All my life I’ve struggled with the idea of beauty as it pertains to me. It took the first thirteen years of my life to get all the self-loathing out of my system. I wasn’t told I was beautiful till I was probably about eleven – I guess I was supposed to assume that I was beautiful since I wasn’t exactly called ugly. I hated my face, my hair, my eyes, my figure. Being the width of a stick with a disproportionate gluteus maximus made for a lot of inappropriate, appalling attention from the opposite sex. I hated my butt. I hated my legs. There was so much I hated about myself.
For the last nine years between thirteen and now, I’ve tolerated myself and my body. I didn’t hate it anymore – boarding school and public showers helped cure me of my self-hate; there were others far worse off than I was. However, I still didn’t love me. In comparison to the worse off ones, I was decent. My proportions were now somewhat evenly distributed, I got rid of the nerd glasses, I was sassy and intimidating so people wouldn’t have the nerve to tell me I was ugly, like that group of girls did in high school. But I still didn’t love me.
It helped to finally accept God’s unconditional love and acceptance. It certainly helped to finally start believing that I am His beloved, beautiful, a masterpiece, all that good stuff. But in my most honest moments, I’d tell you that I still had my doubts. I guess His opinion wasn’t ever quite enough for me. I always wondered how it would feel to really believe I was beautiful, not just in my head but in my heart. Make-up didn’t do it, neither did a regular workout schedule. Eating healthy was great, and well-fitting clothes helped. People tell me now that I’m beautiful. Sometimes I believe them. Sometimes I think, “Thank you, but what you’re really saying is I look beautiful today because I’m having a good skin/hair/wardrobe day. But am I beautiful inside?” That has been my life long question.
Am I beautiful inside? If you could see through the put-together, somewhat stylish facade, would you find beauty beneath my attempts to embellish myself? Would you be struck by the beauty you find there, captivated by its radiance? Or would you be disappointed at the hollowness?
In the midst of my heart breaking, the tears, the long conversations, my research on how to help, my writing, my praying…since my passion for ending sex trafficking was rekindled a few weeks ago, I’ve had numerous moments when I’ve been halted in the middle of an activity by the thought, “I’m beautiful. Right now, in this moment. I’m beautiful.”
I thought I’d feel beautiful if I found the perfect shade of foundation – and then I gave up because foundation is just too messy and I touch my face way too much. I thought I’d feel beautiful if I looked stylish and hip or if I had long, pretty hair – that feeling of beauty was fleeting at best. I thought I’d feel beautiful if I got contacts and didn’t look like such a nerd all the time – although I now wear that label proudly. I thought I’d feel beautiful if I worked out regularly and had a feminine six-pack – that certainly helped my core but not my heart. I thought I’d feel beautiful if I were witty and clever, always the center of attention but I’m truly my happiest in the background.
Who knew I would feel beautiful just because I was passionate about something? Who knew that my feeling of worth and beauty were directly related to living out the purpose for which I was created? Sounds logical now, but I wouldn’t ever have considered this as the cure. I’ve felt incredibly beautiful over the last two weeks simply because I’ve found what I was created to do, and I’m pursuing it with passion and joy. I still look the same – foundation-less, semi-hip, semi-fit nerd – but I love me, every inch of this magnificently crafted body I was given. And more importantly, I love every bit of what’s been hiding beneath my frenzied attempts at beauty – the quirkiness, the compassionate heart, the fierce spirit.
It’s taken twenty-two years but I now wholeheartedly believe this statement: I am beautiful. It is the most excellent feeling.