After a year of social distancing, isolation at home and all the overarching pandemic woes, most of us are itching for a proper summer vacation. Dreaming about returning to that holiday ritual, my wife, Amy, recently found an old picture of me on the beach in San Diego. I am as white as the sand but compared to what I see in the mirror today, I’d love to be in that shape again.
In the pursuit of health we often compare ourselves to a version of our former self, a vision of our future self and/or a filtered image of someone else. It just takes a glance in the mirror or the workout video of an Insta influencer to trigger a comparison with fanciful images of ourselves and others; and most of the time, we lose.
Comparison is a common element in most areas of our lives.
We are, after all, designed for community with a purposeful interdependence to multiply, cultivate, learn and thrive. That means there is always someone better, smarter, and fitter to learn from; or even harness that competitive spirit to help achieve our goals.
But when it comes to mainstream fitness culture, comparison with others is a game no one seems to be winning. According to a new study, a majority of people spend more than 2 hours a day on social media—often scrolling through posed and unrealistic photos. (Source: Smart Insights) Additionally, mainstream fitness is bent around the pursuit of a culture-defined “perfect” body. But even those who look like they have it aren’t experiencing the lasting happiness and satisfaction they thought it would bring.
This means that as much as exercise and clean eating benefits our mental health; the chasing after an unsustainable body type that is fueled by comparison, is breeding negativity, low self-esteem, depression, or worse.
So…is there a way to manage this paradox that both inspires physical training yet stops our looking to the body for something it wasn’t designed to give?
I believe there is! It requires spiritual fitness. Spiritual fitness means taking a few mins each day to remember two things: who made you and what He thinks of you. One easy way to do this is through WordGo, a new free Bible study app developed with Bible Study Fellowship, offering ready-made Bible studies, customizable schedules, trusted commentary and simple planning tools. My regular use of this app helps remind me of my special role in God’s family as His son whom He loves.
1) Who made you
Your body is God’s idea and the greatest ever invention. The Bible tells us that even after creating all we see and know, God’s ultimate joy of His creation was to make humans in His image. Whatever your shape, size, color, voice and personality, the beautiful diversity of human life reflects its Maker.
2) What He thinks of you
We need to discover what we are all looking for: the ultimate verdict that we are important and valuable. Some look for this verdict in and through gym culture, where the physical, emotional, and social benefits are very real and addictive. But what I’ve found is that my ego’s sense of self-worth, self-regard, and identity will only ever find lasting peace, stability and fulfillment when it trusts its Creator’s verdict.
This summer, as we hopefully return to the holidays we’ve been longing for, let’s make sure we remember the beauty and power of finding our identity and worth in God. It’s not social media that is our measuring stick, but how He helps us understand caring for the body we’ve been given. And when our bodies or our wavering opinion of ourselves fail us, rely on our Maker’s unchanging verdict – that He is our incomparable source of hope, identity and satisfaction.
Simon Lennox is passionate about helping others to flourish in body, mind, and spirit. He works at Bible Study Fellowship as director of WordGo, an App for personal and group Bible study.