I was about seven years old when I saw a photo of me with a childhood friend. It was summer and we had been playing in the yard on a slip-n-slide. I had long blonde hair with a tint of green from chlorine water and freckles covered my face from the summer sun. In the picture I had on a lime green bikini and my friend was standing next to me in her blue and purple bathing suit. I remember being so happy that day. My friend was older and the fact that she wanted to hang with me was the coolest. But that memory of it being a super fun day washed away when I saw the photo my mom had taken. I was horrified as my eyes ran up and down my body in the photo.
“I AM SO UGLY” echoed loudly through my head. “I AM SO FAT! Look how skinny my friend is! I should have never been wearing that!! EVER!” Thoughts like that just kept rolling and rolling inside of me. I don’t ever remember thinking or feeling this way about myself previously. So I destroyed the picture. I figured out if you get a photo wet you can scratch parts of it off. That’s what I did. I scratched myself out of the photo and left my friend. I felt that her tall and slender figure was perfection. I SHOULD LOOK LIKE HER and until I did, I was ugly. Imperfect.
POP GOES THE GENERATIONAL CURSE
I’m not sure how much time had passed but I came home from school one day and my mom was waiting for me in the family room. She had found the photo and was very upset I had destroyed it. “You don’t destroy photos Madison. It costs money to print these and they are memories.” These were not the days of instant pictures. It was the days of film and taking your photos to Walmart to get them developed. “Why did you destroy the photo?” my mom asked me. And then everything I had being feeling inside came bubbling out of me like a pot of boiling water. “Because I’m ugly!! Look how fat I am! My belly is huge! It’s disgusting!”
My mom’s eyes got big and she just looked at me in shock. She had never heard me talk like this about myself because she had tried so hard to make sure I didn’t. My mom had her own things with her body and was determined not to have her daughters feel the same things she did but there it was right in her face, coming out of her seven year old daughter’s mouth.
This moment was a pivotal moment in my life. It was the moment I unknowingly chose to partner with generational lies about a woman’s body and I danced with these lies for 21years. TWENTY-ONE YEARS!
AIN’T NO THING LIKE A …COMPARISON TRAIN
I compared myself to so many girls and women. I NEEDED to look this certain way. I NEEDED to weigh this certain amount and wear a specific sized clothing. I NEEDED compliments telling me I was skinny. Not just pretty but skinny! I heard so many of the adults in my life talking about the diets they were on so I figured I should be on one too. I thought if all those boxes were checked I would be so happy. I believed that the place inside of me that longed to be enough would be filled and go away. Every time I reached my “goal” I’d crash. I’d gain all the weight back. I’d starve myself, binge eat, go online and take all these weight tests that told me I was overweight every single time. I can remember as a teenager going to Walmart and heading straight to the diet aisle. I had this hope that there was going to be something in the aisle that was my answer to everything. Let me mention that through all of this I LOVED JESUS.
The scale was my best friend and my worst enemy. It was my religion. I weighed myself every single morning for years. I would wake up, pee because a bladder full of pee would add weight, strip down because pjs could add weight and then I’d step on that scale. That number decided my day; it decided my worth. That number on that scale decided how I was going to talk to myself for the rest of the day. Fasting was terrible. It always became about losing weight and nothing really about Jesus. Through all of this… I STILL LOVED HIM (Jesus) and HE LOVED ME.
ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT DOWN…THE ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION STREAM
As I entered my twenties and moved away from home, I had anxiety about group functions where I knew the room would be filled with lots of women and or a buffet of food.The whole time I would compare myself to every woman who was “perfect” in my eyes. Add in having free access to food and that would really overwhelm me. It felt like everyone was watching me eat. “Am I eating too much? Too Little? How is she eating all that yet so skinny and happy?? How is she that size and so happy?” These were the merry-go-round thoughts I had 99% of the time I was at an event. Exhausting! So I started dodging events even though I was longing for connection, which led to depression. Let me mention again, through all of this, I STILL LOVED JESUS…..I just didn’t know He wanted to help me.
My weight yo-yoed for years. I would get very anxious when it was time to go back home for summer break when I was in Bible School. I heard how these people I loved so much talked about themselves and the way they looked. I observed how they talked about others and how they looked, and I was terrified when I left the room that they’d talk about me and how I looked. I didn’t want to care about what they thought of me, but I did! I wanted them to think I was pretty but everyone’s version of pretty is so different! My body learned in trauma to protect me. It would bloat right up as if it was wrapping me up in a blanket so no one could see me, hear me or hurt me the moment it sensed I was anxious or depressed.
Through it all JESUS WAS THERE!!! He was knocking away on the place that longed to be loved. I was 25 when I began to open that door. It was slow to open because I had a lot of walls built up. One by one Jesus met me at each and every wall and each wall was a lie I believed. He had a truth for every lie. Jesus walked me into every painful memory and showed me right where HE was. HE became the main character in my story. The scale lost its power. My size no longer mattered. Crazy diets lost their color. I began to forgive others and myself. I apologized to my body over and over acknowledging the pain I had caused it. I would place my hands on my body and say, “ You are safe now. You don’t have to protect me. Jesus is here and He’s protecting me.” I thanked my body for carrying me this far and for rising up in His Glory.
I no longer NEED people to tell me I’m pretty. I know I am. How could I not be?!? My Creator is ABBA FATHER! He makes NO mistakes. I treasure people’s compliments but I no longer use them to build my foundation. So when I don’t receive them, I’M OK.
I began a cleanse almost two months ago. All those years of binge eating, starving, and terrible cleanses had me running to the bathroom. Crazy diets had wreaked havoc on my insides. When the box of supplements arrived at my door I felt the part of me that had lived in the dieting world trigger. So I spoke words of truth to that part of me. I said, “Hey, I hear you and this isn’t a diet. I’m honoring you and this is safe. We are safe and Jesus is here!”
I feel amazing. My body is responding to the cleanse so well. I’ve learned that I’m a three part being: Spirit, Soul and Body. Each part of me matters. Each part of me is purposed. I Love ME because it’s not just my own love loving me…it’s the Father’s (God’s) love loving me.
When I was twenty years old I was crying out to Jesus because I didn’t want to pass all of this to my children. I didn’t want my daughters to think this is how a woman should treat herself and or my sons to knowingly or unknowingly be drawn to women who treated themselves the way I was treating myself. As I cried out to Him, Abba spoke, “My Dear. If you don’t want this to be passed on then we must start at Home Base.” And so We Did✝️
Now when I see a photograph of myself and I catch myself not liking what I see, I stop. I take a breath. I take off the judgmental glasses and say, “Father, what do you see?” I look at that picture of me with new eyes. I honor who I was at that time in the photo. I honor ME. I use to want to hide the photos away never to look at them again. I would let the shame and the disappointment overpower me in the moment, but that was hurtful. I am not ashamed of me! I’m proud of that me in that moment because she got me to this very powerful place I am now. I am no longer disappointed in her but instead I’m cheering her on for choosing Father God when she felt so lost. I’m choosing to love ME in all seasons – past, present and future. Why? Because My Father does and I am choosing to be like Him.
Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all……Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honor….Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others.
1 Corinthians 13:5-7 TPT