Written By Chrisanty L, Indonesia
When I was studying in China, there were many occasions when sales assistants would just ignore me whenever I walked into shops or boutiques around my university. When they did take notice of me, however, one of the things they would say to me while I was browsing through the clothes racks was, “We only have small sizes here.”
The majority of the 15,000 students in my university were petite. The ones that stood out were usually foreigners, who tended to be taller and larger in build. I am a Chinese Indonesian, but I didn’t look like the average Chinese female student. And so, over time, I developed a fear of entering any shop around campus, because I felt that I was being watched and judged.
I have always felt self-conscious about my large frame and broad shoulders. That’s probably because I could always feel the stares of others, as if they were labelling me as “the fat girl” in their minds. I hated it when someone grabbed my arms and started talking about how thick my arm was. Or when my friends and family members teased me about my weight, told me that I should start dieting, or compared me with other girls my age. What made it worse was that my attempts to get thin would usually end up making me sick. Even then, people would still call me “fat”.
In the end, being “fat” made me hate everything else about myself. Over time, I came to accept what seemed to be the only reality in my life: I was fat and ugly, and that would never change.
I started to get very sensitive. I became easily hurt by others’ words, even those that were kind or had nothing to do with my body. To me, everyone was just teasing me. I became disappointed with myself. I didn’t want to go out to meet new people, and I lost a lot of confidence. I didn’t want to make friends or even do anything. And I started to develop an anger towards others. When you dislike yourself, it is almost impossible to be genuinely kind and generous to others, because you don’t have any positive thoughts and attitudes to share with them.
It was not until I met another student in China, that I started to change my way of thinking. She too found it hard to find clothes that fit her from the shops around campus. She too had to deal with people viewing her as fat. But that wasn’t the thing about her that left an impression on me. She had come to China wanting to serve the Lord by helping out in orphanages. She was determined to spread the love that she had received, to those who had been shown so much less. One afternoon, after having a conversation with her, I remember thinking: “I’m sure God would see her as a beautiful person, and that He loves her even if she was viewed otherwise by others or even by herself.”
That got me thinking about myself. How did God view me? How did the Creator see His creation?
1 Samuel 16:7 says, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” For the longest time, I had not been able to accept myself; being “fat” was what defined my life. For some time, I forgot that God is my creator, and that He doesn’t look at mere appearances. Our God looks at the heart and at our lives. He sees that His creation is good. That truth really made a difference to me.
When you start thinking about how big our God and His love is, you will start to rekindle your love towards yourself, towards others, and even to those who might have hurt you. I have to admit that this has not been easy, especially after hearing and believing the hurtful and hateful things people said about my body. So I started slowly, first by making sure that I was thankful for the body God had created for me, then by keeping myself healthy, but not obsessing over the shapes and sizes that people wanted me to be.
I think it’s normal to feel like you don’t look your best or to feel “fat” sometimes—but don’t let it eat away at your life. There is a caring Father who does not look at your mere appearance and who loves you no matter what. I realized also that while people will never stop or even can’t help obsessing over appearances, we should never let it make us lose the opportunities to make friends and make an impact to glorify God.