by Kelsey Klepper

For years, I hyper focused on the things that I disliked about my body.  The only time I was promoting positive self-talk was when I was doing the things that I thought were healthy for me: sticking to my restrictive eating habits, losing weight, fitting into smaller clothes, or working out to exhaustion. I was obsessed with my body and the small highs I would get for reaching these harmful goals. I had zero gratitude for what my body was doing for me every single day regardless of my size, performance, or what I consumed.

The phrases “love yourself” and “self-love” are so hyped up in the media, it feels like these words come from a place of guilt; ‘If you love yourself, then take care of yourself.’ Unfortunately, taking care of yourself to most of our society just means food restriction, less body fat, specific body ideals, and other harmful rules. It seems to me that the media is really causing more body and food obsession than promoting actual love for ourselves.

When I first started hearing about self-love, I too believed it meant taking care of my body in the way that society deems acceptable – ‘love yourself enough’ to still get up and do the work out even when you really need the sleep. Or love yourself enough to eat the vegetables all the dang time when you just want something else that would be more satisfying. Or love yourself enough to only eat “clean ingredient foods.”

I think body love, loving yourself, and self-love are amazing tools to help us leave body shame and negativity behind, but it’s not just more rules and restriction like society pans it out to be.

At some point on my self-love journey (which is a lifelong journey, just FYI), my mindset shifted from things that I wanted to love to things that I am currently grateful for. I started looking beyond my exterior façade and focusing on what my body has done for me. When I stepped away from obsessing over the need to love my physical appearance (my stretch marks, dimples, rolls, acne, sags, etc.) and turned towards looking at my body as a vessel, it was a game changer. I can cultivate so much love for myself without actually loving all of what I see on the outside. Maybe someday I will love it all, but I find that focusing on what my body is doing and has done encourages so much more gratitude than looking in a mirror and saying ‘I love the way my stomach looks’ ever will. My life is no longer revolving around needing to love all of my physical appearance which leaves so much more brain space for actually loving me and my vessel.

My vessel carries me through this life. My vessel is here to carry me so I can grow the Kingdom, not to obsess over what society labels flaws. Perhaps your vessel is taking you places right now that you can’t even see because you’re blinded by the obsession of needing to love your physical appearance first. Friends, I want you to see yourself as a vessel and to start cultivating real love for a body that is so much more than its physical appearance.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).