier. Well, who am I fooling? There is still a little bit of my thirteen-year-old self who would like to look beautiful–not just healthy

It can be hard to find the balance between wanting to look nice and yet also keep “beauty” in check. We can’t become vain. I even feel a bit weird when I upload a new profile photo to Facebook and then go back and read all the comments ooo-ing and ahh-ing and saying how nice I look. Am I searching for compliments?

And, yes, I appreciate when ya’ll say, “You are beautiful! Your spirit shines through” because one, I think, Oh, good. Even though it took a warehouse-sized bottle of hair conditioner and a lot of different makeups that say “anti-aging,” at least you can still see God in me. I hope.

Secondly, some days I feel like the sweat running off my brow from being overheated from medication is the only thing shining. And dripping. When the Bible says God can overcome anything–I am assuming that means sweat glands too, right?

Beauty isn’t all it is cracked up to be. It can be painful, humiliating, and time-consuming. The last thing we, who live with chronic illness, have time for is more painful, humiliating, and time-consuming maintenance on our body. Am I right?

Then why wasn’t I happy about five years ago that I could save four hours a month and countless dollars, because I became allergic to the glue for my fake nails. Because it’s hard to get past the idea that beauty equals worth. So our world says. So–sometimes–our own mother says.

Our schedule is busy enough doing body maintenance for our illness without adding in waxing, plucking, gluing, trimming, tanning, and being worried about if the color of our toenails is the hot summer trend.

For those of us fighting a chronic illness, the battle to find beauty in ourselves is even greater. We look down at our ugly shoes or we wonder what happened to our face that used to smile back at us in the mirror.

There are times when it can seem like our illness and its side effects, even the sadness and depression, have buried who we are. They may have even buried the joy we used to have.

I always knew the youth I had was fleeting. I knew it wouldn’t last. But I thought it would last a lot longer than this. Everything is out of order.

When you are calling your mother for beauty advice because she is fifteen years “younger” in her body than you are, since illness has caused you to age a bit quicker, it can be downright depressing. I love my mom. And she is beautiful. But still. I didn’t think we would share our anti-aging beauty secrets at the same time.

Scripture will save us from ourselves! Don’t you love it though when God’s Word gives us a foundation to measure all our worries against? From Cleopatra to Elizabeth Taylor, women have been trying to look beautiful (and I wonder if Eve ever smeared a little berry juice on her cheeks to glow for Adam?)

Check this out: 1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

. The Lord looks at And no, not the heart that is working overtime because of high blood pressure–but the heart–the real you. Your soul.

The you that prays in the shower–not about the sad state of your body, but about a loved one who is suffering.

. . . The you who can barely get from the car to the store, but are determined to bring a friend dinner because she just had surgery.

. . . . . . . The you who is laying in bed wondering what the point is of getting up. And yes, even the you who is far past caring about makeup but you still try to look nice to greet your husband at the end of the day.

This summer we will feature some articles and videos that have to do with our self esteem, as well as our body image, here at the Rest Ministries website. I thought with the hot summer months when we seem inundated with the “model body” this may be something on our minds.

It’s on my mind, because of my conscious reluctance refusal to wear anything sleeveless out my front door (the poor UPS man has to see my arms), my frustration over finding anything to wear that doesn’t either cut off my circulation or look like a tent, and I am not even going to talk about the word. . . swimming suit.

So I hope you will enjoy a bit of humor and fun while we all talk about something that many of us deal with and few of us discuss. You are among friends –who understand why you won’t be painting watermelons on your toenails this summer.

And please, can you help us spread the word about our article series? Each article has those little “share” buttons at the top and all you have to do is click them to share. So “like” it, share on Facebook, pin it on Pinterest and help us encourage the many men and women who are feeling rather frustrated about their appearance. Let us remind them they are precious in His sight and so are you!
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About the author Lisa Copen is the founder of Rest Ministries and she lives in San Diego with her husband and son. She thinks she is qualified to write about body image because she struggles with it herself! She is constantly trying to find the balance between desiring to look good (and be as healthy as possible) and knowing God loves her just the way she is. She has had a constant battle with her weight due to prednisone and pain of rheumatoid arthritis that makes even walking difficult and she thinks God should increase the calories burnt from fighting chronic pain.

You can see the books she has written, including, Why Can’t I Make People Understand? at the Rest Ministries shop .

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