The new normal?

As Christians we believe we are made in the image and likeness of God.

We also know that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

We are told over and over again in God’s word, along with the catechism and countless Church documents, that we are precious and irreplaceable.

The problem is we have a tough time believing any of it thanks to our own insecurities, combined with the constant bombardment of media messages telling us what we’re supposed to see when we look in the mirror.

Too often we allow the culture to determine what is normal and what isn’t when it comes to our appearance, and now apparently there is a new normal given to us by a beauty contestant.

The body-image issue has been front and center in the media, particularly social media, after the televised Miss USA contest in early June. Miss Indiana, 25-year-old Mekayla Diehl, stood out among the other contestants even though she never made it to the final round.

She pretty much stole the spotlight from the winner, Miss Nevada, because Diehl is not the average beauty queen. At least on television, she didn’t appear to be bone thin. She looks healthy, or at least a lot healthier than other pageant participants.

Media reports, countless tweens and blogs referred to her shape and size as “normal.” However, should we be calling her normal when at 5 feet 8 inches tall she wears a size 4 — and when we stop to consider the fact that the TV cameras still tend to add at least a few pounds here or there?

She also apparently has a Body Mass Index of 18 which is just below the healthy range, which is 18.5-24.9 for an adult, according to the National Institutes of Health.

I’m far from being a Bible scholar, but I am pretty sure that being “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the eyes of God, as we’re reminded in Psalm 139, has nothing to do with a dress size.

The reaction to Miss Indiana should make us even more aware of our obsession with appearance, as well as how we are really putting unrealistic ideas in the heads of women and girls everywhere.

This doesn’t do much to help us see our real value and worth when we are busy comparing ourselves to yet another image on the TV screen.

Despite the fact that Diehl wears a size 4, which is several sizes smaller than the average American woman, some viewers actually described her as “a thick pageant girl.”

No wonder a new Harris poll shows that the warmer weather translates into swimsuit shyness instead of summer fun for many Americans, with more than 30 percent admitting they haven’t worn a swimsuit in public in more than five years.

Of course, we also run the risk of going in the exact opposite direction.

There is a long list of health problems associated with obesity in this country, with new data from Gallup showing our obesity rate at 27.7 percent, so we don’t want to encourage each other to sit around eating cheeseburgers and fries all day long, either.

If we are going to see ourselves as made in the image and likeness of God, then we have to stop comparing our image or self-worth to something that is just about completely out of reach for most people.

So this summer, let’s spend a little less time in front of the television set and more time reminding each other that the new normal — or should I say real normal — is our uniqueness and has nothing to do with what we look like in a swimsuit.

Teresa Tomeo is the host of “Catholic Connection,” produced by Ave Maria Radio and heard daily on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and Sirius Channel 130.