Culture tries to convince us that a woman’s worth is defined by her appearance—a faulty mindset that propels our desire to ‘measure up’ and leads us down dark paths of insecurity and shame. As a former professional model who found her purpose in the pursuit of bodily perfection, Amanda Cunningham shares what taking time out of the spotlight to raise her young family taught her about seeking the true Light and ultimately finding your worth in Christ.
Table of Contents
Before I ever knew the light of the Lord, I knew the spotlight of the world. Its familiar, fickle glare shone on me for ten years as a professional print and runway model. And when I was not willing to do what it would take to fit back into my model size after becoming a mother, hundreds of women stood ready to take my place. So, I stepped aside, let them take over, and stayed home to raise my two girls. Yet, despite the blessings I experienced in becoming the wife and mother I had dreamt of my entire life, I initially missed much of the joy this season had to offer. I was simply lost in the dark.
THE DARKNESS OF SELF WORTH
At first, I felt free. I could finally eat what I wanted and not obsess over how I looked anymore. My livelihood no longer depended on the circumference of my chest, waist, and hips. No one would “tsk-tsk” at the chickenpox scar on my cheek or sigh at my too-soft stomach again. Forget squeezing into stilettos at 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. Instead, pass the potato chips and Oreos while I watch “Sleeping Beauty” for the second time before my daughters and I take an afternoon nap.
No one could hurt me with their criticisms ever again, right? I thought I was free from the unforgiving spotlight of other people’s opinions. Unfortunately, the fashion industry’s unrealistic standards for a working model had become the benchmark against which I measured my worth. My body image dictated my career, and my career had become my identity.
I did not realize how deeply I defined myself by my work or by my body until motherhood thrust me into a whole new world. I lost my clients, my title, my income, and my routine. When my body changed and I lost my career, I also lost ‘me’. I had yet to realize I had depended on the wrong body to define me.
THE DARKNESS OF SHAME
For the first few years, the joys and struggles of mothering through the baby and toddler stages consumed my energy. I did not take the time to stop and ask myself how I was doing with my new life, new babies, and new career as a stay-at-home-mom. The days were long and the years were longer.
But none of the daily demands wore me down like looking in the mirror. My past fears and insecurities about my body—being passed over at castings, losing clients to more or less conventional beauties, falling to the bottom of my agent’s list as I aged. It all haunted me and stole from my present. (Just as your insecurities about your body probably try to destroy the right-now-real-you, too.)
The day my first child entered the world, I hobbled into the hospital bathroom. Horrified, I saw my reflection in the slim, cool glass above the sink. I cursed the dim lighting for highlighting every divot on the surface of my skin. I questioned how this, my new broken body, would ever attract my husband again.
Six months into motherhood, my broken body had also lost its ability to find rest. My dark under-eye circles and my dirty hair stood in stark contrast to my bright baby girl swaddled in a warm pink towel and giggling at our reflection in the large bathroom mirror after bath time.
Seven years into my marriage, I caught my reflection in a store mirror as I shopped for something cute to wear on a long-anticipated date night. I did not recognize myself. The idea of what I thought I looked like bore no resemblance to the woman I saw in the mirror—and it scared me. Had I become one of ‘those’ women who let herself go?
DRAWN TO THE LIGHT
Honestly, I missed the spotlight. And the compliments, favors, and perks that came with it. Diaper bags and car seats and strollers weighed me down. I wondered if I would ever feel as beautiful and light and free as I did floating down the runway in designer evening gowns. Meanwhile, God patiently waited for me to give up trying to find security within myself and, instead, search for it in Him.
At this time, my husband and I started bringing our daughters to church so they could decide for themselves what they believed about God. He and I ended up turning our lives over to Christ before them. I had read all the self-help books I could and never missed an Oprah or Dr. Phil episode. But nothing changed until Jesus changed me.
Then my eyes fell upon these verses in the Word. I began to really see that my worth is found in Christ alone. Christ gave it to me when He gave up His body. And no one can take that away from me.
Truths from the Word
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28).
I learned about the life and death and resurrection of Jesus. And slowly He lifted my burdens, melted my heart, straightened my path, and healed me of my past and present hurts—including hating my aging body.
TRANSFORMED BY HIS LIGHT
I used to spend my time in front of the mirror silently insulting and shaming myself for all the ways I let my hope and health go. I thought no one else knew. Because I never dared to share all I believed about myself with anyone. But the Lord knew. And He waited patiently for me to discover the truth about who I am because of who He is.
What no one knew, or could see by looking at me, were the messages I had secretly written on my body. Rejected, damaged goods, beached whale, beyond repair, busted can of biscuits, unloved, and unlovable.
I never challenged or changed these messages until I understood what Jesus sacrificing His body meant for me. I had been looking for hope and healing in the wrong body—mine. But only Christ’s body can transform me into who I really am. Saved, forgiven, redeemed, whole, clean, co-heir with Jesus, and a beloved daughter of the King.
God tells us, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NIV). I spent my entire modeling career trying to conform to a physical pattern of this world. I was desperate to stay within the required measurements for my body to be labeled good enough by others.
But God had other plans for me. A hope and a future far greater than a good image in the eyes of the world. A purpose driven not by my body, but His.
THE LIGHT WITHIN US
Sisters in Christ, we are called to be set apart from the world and secured and rooted in Him. Our identity in Christ will require us to think and love like Him, to be transformed into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18). And Jesus did not settle for false or flash in the pan appearances. Look at the following verses from His Word.
“He had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2b).
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but then the Lord looks on the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7).
When we study the Bible, we can clearly see some of God’s characteristics that we can and should reflect ourselves—His grace, love, truth, mercy, and justice.
Now, when I look in the mirror, I look for the truth over the superficial. I search for hints of His image, the fruits of His Spirit within me. Those are the things I aim to grow. And all the lies the world tries to label me with are the dark injustices I now seek to remove and throw away.
REFLECTING HIS LIGHT
Every image the fashion industry feeds us has been carefully curated, colored, lit, styled, shopped, shaped, smoothed, and glossed. So our desires are drawn to the products for sale, not to the smoke and mirrors behind the scenes. Yet Jesus is “the light of the world. Whoever follows [Him] will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
After Moses had been with the Lord, “the skin of his face shone” (Exodus 34:29-30). He stood out as radiant because light was given to him by God. We are called to be the same. Jesus says: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Your changing looks may not threaten your paycheck. But the world has convinced us that our worth is defined by our appearances. What I want instead, and what I believe we all want, is an inner and true lasting beauty that cannot be lost or taken away. True beauty is found in reflecting His image; His light in us.
LIVE IN THE LIGHT
Jesus did not waste His life here seeking stardom or searching for man’s approval. He did not spend His ministry trying to preserve His earthly body or garner attention with an impressive appearance. Jesus did not need a spotlight. He is the Light.
Jesus came to make disciples. We are called to do the same. And nothing about our appearances or our broken bodies disqualify us from our God-given purposes. Let us not forfeit His favor or reject the masterpiece He has created us to be (Ephesians 2:10). Let neither our looks nor our lack hold us back from all He has planned for us and those around us. Instead, let’s step out of the darkness, leave our shame behind, and walk in the light of knowing we were made with His loving hands. We were modeled by the Maker for love, not for looks. We were created to live in the Light—and find our true worth in Christ.
15 SIMPLE WAYS TO ADD JOY TO YOUR DAY IN LESS THAN AN HOUR
Need a little extra joy in your day?
Our team has put together this FREE printable for our readers to help you infuse joy into your life quickly. Enter your name and email below and we’ll send this fun printable right over!