To be comfortable around my neighbors, I need to be comfortable with myself
Let me start by saying, the way someone looks is possibly the most boring and least important thing about them. Additionally, it is a terrible assessor of the human person.
You and I are so much more than how we look on the outside. But in case no one has ever told you, you are beautiful. I mean it, you are beautiful.
That is the foundation of the body positivity movement. It is a call for radical acceptance of all bodies no matter their size, gender, race or ability. Most importantly, it is a call to accept your body. The focus is on self-acceptance and moving past your physical appearance as a condition of your worth. It is a call to truly love yourself (Mt 22:39), something Jesus commanded.
In the Gospel of Matthew, there is a beautiful discourse on the greatest commandments (Mt 22:34–40). The Pharisees try to trick Jesus and catch him in contradiction to the Torah, by asking him, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He responds by saying: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Here is where Jesus commands us to love ourselves. It’s an often-overlooked piece of the discourse, since it falls at the end of the second commandment. He asks us to love our neighbor as ourselves, meaning we need to know how to love ourselves.
I have been categorized as obese since I was an adolescent. I could tell you countless stories of feeling less than human because of the way people spoke to me, treated me and interacted with me. Instead, I want to share with you a moment I lean on when the world is pushing hard on me. It is a cornerstone moment in my life.
In my senior year of high school, I was hanging out with a friend, and there was nothing remarkable about the conversation. At some point I made a statement about being ugly or something in that vein, because that’s what I was supposed to do. I’m the fat girl who has been told by society most of her life that she is ugly and hideous because she is bigger than her classmates.
My friend stopped the conversation dead in its tracks, looked me in the eye and said: “Don’t say that. It’s not true. You are beautiful.” I was shocked by what she said, because outside of my immediate family, no one has ever said that to me. It was something I knew and believed about myself, but it felt inappropriate to share that with anyone but me.
Still maintaining eye contact, she said: “I mean it. You are beautiful.” I said, “Thank you,” and we continued our conversation.
Loving yourself is not selfish; it is not sinful. It starts with the simple and radical understanding that you are beautiful. That beauty is rooted in the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Our bodies are a marvel of engineering crafted by the ultimate engineer. He wants you to be happy and comfortable in who you are and how you look.
It’s okay to be happy with the way you look and even take pride in it. I would go even further to say it is important to do so. That may mean making changes and trying things out and that is scary.
The path to loving yourself is to start listening to you.
It’s hard and scary to sift through the noise of guilt and shame. They are incredible motivators and tough demons to slay. With grace and love, you can find your voice again. You can find you again.
Loving yourself fully is an act of radical love. Being comfortable in who you are makes it so much easier to be comfortable around your neighbors and to love them where they are. You can look at someone and express kindness to them because you have shown yourself the same kindness.
Oh, and in case you’ve forgotten, you are beautiful.
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