See Yourself through God’s Eyes
Freedom from Eating Disorders, LLC
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No portion of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the author. Each lesson in this course is for personal use only.
This course is not a substitute for professional help. This course is not for the diagnosis or treatment of an eating disorder. The author is not responsible for how any purchaser uses this information. Each purchaser is responsible for getting any needed professional help.
Christian Eating Disorder Recovery Course
See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out
By applying the material in this lesson, you can change your self-talk and see the amazing, beautiful person God created you to be.
I struggled with body image and seeing myself as God does. It was a process to change my perspective. May the Scriptural principles in this lesson help you see yourself as he does.
How do you see yourself? Do you tend to be self-condemning or are you able to see yourself through God’s eyes? Does your self-talk ever sound something like this?
I can’t do anything right.
I’m stupid and ugly.
I should never have been born.
People wouldn’t like me if they knew the real me.
If it is, you have probably noticed that thoughts like these make you feel badly about yourself, which can drive you to eating disorder behaviors. After engaging in behaviors, you have even more self-condemning thoughts and feelings, and you feel snagged in an ongoing, controlling cycle.
You can stop this cycle! Start by addressing those disparaging thoughts and replacing them with what God says about you. Learn to see yourself through his eyes. In this lesson, you’ll find help to explore how you currently see yourself, principles about seeing your identity in Christ, insights about body image, and a discussion about the scale.
How You See Yourself Now
First, it’s important to examine how you presently see yourself and where you’ve placed your identity.
- Think about how you formed your beliefs about yourself. Were you criticized or abused while growing up? As a child or teen, you were especially vulnerable to what others thought of you. It’s only natural to look to parents and other authority figures for love, acceptance, and approval. Ideally, you’ll look to the Lord for such things, but until you’re old enough to comprehend that, it’s understandable to look to parents and others older than you. If your parents, siblings, extended family members, teachers, coaches, or church leaders degraded you, it only stands to reason that you believed what they said. From their comments, you may have concluded that you’re stupid or ugly, irresponsible, or would never amount to anything. Those conclusions have likely stayed with you and played a part in how you define yourself.
- You may continue to look to others’ opinions for acceptance and approval. Deep down, you may still seek it from your parents or siblings, or you may look to a spouse, friend, or boss. Ultimately, though, even if they say kind, affirming, and truthful things about you, they can’t truly define you. That’s God’s job. He’s your creator and the one who gives you your identity.
- It may seem that if you’re popular, you’re a better person. Whether in school or in your adult years, being liked by as many people as possible is important to you. It’s vital for you to build as many social connections as possible. You may rely on your popularity and social status to feel valuable as a person. It may be like a competition. If you have more friends than others, that’s even better. It puts you a notch above others and secures your social status. On the other hand, if you don’t think you have enough friends, then you aren’t good enough as a person. But, again, others’ opinions don’t determine the real you.
- You might search for your value in how you measure up against others. You might think that if you do things like act kinder or do more good deeds than others, you can find some of your value in that. On the other hand, you may feel you’ll never be good enough because you don’t have the same strengths of others you admire. You don’t have to be better than someone else to have value. You don’t have to be as good as someone else to have worth. You weren’t made to compare yourself with others. You were made to be you. Period.
- You may think that the more money and possessions you have, the more important you are. Perhaps that feeling of importance is meaningful to you. It somehow helps you feel like you matter a little more. You may see this as evidence of your success. Ultimately, though, money and possessions don’t make you a better person if you have more or a worse person if you have less. They’re just things, and you are worth more than things. They’re here for a season, but you will live on for eternity. Your things can’t add value to that.
- Perhaps you define yourself based on what you do. Your performance, whether it’s in school, sports, work, or home, may be what you look to in order to decide what kind of person you are. You might construe that you’re a bad person if you don’t meet high, even unrealistically high, expectations. Even if you come close to meeting your goals, you may conclude that you’re never quite good enough. Your ability to perform will likely change from one day to the next, so it’s dangerous to base your identity on it. What if you suffer an illness or injury that prevents you from performing as you have in the past? Would that mean you have to feel badly about yourself? Would you cease to be you? No. The bottom line is that your performance doesn’t define you. God does.
- You may measure your worth by your failures and successes. But are you a good person if you succeed and a bad person if you fail? Of course not. Failing doesn’t make you bad, and succeeding doesn’t make you good. Succeeding may be evidence of things like obeying God or using your God-given gifts. But it still isn’t your efforts that make you who you are.
- Do you place your identity in your appearance? Do you think you’ll only be acceptable at a certain weight? Are you overly critical of your appearance, whether it’s your hair color, skin tone, basic body shape, height, or weight? Maybe you conclude that you aren’t good enough if your appearance isn’t quite right. Even if you could look exactly how you’d like in every way, that wouldn’t make you a better person; it wouldn’t determine who you are inside. Furthermore, what if an illness or injury damages your appearance in some way? Will that mean you could never see yourself in a positive light again? Even if it doesn’t “feel” like it, you probably know logically that it isn’t wise to place your identity in your appearance.
- Maybe you look to your roles in life for your identity. You might be determined to be the perfect son or daughter, or perhaps the perfect parent. You might strive to be a stellar spouse, boss, or employee. While there’s nothing wrong with doing your best and being thoughtful and giving in relationships, it’s when you put your identity in it that there’s a problem. For example, it’s great to try to be a wonderful mom by nurturing your children, taking care of their needs, and providing spiritual training for them. While it’s a very important role in life, it still isn’t your identity. When your children are grown, you don’t suddenly stop being you because you no longer have the same kind of role you once did. The wonderful traits your Creator placed in you that make you a good mom are still there.
Your roles in life will change over the years. There may come a time that you’ll need to care for an elderly parent. Fulfilling that role will be vital to your parent’s well-being. It will be part of
God’s purpose for you for that time. But when that parent dies, you won’t be any less you than you were before.
Even if you work in ministry, whether in a lay ministry or in vocational ministry, that role doesn’t define you. You aren’t an acceptable person while you’re in a ministry and an unacceptable person if you leave it. While it’s wonderful to use your God-given gifts, and it’s important to obey and serve God with those gifts, it still isn’t what you do that defines you.
When your roles change, that doesn’t diminish your value. Even if you take a break from some of those roles or never return to them, that doesn’t affect your true worth.
- You are neither your sin nor your mistakes. Your failures and shortcomings don’t define you. Since you’re human, you’ll sin every day, and you’ll need to confess, repent, and receive God’s forgiveness. You’re going to have weaknesses, and you’re going to make mistakes. There’s just no getting around that. Certainly, you can do your best, and you can learn and grow, but you won’t stop being human. Even so, you are more than your sin and your failures. They don’t take away your value as a person. You’re God’s creation, and nothing can ever take that away.
- It may seem that you should degrade yourself in order to define who you are. This may be because you’re focused on your sin and weaknesses as already discussed. It may also be because you’ve concluded that if you cut yourself down enough, that will make you a better person. You may be afraid that if you think positive things about yourself, you’ll become arrogant. If you think in black and white, you may not be able to easily see the balance. It doesn’t have to be either self-degradation or self-exaltation. There is a healthy balance where you can see your true value without thinking you’re above others. It isn’t being arrogant to see yourself as a beautiful creation of God, loved and valued by him. That’s simply believing the truth.
- You might think that being a victim is part of your identity. If you have been bullied, abused, or violated in some way, it may seem that makes you less of a person. But it doesn’t! Your true self is still the same regardless of what anyone has done to you. Those unfair, or even horrific, actions don’t define you.
- One of the scariest places you may interpret your identity is in your eating disorder. Under its control, you may feel it’s a part of you. But it is not! It may feel like it is, but that doesn’t make it true. You are not your eating disorder; your eating disorder is not you! When you recover, you won’t cease to be you because you no longer engage in food-related behaviors. Your identity isn’t based on what you do; it’s based on who you are.
Does anything on this list resonate with you? With all of these possibilities mentioned, you would be placing your identity in the hands of others or yourself instead of God’s. Can you see that? Read on to see how you can shift those beliefs.
See Your Identity in Christ
- It’s common to place identity in things such as appearance, abilities, or roles. Maybe you’ve done this yourself. The problem is that these things can change. When that change occurs, identity is shaken. For example, you may have felt good about yourself in the past – when you earned high grades, had a special boyfriend or girlfriend, hadn’t experienced the effects of aging, or hadn’t yet suffered loss of appearance or performance at the hand of a devastating illness or injury. Perhaps you were proud of the type of work you once did, but now feel worthless after a job change. Maybe you felt fulfilled in a particular role in the family, but now you feel you no longer have a purpose. These are just some examples that show the dangers of placing your identity in things that can change.
When you place your identity in Christ, however, you have a solid foundation. You’re focused on God’s view of you rather than your own distorted one. Not only is he unchanging, but his love for you will never cease. You can find assurance of his unchanging nature in this praise-filled affirmation in Hebrews, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
- Your heavenly Father loves you in a way that exceeds your own human capability to love. Scripture unveils your heavenly birthright. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). This is how God sees you — as one of his children. You have this special bond with the Creator of the universe.
- Let John’s gospel lead you to see yourself through God’s compassionate eyes. “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Friends — imagine that! He gave his life for you and now offers his friendship and his help to you by linking you to the Father. And why would he call you his friend if you weren’t special to him?
- In the Old Testament, David communicates how God knows his children intimately. David celebrated great successes and suffered great failures as he struggled through his life experiences. As a writer of songs, he penned the prayer, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Ps. 139:1-3). The Lord made you, knows all there is to know about you, and accepts you. Furthermore, your human friends may come and go, but Jesus will never abandon you. His acceptance is unconditional and everlasting. It’s natural to seek the acceptance and approval of others, but that places your identity in something that can change. It isn’t what others think of you, but what the Lord thinks of you, that matters most.
- God is for you; he is on your side. He longs to work in your heart and life. He created you for a reason; he alone knows the plan for your life. He longs to help you, heal you, and equip you so you can fulfill his purpose for your life. As you focus on how he sees you and what you mean to him, perhaps you can begin to see that you’re worthy of freedom. In addition, you’ll put aside your own ideas and expectations and replace them with his plan. Keep in mind that God made you as you are so he can use you as he’s planned.1
- You have been made in God’s image. “…for in the image of God has God made man” (Gen. 9:6b). Celebrate the creation who is you.
- “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). As your friend, Jesus gave his life for you. Could you be any more loved and treasured than that?
- Consider the message of love and concern for you as an individual in the following verses:
“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him” (Isa. 30:18)!
“This is what the Lord says – he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you…” (Isa. 44:2).
“See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” (Isa. 49:16).
“And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30).
- Make a list of your positive traits. Maybe you’re sensitive to others’ needs or loyal to your loved ones. Perhaps you’re creative and artistic or have strong organizational or administrative skills. Ask for help with this if it’s difficult. If you’ve always thought negatively of yourself, it might take some practice. But as a child of the King, you have reason to celebrate what God made.
- Put it all together. For each lie you believe about yourself, endeavor to replace it with a truthful statement. Here are some examples.
Lie: I can’t do anything right.
Truth: God will help me if I let him.
Lie: I’m stupid and ugly.
Truth: I was created in God’s image with unique gifts. I’m beautiful in his sight.
Lie: I should never have been born.
Truth: God has a purpose for my life.
Lie: I’m not as good as others so I’m not good enough as a person.
Truth: God doesn’t compare me to others, so neither will I. He values me for me.
Lie: I’ve messed up so badly in my life that there’s no hope for me.
Truth: I’m never beyond God’s reach. No matter what I’ve done, he has enough love, grace, and mercy if I’ll receive it from him.
Lie: I don’t feel accepted by others so there must be something wrong with me.
Truth: God not only accepts me, but he loves me without condition. Others’ opinions don’t define me.
Lie: I’m not successful, and I’ve never made much money. I’m just no good.
Truth: My identity is not based on what I do or what I have, but on who I am inside — the real person God created me to be.
Lie: I’m just a nothing now. I used to have a purpose when I was more involved with others (children, aging parents, career, ministry).
Truth: My roles are separate from my identity. I’m not less of a person because I don’t do what I used to. God’s purpose for me may be changing, but I’m still the same person inside.
Lie: I’ve been violated, so I’ll always be damaged and unworthy of anyone’s love.
Truth: What has happened to me doesn’t define me. I’m still the same beautiful person inside who God created. He can heal my heart, and he will always love me no matter what happens to me.
Lie: Who am I without the eating disorder? It’s a part of me.
Truth: I am more than my eating disorder. It can’t speak of the real me. I am better off without it in my life. In its absence, I’ll be able to see the true me.
Lie: I must always tear myself down. I’m not worthy of anything better.
Truth: God deserves better than that from me. As a child of the Most High God, I’ll appreciate his creation instead of degrading it. My worthiness lies in what he says about me, not in what I think of myself.
It may be hard to believe these principles, but that doesn’t make them any less true. Your negative self-talk has probably been there for a long time, and it will take time to change those thoughts. But now you have some of the principles and truths you need to help you make those changes. For more on shifting your beliefs, examine the Change Your Thoughts lesson.
Insights about Body Image
You are not your body; you just live in your body. That might seem difficult to believe, but it’s true. Your body doesn’t define you. It’s something that carries you through life. The real you lives inside.
- There is so much more to you than your body. God created you as a whole person according to his plan. David’s wonder in the following praise-filled description of your uniqueness assures you of your worth in God’s eyes. “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” (Ps. 139:14-16). See, he had a plan all along – a plan for who you’ll be, how you’ll look, and what you’ll do.
- When you criticize your basic shape, you’re demeaning yourself, but it’s more than that. You’re actually showing disrespect to the one who gave you life. Paul speaks of this in the following verse: “But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this’” (Rom. 9:20)?
- Your body houses the Holy Spirit of God. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple” (1 Cor. 3:16). The human body is a temple: a sacred place where the Spirit should be revered.
- You’re meant to use your body in service to God in whatever way he has planned for your life. In order to do this, God wants you to refrain from both sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit. He wants you to be cleansed and to live a holy life. Paul reiterates this principle in his letter to the Corinthian church. “…let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor. 7:1). While battling an eating disorder, your all-consuming thoughts and behaviors can distract you from a correct focus: learning to use your gifts and talents as God desires. Furthermore, your body is weakened, rendering you unable to carry out his plan for your life.
- Know that malnutrition affects how you see yourself. When you aren’t eating a healthy, balanced diet, your brain doesn’t have the fuel it needs to think correctly, so your perceptions become distorted. When you receive proper nutrition, you see yourself more accurately.1
- Instead of focusing on your appearance, try to concentrate instead on your health and how various parts of your body function. Acknowledge that they need to be healthy in order for you to do what you need them to do.
- When it comes right down to it, you might see that your focus on body image is a distraction. On some level, you may obsess about your appearance instead of addressing nagging thoughts and disturbing emotions. If you see this in yourself, know that you can gain the tools you need to deal with those underlying issues and can break free of your obsessive thoughts about body image.
- You don’t have to love your body. If you come to that point, that’s terrific. If you accept your body, that’s the main thing. If you don’t reach the point of loving it, that’s doesn’t mean you can’t recover. It means you’re simply content with your body, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Ask the Lord to help you see yourself through his eyes. Let him show you the true person he intends you to be and become.
Insights about the Scale
- If you have an intense focus on your appearance, you may find that you’re obsessed with the number on the scale. You may let the scale become powerfully influential. If the number is up, it may trigger behaviors to try to lose weight. If the number is down, you may feel a sense of accomplishment. Losing weight may almost be like a ‘high’ for you. Maybe you continue eating and stepping on the scale to see how much you can eat without gaining weight. If the number is up, you might feel your bingeing behavior is exposed. If the number is down or the same, you may feel you can continue, even if you’re overeating. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, the scale can control you with its numbers, but only if you let it. You can break free of its grasp as you work through underlying issues and learn to see yourself through God’s eyes.1
- The number on the scale doesn’t define you. If the number changes significantly, or even if it’s unknown to you, your true identity won’t change. You’ll still be the same person. It’s just a number. That’s all it is. It can’t make you feel badly about yourself nor can it promise you that you’ll be happier at a different weight. It only has the power you give it. A scale is just an object. Don’t let it control you; don’t let it deny you of your freedom.
- As your health is monitored, someone will track your weight, but that doesn’t mean you have to know the number. You can step on the scale backward at appointments and ask not to be told your weight.
- If you need to weigh at home, perhaps you can arrange for someone else to read the scale for you, jot down those numbers for your doctor, and put them in a sealed envelope for you to take to your next appointment. If you have a friend or family member you trust, you can arrange for that person to come over if you don’t have someone living with you whom you’d feel comfortable asking.
- If you don’t need to monitor your weight at home, you can get rid of your scale. If that seems too drastic at this point, move toward it in steps. Start by weighing one less day per week, then two, then three, until you’re going a full week and two weeks without weighing, and so on. In time, you can tell the scale to keep its numbers. Those numbers can’t measure what’s truly important in your recovery and in your life.
- If you got rid of your scale in the past, but you’ve bought a new one, remember that recovery is full of ups and downs. You got rid of your scale once. You can do it again.
Getting rid of the scale isn’t the best decision for everyone, but it seems to be for most people. Give it an honest try. Ask yourself if knowing the number hinders your recovery efforts. If so, then it’s time to seriously consider getting rid of it.
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you that I am your child and your friend. Even though I may not always understand myself, I am grateful that you know everything there is to know about me. I realize you’ve made me just as I am to use me just as you’ve planned. Thank you for making me as I am and for loving me unconditionally — no matter what I weigh, how much or little exercise I do, or how many calories I consume in a day. I know your love for me never changes and never ends. Help me not to criticize the way I look, but to see myself as your precious creation. Please help me remember it’s your opinion of me that defines me. Please help me see myself through your eyes. Thank you for your desire to reveal to me my true identity.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.1
With joy, I remember
planning your existence,
setting forth your purpose,
determining your destiny.
Elated, as I shaped you in my mind.
Shy or outgoing,
a leader or a follower,
lanky or petite,
with raven or corn silk hair,
with azure or hazel eyes?
Careful as I created you
to fulfill my plan for your life.
I treasured your creation
and my heart leapt
upon giving you your first breath,
when you began to walk and talk,
and every time you asked about me.
Oh, how I rejoiced
the day you called me Lord for the first time,
and I’ve never grown tired of hearing your voice.
Oh, the sound of your precious voice.
Whether you’re chatting about your day,
earnestly seeking guidance,
crying out of brokenness,
pleading for forgiveness,
or engaging in worship,
such sweet melody melts my heart.
Oh, how I delight today
to know you’re so close
that I can feel your breath.
You cling to me,
afraid to loosen your grasp,
fix your eyes on me as if I’ll vanish
if you look away for even a second.
my adored creation who is you.
- Pray and ask God to help you see yourself through his eyes.
- Read Ps. 139.
- Print the two pages in the PDF file which contain Ps. 139 with blanks. Insert your name in the blanks. It’s a great way to personalize this vital chapter and let its truth fill your mind and filter through to your heart.
- Notice what thoughts come to mind as you make that chapter personal. Is your reaction positive? If so, in what way? Is it difficult to believe God created you and loves you in the way it’s expressed in this Psalm? If so, why?
- What do you feel when you read this Psalm with your name in it? Do you feel loved, comforted, or treasured? Do you feel uncomfortable? Explore your feelings in your journal.
- If this homework assignment is difficult for you, consider it may be because the truth is so contrary to what you’ve believed about yourself for so long. Use this assignment as motivation to explore the truth of what God says about you. It may take time to believe it, so you may need to remind yourself of it many times before it sticks. Also, remember that it can take time for emotions to catch up. So even if your head starts to believe it, it might take your heart a little more time. That’s okay. You can take it one step at a time.
The remaining features for this lesson, as listed below, are printable. You may download the PDF file here.
Ps. 139 with Blanks
Answer Key for Quiz
1Laurie Glass, Journey to Freedom from Eating Disorders, 2010.
All Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Find out about other lessons on the Recovery Course page.
Change Your Thoughts
Learn to Deal with Emotions
See Yourself through God’s Eyes Inside and Out
Address Your Relationship with Food
Invite God into Your Recovery
Let Go of Control
Face Your Fears
Experience Inner Healing
Let Go of Perfectionism
Let Go of Guilt
Let Go of Shame
Deal with Relapses