I Feel Pretty
As a person who’s been overweight her whole life, actively feeling pretty isn’t a common occurrence for me. I have been hard-wired to connect beauty with thinness. I don’t feel that way about other people, but I seem to be unable to NOT feel this way about my own body. I remember thinking I looked pretty a couple a times as a kid, when I was dressed up for some occasion or other. These occasions generally involved a dress that floated out around my knees when I spun around. But I can only think of two times when I felt like I WAS pretty.
One was when I came home from studying abroad in Russia. In the space of one semester, I lost about thirty pounds [as it turns out, Russian food isn’t my favorite…] and when I got home I had about a month of euphoria as I found that I could wear my “skinny clothes” that had languished in my closet so long that they were out of style. I felt comfortable in my own body. I felt like I was beautiful, and this feeling was reinforced by the people around me who complimented me about how great I looked.
But an even stronger memory was a week long trip that I took to the Philippines during the year I taught ESL in China. This feeling wasn’t connected to my weight. It was deeper than the physical. I tracked down this quote from an email I sent home to some friends about my visit to the Philippines. To give you a little background, we were hosted by a missionary couple that ran a summer ministry training program for students at a local Bible school. My travel-buddy and I jumped into the middle of the session and were whole-heartedly accepted into the chaos.
“I really enjoyed talking to [the students] and getting to know them. They love music, and someone was always singing or playing a guitar or piano or all of the above, which was heavenly for me! And they harassed me regularly to sing for them, which wasn’t at all bad for my ego. In fact, the whole trip was good for my self-esteem. I felt loved and appreciated there. It sounds strange, but I felt beautiful there, not just physically, although that was part of it. I don’t know. I’ve never felt that way before. It was nice. And it was hard to go home!”
This is the first time I’ve really processed that experience, and I think this paragraph touches on some important points. I felt beautiful, but it wasn’t about my body. In hindsight, I think I was briefly in a living situation that suited me: community. There were about 25 of us living in the house that was designed for hosting groups of youth leaders for training seminars. I was surrounded by people constantly. Many, many of these people were musical; they made music and invited me to join in- this is another thing that brings light to my soul. We were a community of Believers. We had a purpose; we shared the work. I washed dishes and made sandwiches and helped with laundry. I slept in the tiny “girls room” with 4 or 5 other ladies and shared the 2 bathrooms with the two dozen others. My point? It wasn’t convenient, but it was good. It was sharing life in a way that I’d not experienced before, and it FIT me like it was tailor-made. Or rather, like I was tailor-made for it. And looking back, I think THAT was what made me feel beautiful.