There are certain things that I don’t really enjoy talking about. There are certain things that hit too close to home. Beauty is one of those things. Now, don’t get me wrong…I am quick to notice the beauty in others and in the world. I exclaim, “That’s just beautiful!” at least once a day. But, the truth is, I have a strained relationship with beauty. I don’t write about it much because “beauty” brings up all sorts of thoughts, memories, and longings.
Since I was in middle school, I have constantly struggled with identifying myself as beautiful. I have struggled with the idea of beauty. It always seemed like this illusive thing, just out of reach for a girl like me…an overweight, tall, awkward, nerdy girl like me. I never felt beautiful. So, I found other things that I could be. I could be funny. I could be smart. I could be witty. I could be kind. Those things were attainable to me, but beauty…beauty would always be a stranger.
I am 26 (soon to be 27 in March), and while I left the halls and lockers of middle school behind, sadly, that mentality was a little harder to shake. Beauty still felt like a stranger to me, but I decided that I would deal with that later. I would deal with beauty when I lost fifty pounds or when I was in a serious relationship or when I went back to school or____________________ (lame excuse here).
That apparently was not God’s plan. Last year, I began leading a small group of middle school girls, and my issues couldn’t be put on hold anymore. What do I say when these girls struggle with beauty? What do I do when they share their fears about their selves with me? So, instead of beauty being put on the back burner; it has basically been all up in my face!! I want these girls to not struggle the way that I did. I want them to always identify themselves as beautiful. I want them to never feel that insecurity that gnaws at your heart and your spirit—causing you to feel rejected before you even try.
So, I started to examine the idea of beautiful and my relationship with this concept that keeps many people (particularly women) in our culture striving, clawing, longing, and hurting.
You want to know what I’ve learned so far?
There seems to be two extremes in the positive self-image movement. One, is the idea that “I’m amazing. Here, let me show you.” This “body positivity” encourages women to embrace their physical being with a flourish—showcase it, flaunt it, brag about it. The other (this is the one most often embraced by the church) is the belief that “My body has nothing to do with my beauty.” This encourages females to focus on their inner selves—their talents and positive qualities.
Yeah, I am not super jazzed about either side.
I don’t want to have to prove my acceptance to the world. I don’t want to strut or flaunt. Body positivity is a positive thing! I think it is wonderful to teach women to not be ashamed of themselves, but in our culture, this movement doesn’t seem to leave a lot of room for modesty or humility. It can make you feel like you must be insecure or ashamed if you don’t dress a certain way or behave a certain way.
On the other hand, I don’t want to be beautiful IN SPITE OF my body. I don’t want to have to believe that my physical appearance doesn’t play a part in my beauty, like it is an obstacle overcome by my good character or personality.
People, where’s the balance???
The truth is, Christian women should be the biggest advocates of beauty, our beauty and the beauty of others. Follow my logic here: We believe that the God of the universe created everything and every person. We believe that God looked at creation and said that it was good. Shouldn’t we believe we are beautiful because God made us? He made us individually. He celebrated our existence before the beginning of time! Shouldn’t that be reason enough? He made our freckles, our eye color, the texture of our hair, our dimples and birthmarks and weird shaped toes. He knit us together, carefully selecting every little detail about both our personality and our physical bodies!!
Doesn’t that call for a celebration of beauty?
I still don’t have a handle on this whole beauty thing. Some days, I feel like I am making progress…while on other days, not so much. But, I do feel this stirring in my spirit, this call on my heart, this charge to take back beautiful. It means so much more than the world says it does.
Let’s all take back beautiful!