When Krista first emailed me the prompt for this year’s post, I had many ideas bouncing around on how to answer the question of when I feel “most beautiful.”
There’s the cliché answer that came to my mind quickly in my fairy tale of a wedding day, but I knew that wasn’t where I wanted to land. Don’t get me wrong- I felt perfectly beautiful that day and still smile such a giddy smile every time I see a wedding picture and remember how much I will forever adore my wedding hair. The wedding hair that took three practice appointments and almost had my amazing stylist giving up with the conclusion I had too much hair. Hahaha- we did it, Vicky!
I also was quick to think of the radiating beauty I’ve always felt on beach trips. I attribute this to the sun kissed tan that often comes with the beach as well as the fact I never spend much time getting ready when on vacation. I never want to waste time on a trip by blow-drying and straightening hair that is begging to be curly and wavy like the ocean has left it. Minimal hair and make-up efforts on vacation gives me lower expectations when looking in the mirror before skipping out the hotel door in a little sundress and a flower in my hair.
But I didn’t feel like that was where I wanted to land either.
Another thought that immediately came to mind when I thought of feeling “most beautiful” was church camp and mission trips.
Which made me chuckle, because these are times when I will be in a non-air conditioned TP counseling 14 middle school girls in the heat of July. Not a time when you might think I felt stunning, and yet—summer after summer—without fail, I learned that sweating away serving Jesus gave me the prettiest of reflections. This could be attributed to the significantly lower expectations of no make-up and absolutely no blow drying of my hair, but I want to think the happy and excited of my heart on fire for Jesus had something to do with it, too.
I always feel so beautiful after working out—be it an especially exhausting basketball or volleyball game in high school, finishing a half-marathon in college, or more recently the kind of work out that involved laboring hours upon hours of the best pain I’ve ever felt in a very Bradley kind of natural childbirth.
And yet, none of these specific instances were quite right.
They all embody times I feel “most beautiful”—absolutely.
But I don’t think “most beautiful” should be confined to a wedding day, a honeymoon, or even crossing the finish line of a half-marathon.
Those moments are too few and far between to limit this precious feeling of “most beautiful.”
If I can be so honest—so vulnerable and real with you here—I feel beautiful daily.
And this took me some serious courage to admit, because I think we live in a world where self-deprecation reins the most high and a society that has been taught we’re supposed to see more problems than celebrations when we look in the mirror.
But I don’t.
I have no complaints about my appearance.
I love my smile. I love that I have super thick hair. I love my hands and long fingers. I especially love my nose. I adore my freckles. I love that I have abnormally long arms and legs—my wingspan is just as long as my Shippmate’s and if I’m supposed to be ashamed or embarrassed by that, I’m really oddly not. I love the color of my hair and the fact my mom never let me dye it in high school. I’m thankful my parents made sacrifices for me to have braces, and I loved wearing the braces so much that I was sad when they had to take them off. I love my eyebrows. I love that I have the long and lean of my dad’s side of the family with some curves from my mom’s side of the family.
Now – an important disclaimer – I absolutely have days when I do NOT feel beautiful. Often these days coincide with some hormones and cause me to feel insecure or unhappy with my reflection. Sometimes being around people that I do not feel accepted or loved by can make me feel less secure about my beauty. Also, the attributes that I’ve chosen to celebrate as beauty are questionably not even included in society’s definition of beautiful, ie: freckles, strong eye brows, gangly arms. Funny enough, I went a good 18 years of my life without realizing I was “supposed” to hate my freckles, and it wasn’t until my senior picture photographer asked if we wanted them “touched up” did I realize maybe I wasn’t supposed to love them. Lastly, I’ve been a variety of weights—some thin, some not as thin, some 9 months pregnant—and with a focus on something bigger than a scale, I felt just as beautiful at 174 as I did at 125.
Beauty magazines don’t make me feel ugly. (Convicted by the sexual nature of them, yes. Ugly, no.)
I see beautiful women in those magazines, and I still feel beautiful myself.
My best friends are some of the most beautiful women you’ll ever meet and their beauty—in unique ways from my own—don’t make me feel ugly.
I think the reason we fear beauty or admitting our own beauty has something to do with the horribly dangerous game of comparison.
In fact, when I told my husband I was going to attempt to address this topic with the fact I do feel beautiful daily, he felt nervous for me.
“Babe- women will not receive that well.”
And initially, I agreed with him.
I contemplated ditching the whole idea and just writing about how gorgeous I feel serving Jesus at church camp.
Which would have been great, because I do.
But in the name of all that is Women’s History Month, I’m not going to back down and be hesitant.
I’m going to put myself out on a limb here.
And I’m going to put every woman reading this out a limb with me, rather than a judgmental box highlighting every societal stereotype about women unable to celebrate beauty among one another.
I believe we’re so much bigger—so much better than that. I really, really do.
And you know what else I believe? I believe there are others that look in the mirror everyday and also feel beautiful.
Because I know that I look around me—both in my friendships and strangers I run into at Panera alike—and see so many beautiful women.
This topic and post has provoked many a thought in my mind and conversation with my Shippmate, my parents, my best friends, and my Jesus, too.
WHY do I feel beautiful daily? What has contributed to that feeling in me?
Because let me just tell you—nothing makes me more curious to this answer than bringing life into this world in the form of a baby girl.
I desperately want to know how to make her feel beautiful daily.
I think the answer to this question has less to do with her inheriting my thick hair and big smile and more to do with something internal.
Something bigger than beauty magazines.
More powerful than media and more consistent than likes on a Facebook picture.
I think it comes down to two big things:
1. From the day I was born, I was surrounded by such extravagant love. The most incredible parents that loved and praised me and reinforced so much of my confidence long before I was smart enough to realize what they were doing. I knew my dad found my mom beautiful, and I never heard my mom put down her own appearance. Grandparents that adored me and spoke love into me all of the time, including but not limited to a great-grandmother that told anyone within an earshot to hear her- “my Erica was the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen.” (Even when my brother asked if that included him! HA!) A community of people that believed in me and praised my abilities and passions. I had a fan club of family and dear friends that gave me such a sense of self and self-worth. I grew up feeling exceptionally loved and exceptionally beautiful.
2. I have the love of Jesus so fiercely in my heart—in my soul, in my ever being that I truly believe when I look in the mirror, I see a reflection of His holy and His creation in me. And who in the world am I to not appreciate His work in me? Freckles, crazy long arms, and all.
My prayer as I write from such an honest place in my heart is that you won’t hear what I’m not saying. You won’t read that I think I’m so beautiful I can’t even find a flaw to dislike in my appearance.
I don’t need to. I don’t want to. So, I choose not to.
I choose to embrace the beauty I’ve been given.
Erica is currently a stay-at-home-mom that is rarely home. She loves to laugh, which works out because she married the most hilarious man on the planet. She thought she knew what love was, and then on a Saturday in August gave birth to a baby girl that has changed her definition of love forever. June Harbor Shippy is her greatest achievement.