It's Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year the focus is all around body image. It's something that affects us all - we might not all identify with having negative body image, but we all have a view on the way we look. And no matter how positively we view ourselves, we all have attributes we like more than others.
The trouble is, our culture is so wrapped up in the way we look. For more, click here for a quick reminder of Grace's wise words on the subject. We are all, whether we realise (or respond to) it or not, called to a certain standard in our appearance. The diet and beauty industries rely on it and, if not careful, those seeking to teach us to be healthier can tip the balance and affect our body image too. Think about it, diet companies would go bust if their diets actually worked in the long term, first time around. Their business model relies on holding us to a standard we can never quite reach.
In truth, our bodies are amazing. I challenge you to list off all the things your body is able to do - the vast majority of them, without you ever noticing you are doing them. Spoiler, you won't be able to think of them all. Your legs and core know exactly how to balance when you stand so that you don't fall. Walking is basically a process of falling forwards but catching yourself in time, and your legs also know exactly how to do that without you landing flat on your face. Your body keeps itself at the right temperature, digests your dinner to get all the nourishment it can from your diet, your fingers know exactly how hard to grip your glass of water to make sure you neither break it nor drop it.
I'm acutely aware of this, because about the time this post comes out I will be having my first child. I am amazed that my body is constantly growing this little human with the right number of fingers and toes - with skills, passions and talents that will make him who he is. And (with the exception of feeling a bit tired and uncomfortable) I'm not generally even aware that I am doing it. If I had to think about how to do it consciously, I wouldn't have the first clue where to even start - but my body does. And I will get to watch him over the days, weeks, months and even decades as his body figures out how to do some pretty amazing stuff too.
Of course, I'm under no illusions that my body does this by accident. My body is fearfully and wonderfully made. Every cell of it was put together by an even more wonderful Creator - and I'm not special in that respect. He knew you before you were born and He knew your name, your gifts, your passions long before your parents did. He made you the way you are on purpose and you, too, are fearfully and wonderfully made. You can read more about it in Psalm 139.
So, I repeat my challenge to you. Next time you find yourself too focused on how your body looks, and not what it can do, take a moment to list all the things you're capable of. You might just find that, as your respect for your body increases, your outward view of it changes too.
For other ways to make the most of Mental Health Awareness Week, check out the Mental Health Foundation's website.