Negative body image vs. Instagram culture
Fighting the desire to be picture-perfect
When I was getting ready to launch this blog in January, I came to the realization that I would need to include some pictures of myself on my About page, on Instagram, etc. I needed current pictures. Not pictures from two years ago when I felt great about my weight, etc. Yikes.
With all of my body image issues and anxieties, I resisted the idea for a while, thinking that I couldn’t possibly come up with an outfit that would be flattering enough to mask all of this. But then the obvious truth hit. If I believe that my beauty is in Jesus, and not in this temporal appearance, then it does not matter one tiny bit what my photos looked like. It’s quite literally the foundational idea of this entire blog, but I was ignoring it for the sake of my own vanity and anxiety. I was talking the talk, but not walking the walk.
So throughout the course of this article, I am going to show you pictures of myself that I don’t like for one reason or another. While they probably look fine to you, these are photos that I deemed unfit for the public eye. They weren’t flattering. They accentuated my stomach, or my neck, or my face, arms, or whatever in a way that I decided wasn’t ok. But since none of these things have any eternal significance, I’m forcing myself to share them with you anyway! Uncomfortable for me. Fine for you.
We will never be picture-perfect: breaking down our sinful desires
We all know that models are photoshopped, that Instagrammers use filters and adjust lighting, and that it’s easier than ever before to manipulate images to make them what you want them to be. As we take pictures throughout our daily life, we expect ourselves to look like a final photo. But we won’t, and that’s fine.
There are two primary issues with our desire to look perfect/good in pictures. But first, here’s another image of me that I don’t like. (Why on earth am I sitting like that?)
Two sinful body image-related desires:
We want others to view us as beautiful/handsome.
The Bible tells us that it is wrong to worry about what others think of us. In Galatians 1:10 it says this, “For am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” These are strong words. It says very clearly that if our goal is to get affirmation from others, we are not abiding in Christ.
When we post a photo, we cannot be posting with the goal of receiving praise. If we’re reluctant to share a picture because we don’t feel good about how we look, our insecurities are probably rooted in the fact that we care about how others perceive us.
The very nature of social media platforms is to reward us with comments and likes. But our aim should always be God’s glory, not our own, right? We do not need to be recognized by others as beautiful or attractive because our identity and value is found somewhere else.
We believe that our appearance is of utmost importance.
I prioritize my appearance most of the time, and it’s sinful. I want to make sure I am “presentable.” Whether it’s in a picture or in person, I’m very concerned with how I look. This is partly motivated by my desire for approval from man, and partly motivated by that undercurrent of an idea that I will be less loved, less valuable if I don’t look good. That is of course a lie.
When I hesitate to post a photo out of insecurity, I have already spent too much time thinking about my appearance. I have taken the time to identify things that I don’t like about my body, I have decided how I think they should look instead, and I have figured out how I think people will receive that image of me. And all these are about me. Me. My image should not be of utmost importance.
It’s not really about your negative body image - it’s about your sin
Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter are not sinful, but we shouldn’t share photos to garner the praise of man. This flies in the face of what society tells us we should care about. But as Christians, our social media use should not be characterized by vanity.
If your body image issues are holding you back from posting a photo it’s probably because you’re seeking the praise of man (and shouldn’t be), or because you’ve made an idol out of your appearance.
It’s time to release the idols. Trust that your identity is found in Jesus. Post the photo, or don’t. It’s not about you—everything is still about Jesus.