You are not your body – Michelle Sparkes

You are not your body

I stumbled across an interesting article in the Townsville Bulletin a while back titled, "Women Worth their Weight in Gold."

It went on to say how the bodies of four Townsville fitness models featured in a national activewear campaign were "showing women across Australia that strong is the new skinny."

I have a problem with this. Whether the target is skinny or strong, preoccupation with the body will always lead to dissatisfaction (promoting unhealthy body “maintenance” and “surveillance” behaviours) because the body changes, gets older, gets injured...and who is to say what strength, tone, definition, size or shape one ‘should’ strive for, or aim towards?

All of this focus on externals leads us away from CONNECTION with our inner (core) self and the wisdom we need to know what is the right “fit” for us in any given moment or situation.

Don't get me wrong. I believe in keeping healthy, fit and strong. I applaud making the most of our natural design, loving the strength and function of our bodies, exercising regularly and eating well. I am a physiotherapist and health professional after all. BUT I also know what it is to live in a body that has been abused through anorexia and suffered years of chronic and debilitating pain because I’ve allowed myself to be driven by external pressure and the expectations of others, more concerned about meeting their needs or getting their approval than listening to the hunger and conflict in my own heart and resolving that so I could live more effectively from healthy foundation of peace and self-acceptance.

A heart at peace gives life to the body. (Proverbs 14:6).

I believe this. It sounds so simple but in a world of uncertainty and a culture that thrives (commercially at least) on our natural insecurity, a heart at peace is not such a simple thing to achieve or maintain.

What are your peace-stealers?

For many of us, we lose our ‘peace’ when we are misjudged or misunderstood (when we appear in 'bad light'), or fail to perform the way we think we should (or could) in a given situation. We feel anxious or stressed - a pretty normal and totally natural human response. But what a relief it is (I have found) to accept my humanity and discover …

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.   (Psalm 76:9)

I love this. I am finite, flawed and fallible. I may fail (my humanity assures it), but the One who created me, has promised to sustain and uphold me (from the womb to the tomb and beyond)…not because I perform perfectly but because I trust Him (the gospel message in a nutshell). This gives me great peace (a peace that passes understanding) when I can’t perform the way I would like. And when stuff happens that’s beyond my control, I’ve discovered that I need to plug into a security that transcends my world of uncertainty.

Peace and security

To be loved and to belong (unconditionally and forever).

In my experience, that’s the real hunger.

Believe me I understand why we have such a preoccupation with the body in the 21st century. I feel deeply concerned for the welfare of our young people (boys and girls) when they are steeped in a culture that idolises and objectifies the body; that equates a person’s worth with their physical appearance or performance and appeal as a sexual partner/sexual prowess.

I also understand how focusing on the body (what we think we can control) makes us feel ‘safe’ when confronted with the unpredictability of our world or personal situation.

I feel equally concerned for young mums and dads, middle-aged and older people (myself included in the ‘middle-aged’) who, even though we may heartily disagree with cultural and media-mandated messages equating a person with their BODY, must grapple with the very real fall-out of a culture steeped in body objectification, hyper-sexualisation and a focus on externals to the detriment of a deeper connection with self and others.

I think what gets lost here is our capacity to relate.

You are not your body.

Your body is your home.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

ENJOY your body but let the roots of your security go deeper.

Copyright 2016 Michelle Sparkes


About the Author

Michelle is a physiotherapist and professional counsellor with lived experience of anorexia, EDNOS and binge-eating in her teen and early adult years. Founder of Women Worth their Weight, and author of Illuminating Anorexia Michelle is passionate about helping people recover from these health and life consuming problems.