A Fresh-Squeezed Take on Body Image from the Author of Unsqueezed
- Friday, July 16, 2010
What do you see when you look in the mirror? The outside or the inside? The new creation in Christ, or the old human? Imperfections, or purposed usefulness?
What do you see when you look at the television or a magazine? Shrinking boundaries of beauty? More challenges you'll never be able to meet? Outright lies?
All of the above can have a constricting, squeezing effect on (not just) women in (not just) America, not unlike the frustration of trying to squeeze into those designer jeans that are two sizes too small.
Body image books have been written and reported on before, but we sat down with the delightfully quirky Margot Starbuck (M.Div., Princeton Seminary), who has written a book with the title and goal of getting you Unsqueezed. As you'll see, Margot attacks the body image issue from the unique perspectives of discipleship, disability, doing life with friends, and defining what bodies are truly for…
Crosswalk.com: Why are women so predisposed to seeing flaws when they look in the mirror, including women who are new creations in Christ or would claim to know that God looks at the heart?
Margot Starbuck: That's a great question. I think even though we know in our heads and our hearts that we are new creations, we live in this culture in which we're bombarded by images of "the perfect woman." I feel like we live in that tension between what we believe, and the reality of being squeezed by the impact that these images have on us.
So when we begin to deal with those images, and we ask ourselves questions like, "Is this really me?" people come up with all sorts of solutions - plastic surgery, for example. Are these solutions ever answers? Is it different for each person? What do you think?
I think that the little voices that hisses, "There's something inherently wrong about you," is often followed by the Deceiver's whisper, "There's something you can do to be acceptable, there's something you can grasp or purchase to finally be acceptable."
And I think what discipleship looks like is living in trust that God will meet our needs, and I think that we err when we decide to take things into our own hands, to satisfy ourselves, to soothe ourselves with all of these "other" options. It feels to me like Jesus' encounter with Satan in the wilderness, where's he's offered this array of possibilities but finally says, "I will trust in what God provides." And I think that's what the path of discipleship looks like for us as well.
You've done work with the disabled. How has that work informed the themes you cover in Unsqueezed?
As I began to think about bodies, the first thing I wanted to say is that bodies were given by God for function. And in my mind I was trying to make a distinction between that idea and our culture's insistence that bodies were made to be viewed, [which stands in] opposition to the understanding that God gave us bodies to love and serve others.
But as I was thinking about it, I realized that anything which I say about bodies and the reason God gives bodies also has to be true for my friends with disabilities! And that really helped me. All of a sudden it couldn't be just about function anymore - although that's important. But that's how I came to the realization that bodies really are given for relationship.
I'm thinking of a teenage friend whose body is severely compromised, and yet it's that body which allows him to be in relationship with other people. So in that respect, his body is good because he's able to be in relationship.
You use humor in several of the stories you tell in the book. Can you give us an example of how humor - seeing things with a laugh or a smile - can help someone change how she sees herself?
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