Too Much Self Love? Taking a hard look at the "Body Positive" movement.

Megan Dahlman
January 15, 2018

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Self Love - Megan Dahlman

(I think some were anticipating that this topic would go in a different direction. But what I've written here needs to be said first. This felt uncomfortable to write, but I might be the only one standing up to say this. The other direction this could have gone is important, too...so we may need a part two...)

Something has been rubbing me wrong about the whole thing. It has taken a lot of thought, introspection and prayer to really identify what it is. It's the "body positive movement"...but I think we’ve got a problem. 

What is the body positive movement? It’s a powerful wave of thought moving through certain key players in the fitness industry. It’s changing the message from “try to make your body look perfect” to “feel and be beautiful in the body you already have”. It’s accepting the thunder thighs, the cellulite, the saddle bags, and all the things that our culture would say are imperfect and ugly. It's changing the conversation.
The “body positive” movement is the antithesis to the “change your body” movement that is pervasive in the fitness world. Just look at the cover of most fitness magazines and you can see we have an obsession with shedding this, toning that, getting rid of this chunk of fat on your body, and doing whatever it takes to look more like the cover model.
The body positive movement is saying “No! Stop trying to change your body to look like someone else. Stop feeling ashamed in your own skin. Stop finding all your worth in what other people say about you. And stop exercising and eating right to become somebody else.”
If you know me at all, you know that I fully support those sentiments. I am 100% aligned with the idea that we need to stop feeling so ashamed of the unique body that we have, and to pursue a strong and healthy body…not just a body that someone else might approve of. But there’s more to this movement than that. And it’s the more that’s not sitting well with me.

Look a little closer.
Here’s a recent quote from a fitness professional at the forefront of this movement. (I’m not going to share her name, because it doesn’t really matter.):
“Your bones. Your breath. Your body - your business. Yours to live in with power. Yours to inhabit with love. Yours to adorn and express in any way you f$&@ing please. Yours to admire. Yours in which to feel safe. Yours to demand respect. Yours upon which to have an opinion, and yours alone.” 
Here’s another quote from a different leader in the movement: 
"I can trust that in any body, at any size, at any age, I'm strong enough to handle whatever comes my way. I can set boundaries. I can avoid superficial relationships. I can do for myself what my body does for me. So, my body can be my home, my altar, mine to decorate and dance with and play and not a disappearing cloak. I don't need that."
She says this is “a revolution through exploration of self. Living by values of our own choosing. Challenging one another to do the same… The way forward is in.
Wow. Guys, this is so subtle. Are you catching it? Let me expound…

Righteous Anger.
We have a whole new wave of women that are angry… Angry for the way they’ve been treated. Angry about the expectations that were placed on them. Angry for the mold they’ve been shoved into. Angry for not having a voice...until now.

But with their righteous anger (because yes, it is completely justified), they’re taking the throne. They’re saying “Enough! I am the queen now. I am sovereign of this body and my whole life. I am the end-all, say-all, be all. I am.”

Nobody else is saying this, so I will.
Instead of turning outward for value and worth, they’re turning inward. The problem is that until you turn upward, you’ll never find it. (Tweet that!)
Sister, your value is bigger than other’s opinions of yourself, which is where most of our culture abides.

Your value is even far bigger than your own opinions of yourself, which is where these "body positive" women abide.

Your value is rooted deeply in God's opinion of you. Nothing can sway or alter that. No amount of self-talk, positive thinking, or self-love can change what is already absolute. This royal identity and value is where we must abide. 

Mustering up self-love.
According to these women, are we supposed to muster up as much self-love and self-power as possible to keep us going day after day? To walk down the street thinking “I’m awesome”? Are we supposed to find the power to look at our selves daily and say "I'm a badass"?!

To even find the self-power to sit in grief and misery at times, and attempt to clamor deep inside our own soul for a comfort and strength that’s often missing? 
Tomorrow, you may be weak and feel crushed. Indeed, you might have zero self-love. You might even have a moment where you fully recognize how miserable and utterly depraved you are. What then? Where’s your sovereignty then?

Oh, self-reliance is thin, so very thin.

Coming humbly before a sovereign king.  
Some might say that coming humbly before God would strip them of dignity...that He robs them of their power. That somehow admitting defeat at His feet would bury them. Instead, they'd say, rejecting Him and taking the sovereign throne for yourself is the answer...the highest form of self-power.

But do you know what happens when we lay down our weapons aimed against Him? When we admit that we're not worthy to sit on His throne, and that we're actually quite weak and powerless in our selves? 

He looks at us and says, "I know...you are weak. But I'm going to make you right. I'm going to restore your dignity, give you a reason and purpose to live, and crown you as true royalty. Through my Spirit in you, you will have strength, peace, joy, and love that you would never be able to find in your own self. Instead of relying on yourself, a mere human, you can now rely on me, the great I am." 

The highest form of self-power is pure humility. Only then will we realize our full potential.

The way forward is not in. Friends, worshiping at the altar of your own body, climbing up on His throne and declaring yourself sovereign over everything, and conjuring up as much self-love, self-power, self-reliance as humanly possible will only end in a hard and bitter defeat. The answer to finding personal value from the opinions of others is to not find it in yourself. 

The way forward is up. Only until we meekly shuffle up to the feet of the true King will we find our true selves. 

“We all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Jesus Christ when he freed us from the penalty of our sins.” Romans 3:23 NLT

Free from shame.
Free from obsession.
Free from guilt.
Free from feelings of worthlessness.
Free from the pressures to be a certain way.
Free from the shackles of an enemy that would rob us of true royalty. 

What does this mean?
It means that we don't have to work out hard and diet to feel accepted, beautiful and valuable.
It also means that we don't neglect our bodies, but we're diligent and disciplined stewards of a gift that is quite remarkable when we stop to ponder it.
It means that we're not angry, but rather compassionate and gracious toward those that have yet to experience true royalty.

And it means that we conduct ourselves like queens, not because we made ourselves that way, but because God, out of His incomprehensible love, established us as such. 

"But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

You might totally disagree with me on all of this, and I'm fine with that. I'm secure in where I find my value. And I feel secure in what I know is true and what I have experienced in my own life.

​All I ask is that you take care of your body, not based on a bizarre version of self-love or self-loathing, but rather based on a desire to steward, manage and take care of the only body you'll ever have. 


If this speaks to you...

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Trainer, nutrition coach, and Christian mom — in a culture that’s obsessed with “gym-selfies” and a number on the scale, I’m passionate about helping moms discover what it feels like to actually love their bodies and thrive in them.
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