My dad once told me when I was a little girl that I was “the prettiest little girl in the whole wide world.” At about age 10, although those were nice words to hear, the pressure began. What I really heard was that I was pleasing to look at, but I needed to maintain a certain outward appearance to be loved. I, through my own thinking, had a pedestal to balance on, beginning at a very young age. Reinforcements came from my mother as well. I was to wear this prettier dress in public and not that other outfit. Let’s straighten your hair, because straight hair is more attractive. You’ll be acceptable at that school because your skin is not too dark. (Those concepts easier understood by my African American sisters.) Eat more, because you’re too skinny; and then later, “Are you putting on weight?” On and on went the messages of what it was to be beautiful. The perceptions I had became my truths about beauty. I’ve traveled a lot in my 48 years of life, and I can attest that those standards were not just in my family, but all around the world. (Television, magazines, movies, etc. ) This is not a new and hot topic. Despite it all though, I have found that the good part about learning false narratives is that when you finally hear, as well as absorb the truth, there’s a freedom that is oh, so sweet.
I remember the exact day that I felt a different kind of beautiful. There were so many days before that day, that I felt pretty as defined in my first paragraph (my wedding day for one example), but so much has happened since then, that has changed my thinking about what beauty not only looks like, but feels like. I’m good at making things look right in the mirror before I go out. Can the result of what I can do to the outsides of myself match up to how I need to feel on a deeper level? This had become my endless chase that started so many years ago. No amount of makeup or wearing the right clothes or sporting the latest hairstyle will ever be enough on this earth. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I love to look “put together”. I enjoy dressing up for special occasions and attempting to look like that “prettiest girl” and I will continue to take pride in my appearance. I find absolutely nothing wrong with makeovers. What my heart longs for, is at the end of the day, when the makeup is off, to feel beauty that is much deeper than on the surface.
I was desperately seeking a closer relationship to Christ through a difficult season in my life starting a few years ago. I was never more broken than I was at that time. How could I be lovely to anyone, and especially to God, when I had such shame and regret in my life? To me, there was nothing more unattractive than my sin. One cold December sleepless night, I crept downstairs and began to journal and pray. I read scripture after scripture (all words that I had read many, many times before) but what touched my heart at that very moment, was that the God who created me, created me in His image; that He delighted in me; that I was specifically chosen; that I was precious and honored in His sight and wonderfully made. In that moment of absorbing the truth, and through tears, and snot and everything else that the world says is ugly, I.felt….beautiful! I was soulfully beautiful, yet wounded, broken, imperfect and sinful. This was the authentic beauty I was in search of all along!
I think I will always have days of fluctuating emotions, moods and insecurities about being beautiful. The difference and the struggle I face, is taking what I’m learning about “true beauty” and letting those qualities shine through my well made up outer self and into my relationships. For now, thank goodness that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, because for as long as my beholder is my Lord and Savior, the chase can end.
I am a 48yo mother of 2 girls, married and loving my wonderful man for 16 years. I enjoy quiet reflection time, reading, studying, nights out with my girl friends, and when I’m done with that, my boss is happy to see me at work taking care of patients (nursing).