Primary School was where it all started.

Wah, Abigail! You’re so fat leh! This one comment struck me in Primary 4, when a boy exclaimed it in front of the whole class. It stung. 

That was when I began to be more conscious of how I looked and when I started comparing myself to the other “pretty” girls around me. 

I became more sensitive to what others would say about me, and how I looked compared to them. 

I started to see that I was not as skinny and small-sized as most girls. It didn’t help that I was also short… 

Additionally, whenever I met my relatives, I would often get comments like “did you put on weight” and “you should diet”. These comments didn’t help the already deteriorating self-esteem I had as a pre-teen. 

I was also part of the Trim-and-Fit Club — better known as “TAF Club” — in Primary and Secondary School because I was overweight.

This meant that instead of spending my breaks eating with my friends, I had to spend them running laps around the school as part of the Ministry of Education’s initiative to make us healthier. 

Again, this exacerbated my body image insecurities: I started to get obsessed with the number on my weighing scale as I longed to get out of TAF Club and spend my breaks with my friends. 

Every time we had to take our height and weight measurements in P.E. Class, I was petrified by the number I saw on the scale.

My identity had become tied to the number on my weighing scale. 

In order to cope with my insecurities, I decided that if I couldn’t be the “skinny” girl, I would be the “sporty” one.

I was looking for something to “justify” my size; though I was bigger and not as skinny, I still could say that I’m good at sports.

So, I joined netball in secondary school and aimed to excel there in order to cope with my fears of how I looked.

I had internalised the wrong idea that my identity is tied to how I look and how much I weigh.

I developed an unhealthy relationship with food, only allowing myself to “indulge” if I felt like I had exercised “enough” that day. 

My body image insecurities had such a grip on me to the point that I was never satisfied with the pictures taken of me. That’s why I never liked posting them on social media. 

Even in junior college, as I became fitter and stronger by joining the basketball team, I was still consumed by my body image insecurities — my newfound confidence was just a façade. 

Do I look fat? If only I could lose weight… If I lost 5kg, then I’ll be happy. Beneath the surface, the same old thoughts of ate away at me. 

Fearfully and wonderfully made

I had internalised the wrong idea that my identity is tied to how I look and how much I weigh.

This was the silent struggle I always had, and I was constantly ashamed for feeling this way because I wanted to be seen as confident and thought that I was the only one struggling with this body image issue. 

This went on until a conversation I had with a sister-in-Christ one day, who opened up about her body image insecurities and how she had been struggling with this for years — but came to find security in the One who created her.

I was not alone! This was a sobering thought for me as an 18-year-old because I no longer felt like an oddity.

This conversation with my friend kickstarted my journey of opening up about body image to my sisters around me, and choosing to surrender this area of my life to God.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

Something I cling to whenever my insecurities overwhelm me is Psalm 139, which is of my favourites because it tells me how seen and loved I am in God’s eyes.

Psalm 139 paints a very intimate picture of our relationship with God: no matter where we go, He is always there. He who created the skies and the earth — this same God promises us comfort and intimacy.  

And so, through the years, God peeled away the scales from my eyes and helped me see myself firstly as His beloved daughter, and not on how others saw me. 

God know us so personally, He cares for us and we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

“Fearfully” means with great reverence, and “wonderfully” means unique and set apart.

Doesn’t this show how beautifully and purposefully we were made? 

When I catch myself falling and choosing to spiral in my own thoughts, I choose to remind myself about who I am in Christ. 

Knowing these truths has been immensely important and helpful in my recovery journey, which is still ongoing in my life today.

I exercise and go to the gym whenever possible, but I no longer let my body image be an idol that guides my life. 

When I catch myself falling and choosing to spiral in my own thoughts, I choose to remind myself about who I am in Christ. 

Precious lessons like these have helped me in my journey of loving the body God has given me, and I’m happy to share more of them below. 

Rebuilding a healthy body image: 3 Ws to stay winning 

1. Watch what you watch

With social media, it’s so much easier to compare how we look based on what others post online. 

From #ootds and #fitchecks to beach pictures or even just a simple TikTok… if you struggle with body image, it can all too easily be exacerbated through your media consumption.

Additionally, if you’re struggling with body image, it’s likely that your For You Page on TikTok is also full of people with your “ideal” body. 

Social media worsens our body image insecurities because we’re constantly comparing ourselves to people online.

As such, one thing I do, when I find that I’m struggling with body image in a particular season, would be to step away from whatever is causing me to make all these comparisons.

For example, when I find myself constantly comparing to TikTok influencers online, I fast from TikTok.

When I find myself comparing myself to the beautiful girls in K-Dramas, I stop watching these shows and look to His Word.

We are called to renew our minds, and many of us may have to take drastic steps to do so.

2. Wrestle with your thoughts

Before you spiral into thoughts about your body that put yourself down, wrestle with these thoughts — and find out what God says about them. 

Write down what you don’t like about yourself and your body. Put them into words and compare these words to God’s truths about you! 

Memorise these truths from the Bible, write them on sticky notes around your mirror if you have to.

Let God’s Word be hidden in your heart so that you can combat all the lies with truth (Psalm 119:11).

Don’t let the world’s expectations of beauty cloud your identity; be assured and rooted in His Word so that you may truly know how you are made in His Image (Genesis 1:27).

3. Willingness to share  

Last but not least, your willingness to step out and share can make all the difference. Whether it’s your mentor, leader or friend — I urge you to confide in someone you trust. 

It’s not easy to open up about a personal struggle or sin, but if you continue to be alone and allow these thoughts to consume you, the enemy will use these lies to harm you (John 10:10).

I have Kingdom friendships where, when one of us is struggling with our body image, we’ll pray for each other and remind each other of how beloved we are in God’s eyes. 

So, be courageous in confessing your struggles to your siblings-in-Christ so that they may pray with you, spur you on and remind you of God’s truths.

Body image is a long-term struggle, and there are ups and downs.

There are days when my self-image is in the gutter and I wonder why I look a certain way, and there are other days when it’s alright and I live confidently knowing who I am as God’s child. 

It is in the low times of doubting who I am and being trapped in a negative spiral, that it’s especially important to be reminded of my identity as God’s beloved daughter. 

You are fearfully and wonderfully made. The God of all creation calls you His own. He looks upon you, and He finds you beautiful.

  1. What are your insecurities?
  2. Write them out, and write a promise of God next to each one.
  3. What do God’s truths say about who you are? 
  4. Practically speaking, how will that change the way you approach your fears and your situation?