I love the invigorating, clean-slate feeling that comes with a new year. The impossible suddenly feels possible. I no longer fixate on past mistakes but instead on the endless possibilities before me.
But during this time of year dissatisfaction can creep around us. While dissatisfaction can inspire us to change our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical lives for the better, dissatisfaction can also cause anxiety as we attempt to fill in that ever-gaping, ever-hungry lie we tell ourselves—the lie that we're not enough. Comparison, hopelessness, obsession, and negativity set in. What was a year of promise suddenly becomes a year of disappointment and failure.
Last year, Statista reported that the top three New Year's resolutions were to eat healthier, get more exercise, and to save more money. As many turn to these convictions year after year, I have to wonder what motivation compels us to make these resolutions. Is it a desire to be healthier, to obtain balance, to live life more fully and freely? Or could there be body image issues at play here? In my case, I fall into the latter category more than I'd like to admit.
But this past year I've been reading Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, and there's nothing quite like a heart surgeon turned prophet to make you realize the grace and miracle inherent in every breath and heartbeat. Here are just a few insights that have taught me to love my body as is, with no reservations.
"In a very real sense, each of us stands as a temple of God. Your personal temple is a gift from God. It is holy. Please protect it as such. The fact that your body is a sacred sanctuary is also known by Satan. He, who has no body, would like you to deface and defile yours" (“Part of the Heart of the Church,” Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming Conference Broadcast to Fifty-Eight Stakes, October 21, 2012).
"When you sing 'I Am a Child of God,' think of His gift to you of your own physical body. The many amazing attributes of your body attest to your own 'divine nature' (2 Peter 1:4). . . . "The marvel of our physical bodies is often overlooked. Who has not encountered feelings of low self-esteem because of physique or appearance? Many people wish their bodies could be more to their liking. Some with naturally straight hair want it curly. Others with curly hair want it straight. . . . "Your body, whatever its natural gifts, is a magnificent creation of God. It is a tabernacle of flesh—a temple for your spirit. A study of your body attests to its divine design. . . .
"Each organ is a wondrous gift from God. The eye has a self-focusing lens. Nerves and muscles control two separate eyes to make a single three-dimensional image. The eyes are connected to the brain, which records the sights seen. No cords or batteries are needed. . . . "The heart is an incredible pump. It has four delicate valves that control the direction of blood flow. These valves open and close more than 100,000 times a day—36 million times a year. Yet, unless altered by disease, they are able to withstand this stress almost indefinitely. No man-made material developed to date can be flexed so frequently and so long without breaking. "Each day an adult heart pumps enough fluid to fill a 2,000-gallon tank. This work is equivalent to lifting a grown man to the top of the Empire State Building while expending only about four watts of energy. At the crest of the heart is an electrical generator that transmits energy down special lines, causing myriads of muscle fibers to work together. "Much could be said about each of the other precious organs in the body. They function in a marvelous manner, beyond my time or ability to describe" (“We Are Children of God,” Ensign, November 1998).
President Nelson's wonder for science and the human body have helped me understand my own body in new ways. I realized that if you want to feel comfortable in your own body, you need to recognize it as your best friend and develop a genuine relationship. Would I constantly criticize and tear down my best friend? Would I starve, manipulate, and distort my best friend—or even my worst enemy—merely to make myself feel better? Definitely not.
Then I shouldn't act this way toward my body. Like any relationship, it will take work, positivity, attentive listening, and prayer to make lasting change. Some helpful questions I ask myself are: Do I honestly listen to my body and respond to it as I would a friend? Am I patient with my body? Am I striving to help my body improve and achieve its eternal potential? Am I consciously complimenting my body as I would a friend?
I love this counsel from President Nelson:
"On some dreary night, if you have trouble going to sleep, instead of counting sheep, you might try to count your many blessings. Among those blessings you might mention each of your body parts, from head to toe." (“Part of the Heart of the Church,” Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming Conference Broadcast to Fifty-Eight Stakes, October 21, 2012)
If you struggle with loving your body, every night or morning in your prayers take time to thank Heavenly Father for the body He has blessed you with and all in enables you to do.
Body image can be a volatile journey at times, but in loving my body and listening to the words of our prophet, I've found a new peace in who I am and all I have now.
And do you know what I've realized? Our bodies bring us closer to our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, allowing us to better understand what They know and experience through Their immortal, divine bodies. Because of my body, I can obtain celestial glory and power, create life, and one day create worlds. That is a power Satan will never possess, and because of that, he will do all in his power to distort my relationship with my body and create resentment and loathing for this most glorious gift of God. But I won't let him. My body is divine, and it has taught me about love, connection, and the glorious possibilities of eternity.