Mirror Image

By Julie K. Kennard

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I’d been taught that our bodies are temples, but I sure didn’t feel that way about mine.

It was stuck, completely, 100 percent stuck. I couldn’t pull the knee brace up any farther, but I also couldn’t pull it down to get it off. The doctor came back in, and I had to explain my predicament.

“You’re bigger than I thought,” was his comment.

After successfully wrestling the next larger size up my leg, I was ready to leave. The doctor’s nurse stopped me and apologized for the doctor’s comment.

“I told him you just don’t say things like that to girls. He meant you are tall.”

“That’s okay,” I said. “I get it all the time.”

I used to like being tall. Then I got to junior high school. I became very self-conscious about my height and consequently my weight. I always felt fat and out of shape in gym because I was more awkward than everyone else. I wasn’t skinny growing up, but I wasn’t fat either. I was just big. Polite people would tell me I had large bones.

My senior year in high school I became obsessed with my weight because the senior choir I was in had a show-choir program at the end of the year where we sang and danced to Broadway tunes. We learned dances for all of our songs, and I was taller than every boy in choir. Because I was taller, I felt bigger too. I felt I couldn’t eat in front of anyone because they’d think I was too big already. Somehow I survived that experience. But my weight issues weren’t over.

During my third year of college I got sick. Not just the flu-for-a-couple-of-weeks sick. I couldn’t get better.

I was finally diagnosed with a chronic illness. The doctor gave me medications that were supposed to help, but this was a really bleak and depressing time for me.

It was then I noticed my clothes getting tighter, but I figured that was because I was sleeping all the time. I hardly ever walked to class. I knew as soon as I started to feel better, I’d be up and about on campus again.

After several months, I started feeling better and walked to campus regularly. But the weight kept coming. I even popped the zipper on my pants one day at work.

My doctor discovered that one of the medications had made my body hold onto the fat. I stopped taking it, but the damage was already done.

I hated looking in a mirror. I hated buying clothes. I hated running into people I knew before I got sick. I hated myself. I was stuck in a downward spiral of self-loathing. I was also struggling to accept the fact I couldn’t do everything I used to do. I simply didn’t have the health to do everything anymore. I hated this body I had that hurt all the time and kept getting sick. I felt I was stuck with a fat, ugly, sick body.

We hear all the time in Young Women that our bodies are temples. And one day I had a flash of understanding. It didn’t matter if my body was fat or skinny, it was a temple. I’ve never heard anyone make fun of the way the temples look, so why do we do that to our personal temples—our bodies? I realized that every time I felt bad about my body, I was being ungrateful for and disrespectful to a temple. I remembered that one-third of the hosts of heaven didn’t even get mortal bodies.

I thought of the scripture in the New Testament, when devils begged the Savior to let them enter the bodies of swine, just to have a body (see Mark 5:1–13). I was blessed with a physical body to house my spirit while I’m on this earth, a body patterned after my Heavenly Father’s.

Since that realization, I haven’t miraculously felt like my body is perfect. It’s hard to change old habits and perceptions. Instead of wishing I had someone else’s body, I try to remember that my body is a temple.

Recently I was able to go to the temple and receive my endowment. In the celestial room with my family and friends. I noticed mirrors opposite each other that reflect forever, representing eternity. One of the things I will always remember and cherish is in that room I felt beautiful. It wasn’t a turn-someone’s-head pretty. I just felt beautiful. I knew the Lord didn’t care what size dress I wore. He cared that I was clean and worthy. I had kept my own temple pure. In those mirrors I could appreciate what a beautiful gift my body was.

I am not stuck with my body; I am blessed with it.

Illustrated by Greg Newbold