Healthy Self-Image or Vanity? What’s the Difference?

The struggle to develop a healthy self-image and build up our self-esteem is as real for Christian women as it is for most other women. The additional challenge is that our faith can serve to complicate the issue even more. That’s because many of us were taught that focusing on our bodies was vanity, so as a result, we neglected healthy eating and exercise which has affected not only our health and weight but also our self-esteem.

In our Weight Loss, God’s Way Challenge, one of our lessons is on self-esteem and developing a healthy self-image. We ask the women to list 10 things they love about themselves. Surprisingly, this is one of the most difficult exercises for many women, and a lot of them can only list 2 or 3, and some end up talking about their fingernails and big toes because they either do not love anything about themselves or they are afraid that talking about themselves means that they are vain.

Sadly, our faith which was given as a gift so that we could be free has actually made us feel more bound than ever. A woman in the 21-Day Challenge once shared that she had to go repent after listing a few things that she loved about herself. What??? Somewhere along the lines, we’ve confused having a healthy self-image with vanity and self-worship.

This false sense of humility is detrimental to us as Christian women because it dims our light that is supposed to shine so brightly in us. Shrinking to make ourselves seem Christ-like, keeps us from becoming everything we were created to be; it keeps us from being our true selves and it keeps us from sharing our testimony because people only see what we want them to see which is only a small fraction of who we really are.

So exactly what is the difference between having a healthy self-image versus self-worship? I think that asking yourself the following questions will help you if you’re having trouble discerning between the two.

Here’s My W5 (what, who, when, why, where) for discernment:

1. Who gets the glory?

“Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:31

As you improve your health and develop a healthy self-image, are you giving glory to God for what He is doing in your life and your health, or are to telling everyone what you’ve accomplished? God wants us to have a healthy self-image of ourselves but not so that we can boast about how successful, sexy, educated, smart, or rich we are. He blesses us so that we can tell of His goodness and mercy. We are blessed to be a blessing and to use our testimony to spend the Word. If you’re not giving Him the glory, then your weight loss and your self-esteem may just be for the wrong motivation.

2. What are you doing to get healthy and lose weight?

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Are you jumping from diet to diet and always looking for the latest fad or are you spending time with God and asking Him to show you what’s best for your body and your health. Many of us can get so obsessed with trying to lose weight that we’ll do just about anything. We’ll spend money we don’t have and we’ll subject our bodies to crash diets and pills which can cause permanent damage to our metabolism, kidneys, and other vital systems and organs.

If you’re seeking God, then you can feel confident that you are on the right path or that if you veer off, He will continue to direct your steps. When you’re following His will, you will develop a healthy self-image because you will feel more confident in His strength and not your own.

3. Why is losing weight and getting healthy important?

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” 1 Corinthians 6:19

If you want to lose weight just to be a certain number on the scale, to look a certain way, or to fit into a certain outfit, then your motivation might be misplaced and your results might be short-lived.

If your desire is to glorify God with your body or live in obedience to Him, leave a legacy of health for your children, or reflect His glory, then you’re on the right track. You don’t have to worry too much about self-worship if your motivation is coming from the right mindset.

4. When do you need results?

“Let perseverace finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:4

Most of us want results now and that’s human nature, but it is not God’s way. Though it may have taken us years to gain weight, we want to lose it fast. However, to be successful, we must understand that losing weight is a process. It will not happen overnight and we must gird ourselves to understand that the process will take a while. 2 Corinthians 3:18 teaches us that God’s glory comes in levels or stages when we partner with the Lord’s Spirit.

Though there are many instantaneous miracles that happen in the Bible, you should understand that the qualities that God needs to develop in you to make your weight loss permanent will not happen miraculously. They need to be rehearsed and become ingrained into your subconscious mind. As frustrating as it may seem, it will take some time but know that God has given you the capacity to be patient in the process once you submit the process to Him.

Understand that though the process may seem slow, the Word tells us that God is not slow in fulfilling his promises (2 Peter 3:9). God will work in tandem with your obedience, so get ready to receive what He has for you.

5. Where does your self-esteem come from? 

 “But the Lord said unto Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7 KJV

Does your self-esteem come from what you look like or because of who you are in Christ? God looks at our hearts and does not put much stock in our physical appearance, especially when it can cause us to stumble and lose sight of what’s important.

Let your self-esteem come directly from God himself. See yourself in light of who He says you are and don’t be led astray by what you think you should look like. This works both ways, do not obsess over your weight and do not practice false humility thereby neglecting your health either.

If you want to learn more about how to develop a healthy self-image and self-esteem and lose weight, God’s way, register here for our upcoming  challenge at:

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Marilize Nel
Marilize Nel
3 years ago

All glory to God, this is exactly the way and attitude you should have and mindset towards your body and weight loss journey. It’s a journey and it’s much more fun to not do it alone but together with others. Thank you for this🙏

Sandra Gladish
Sandra Gladish
3 years ago

We are called to Love our neighbor as we love ourselves. I have struggled with weight, low self esteem, emotional eating, depression, anxiety my whole adult life. I have always put others before me, and have never felt that I really loved me, or took the time for me. Always busy with someone else’s issues & not dealing with my own. I am 58 years old & I know it’s not too late. I do not look at weight loss as being vain, but thru the past years those thoughts did go thru my mind, as well as others. But… Read more »

Carolyn Hanly
Carolyn Hanly
3 years ago

Cathy this was so good. So rock solid. Your teaching is FIRE. Thank you for speaking TRUTH into my life. Best weight loss teaching I’ve ever heard.

Robin Starr
Robin Starr
3 years ago

Thank you for a great article. This article has given me insight as to motive and where my walk with God really is!

3 years ago

Appreciate the 5 w’s. My boss and I are close in age, however she has always glorified God in all she does – it has been her mindset her whole life. She is healthy, active, energetic and strong, always able to step in to assist, carry, work hard, whatever needs to be done, she is able to do it – and with a cheerful attitude. She has mindfully taken care of her temple her whole life. I am just now learning that taking care of my body better allows me to serve Him better with my body. My boss and… Read more »