Joy reached out to me a couple months ago asking if I would shoot her senior grad photos and of course I said yes! We met up for coffee near campus and instantly knew this was a great fit. We clicked instantly and it seriously felt like we had known each other forever! Not only was Joy filled with joy [no pun intended 🙂 ] but she was so caring. Her heart was radiant- she was upbeat and she was real.
Then she shared with me the importance of her senior session – this wasn’t just a shoot for her, but it was a symbol of how far she has come, the freedom she has gained, and the battle she has overcome.
Our time was spent encouraging each other, praying, and reminding each other of our identity as Christ’s daughters.
For awhile I had been wanting to share more stories with my sessions. I never want people to just see pretty photographs, but I want them to see the authenticity and the personalities of the people in my photographs. As a creative I strive to capture people’s true beauty and their story.
So today, I’m sharing this Joy’s story.
“Weight and the way I looked has always been something that consumed my life. The amount of power that little number on the scale had on my life was demanding. I can’t remember a time that I was happy with the way I looked. I was always too fat, I didn’t look skinny enough in my clothes, I wasn’t as small as the other girls my age, and all these thoughts lead to me being absolutely convinced that being skinny would solve all my problems. That being skinny and looking a certain way would be the epitome of satisfaction and life would be pure bliss. And so I ran after that, constantly and fervently.
It was around junior year of high school that I began struggling with binge eating and purging. I would get so unhappy about myself that I would cope by eating amounts of food that were more than necessary. Then my mind would start freaking out that I ate so much and I would feel so freaking guilty about it that I purged to release the anxiety and stress. I got obsessed with running and exercising and was obsessed with losing weight in general. No one knew a thing. At this point I felt like I was just constantly running after this level of satisfaction, but I just couldn’t seem to get there.
So coming into college, I was still struggling with my eating disorder but God turned my heart around quickly into freshman year. It was the first time I experienced the beauty of being vulnerable and being held accountable. And as I grew in my faith, I also grew in my journey of overcoming my eating disorder mentally and physically.
The root cause of my eating disorder was basically believing this lie that I was not beautiful, and therefore also unwanted/unloveable. I’ve never been in a relationship, and while this hasn’t bothered me to a large degree it did have me questioning my worth and value at times. What helped me through this was learning where my identity lied.
“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
I am an image-bearer of God, I am CHOSEN, I am HIS, and I am made ALIVE in Christ. When I remember that my identity is rooted in Jesus, I remember that nothing else matters because this world does not define me. My weight did not define me, my shortcomings did not define me, my brokenness did not define me, boys didn’t define me, CHRIST defined me. His death and resurrection tells me that He loved me enough to CHOOSE to lay His life down for me. In the most humiliating and painful way possible at that too. He died so that I could be called redeemed and holy and pure. When I put my worth into the world’s hands it had me constantly running after that feeling of satisfaction, and if I did reach it, it wasn’t long before it faded and it had me chasing satisfaction/approval again. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. The world is ever changing and fluctuating, but Christ doesn’t. Christ gave me my worth, handed it right to me, and the value I find in Him doesn’t change because despite any lies that I may believe it didn’t change truth. Just because some days I may struggle to believe that I am beautiful doesn’t make it less true. What a weight off our shoulders!!
2) I am beautiful inside AND out
Now after some time learning about my identity I felt confident in my spirit and character. Heck yeah I was a beautiful person! Then the enemy began to twist this beautiful truth of my identity in Christ into something along the lines of: yeah you’re “beautiful on the inside” that’s equivalent to “she’s got a great personality”. Oh how much I LOATHED that lie. I didn’t want to believe it but I did y’all!! I began slipping back into being critical of my physical image. But thankfully through amazing people in my life, they helped to see through Scripture that that was OBVIOUSLY not true.
Like I read before, we are created in HIS image. Psalm 139 tells us:
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You for I am FEARFULLY and WONDERFULLY made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”
God didn’t just create us, he DESIGNED us. I’m in a class called perception and to learn how complex and detailed our auditory and visual systems are is MIND BLOWING. Think about our own bodies and how they function, FINGER PRINTS DUDE. Can you think of 7 billion different ways to design a fingerprint? Cause I can’t! God designed us with so much thought and love. When I shame myself I shame God and His work. I insult God!! He deserves more than that. The way I was made is PERFECT because the God who created me is PERFECT.
3) It’s a hard truth to believe, it takes time.
Now I didn’t believe this truth overnight. In fact, it’s still a hard truth for me to believe. Last year I relapsed back into my old ways with my eating disorder because of anxiety. I hid it from everyone because I didn’t want anyone stopping me. It was my way of feeling in control and not having to practice self-control. The crazy amount of guilt I felt along the way and how defeated I felt was insane. I felt like SUCH a failure. You’d think 3.5 years would be plenty of time to learn something, but it’s not easy. Especially in our day and age where the enemy will use anything and everything in our lives to prevent us from believing and seeing our beauty and worth. It’s a hard process, but it’s something worth fighting to believe. I’m still in the process of learning this everyday. I’ve been learning that I’m gonna have really great days, where I feel GREAT and my heart is all in about this truth. But there will also be days, weeks, and seasons even where I’ll find myself on the opposite end of the spectrum and looking at myself in the mirror and seeing anything but beautiful or stressing over that number on the scale. THAT’S OK. I AM NOT DEFEATED. That’s the best part about Jesus right? Even when I fail in every way possible, EVEN THEN He wins. I have to look to Jesus, because He will sustain me.