Are you really going to eat a second bowl of cereal?

When you were young, who told you that you weren’t beautiful because of the gap between your front teeth?

When you were in middle school, who told you that you shouldn’t eat that piece of chocolate because it would make you fat?

Who called you a string bean in high school, and made fun of your bony shoulders and knobby knees?

Who said all the things that made you believe the lies about yourself?

Who said that?

There comes a time in each of our lives when someone makes a statement that burns into our minds and transfers the pain of falsely perceived the truth into our hearts. Sometimes it comes from the middle school bully, who strategically controls the laughter of our classmates, and manipulates our perception of our self-worth. Other times, it’s the harsh, thoughtless words of our parents that dig into the depths of our humanity and release a wave of insecurity throughout our minds. And other times, it’s the opinion of the person who is supposed to care about us most that distorts the reflection we see in the mirror each morning.

It’s difficult to live by the adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” when our primary form of communication is spoken word, and those words that we try so hard to pretend hold no meaning have the ability to break our hearts. Regardless of where the words come from, the pain associated is enough to leave a lasting impression on how we view ourselves.

My sophomore year of college, I walked into the dining hall, exhausted after playing two hours of soccer, and tossed my bag on a chair. I grabbed a bowl of cereal and sat down with my friends. We discussed the games we had played, the dynamic of our team, and the incredibly competitive nature of our opponents. When I had finished my cereal, I stood up to pour myself another bowl.

I noticed my boyfriend (at the time) set his spoon down, and his eyes scanned me from head to toe.

“Are you really going to eat a second bowl of cereal,” he asked, a tone of disgust peering from beneath his words.

I stopped, stunned with shame. What was he implying? Did he think I was fat?

“No,” I said, setting my bowl down on the table. “Just going to get water.”

I walked away from the group, trying my hardest to choke back tears. At that moment, I was disgusted with myself. At that moment, I hated myself.

It wasn’t the first time someone had said something hurtful to me, and it wasn’t the first time someone had made a false statement about me. It was one of the first times I believed them.

To this day, I still look in the mirror and can hear his words, burning with disappointment and shame.

“Are you really going to eat a second bowl of cereal,” has become one of the most impactful statements in my life. It continues to be the sentence that defines the many lies I often believe about myself. I’m no longer dating the guy, but somehow this single sentence that he uttered in college has been strong enough to remain unforgettable. But why?

I think it’s because these words are more than just one statement made by one guy. These words echo behind every negative comment anyone makes regarding my body, my appearance, or my value as a person. “Are you really going to eat a second bowl of cereal,” has become the mantra behind every negative thought I think about myself. It is the constant reminder of my flaws, my insecurities, and my scars. It is a statement that has left a wound on my heart, and a blemish on my reflection.

But, this statement has also become a blessing. It has caused me to wrestle with my perception of self-worth and acknowledge the truth behind God’s view of who I am; holy and blameless, made new and perfected in the image of Christ. This statement has driven me to combat the lies that I am told every day, from the media, from culture, and from my insecure thoughts. These words have pushed me to speak out against the lies we are all subjected to regarding body image, health, fitness, and what it means to live and view ourselves in a wholesome manner.

So, who told you the lies that have caused you so much pain? Who made you question your beauty, your value, your worth? What was said to you that you still carry around every day?

Are you going to let it be the statement that devours you, or the anthem empowers you?