Farai Chideya was born on July 27, 1969, in Baltimore, Maryland of an African-American mother and a Zimbabwean father. In 1990 she graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard College with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. Her accomplishments since include writing several novels and nonfiction books, becoming an award winning multimedia journalist, including hosting her own radio show on NPR. For 15 years she produced and hosted Pop and Politics with Farai Chideya, a series of radio specials on politics. She currently produces and hosts One with Farai, a podcast for Public Radio International, in which she interviews distinguished individuals with a range of stories and opinions.
To all outward appearances Farai is a total success but the truth is for years her self worth was tied to looking like the glossy images of women she saw in the make – believe world of television. She became so obsessed with having the perfect female body that she became a bulimic, binging and purging consumed her life and distorted her self image.
Commenting on her battle with bulimia’s destructive grip, she says,
“Losing weight didn’t change my personality and it didn’t lighten the emotional baggage I carried from my childhood. I thought I wanted to be thin. What I really wanted was to be happy; neither my looks nor my achievements could do that. Because I couldn’t love or accept myself, the acceptance of others was never enough. When I tried to be perfect, I came across as remote and unapproachable, yet the exact opposite was what I wanted.”
Perfection. We all want it. It is an American obsession.
In addition to disorders like bulimia and anorexia, perfection obsession also wraps you in loneliness because you can never let anyone see your imperfections which means never fully revealing yourself to anyone. Vulnerabilty, honesty and openness are the building blocks of lasting, intimate relationships.
Perfection obsession causes us to see our shortcomings as something to hide, rather than seeing them as opportunities for growth. It keeps us focused on who we are going to be and what we are going to do in the future, and prevents us from focusing on enjoying who we are and what we are doing in the here and now. Perfection obsession robs us of our chance to make our life count because we are putting so much effort into fixing ourself that we have no focus or energy left to help others.
Bulimia and anorexia are terrible disorders that can consume your life, but they are symptoms of a deeper issue – getting our self worth from the wrong source – of trying to find love in all the wrong places – of perfection obsession. Stories like Farai’s give us great insight into what happens when we get our self worth from the wrong source! Whether that source is the perfect body, the perfect mind, the perfect relationship, the perfect career, the perfect academic career, or any other perfect accomplishment you care to add – they all have this is common: they are defined by others (society, media, peers, expectations, academia, romanticism, etc.). We each must choose whether to let others determine our self worth or to let God determine our self worth.
Scripture teaches and experience validates that God loves us with an everlasting love that we do not and can not earn. His love for us is intrinsic to who He is, not who we are, and therefore we are in no danger of losing it. Choose to let others determine your self worth and you will constantly be in danger of losing it. Choose to let God determine your self worth and not only are you in no danger of losing it but it requires no effort beyond accepting the unwavering, unending love freely given to us by our Heavenly Father. This choice should be a no-brainer!
God’s love is the only perfection we need – and we do not have to obsess over attaining it – it quite simply is ours for the taking!
You have worth because God loves you – his perfect love is the only perfection you will ever need.