So, if you’re like me you maybe spent longer than you’d like to admit trying to fit into someone else’s image of what beautiful is. Or maybe every time you looked in the mirror you saw something different from what was actually there, because of what you thought society’s expectations were. Or maybe it wasn’t that obvious but you just felt inferior and couldn’t put a finger on why.
The realization that so many of my life’s strivings, so many of the things I anguished over and spent a RIDICULOUS amount of money and time on, don’t even matter. I wish I could go on a tour around the country and somehow reach (mostly) young girls who are already being unconsciously conditioned to think their looks define them. If it wouldn’t be scary as all get out, I’d like to go up to each of them and tell them “Don’t spend your life comparing yourself to those figures you see on the TV screen and in magazines. In the end, looks don’t matter!” Maybe I feel that way because I wish someone would have done that for me.
If you understand what it means to be authentic, you know that it goes much deeper than what you see in the mirror. However the superficial mask that I wore started with my self-image. You see, somehow I got the idea that one of the worst things I could be would be to be ugly or over-weight. It was an idea that was reinforced in my environment and consequently I found myself staring into a mirror and hating any fat I saw on my body. I grew up in an era where fat was “out” from super models like Kate Moss, to Diet Coke and Rice Cakes! Being a short girl and a late bloomer at that, I rarely remember looking in the mirror and ever being satisfied with what I saw.
I remember I dated a guy who was pretty open about the fact that the reason he looked at magazines like Penthouse or Playboy was because “I’ll never have a chance to be with a woman LIKE THAT.” I wish I would have been raised to have enough self-esteem or self-worth to be able to hear a comment like that and not compare myself to the subject and come back with the understanding that I was less than. But I did. When I look back now at pictures of me when I was younger, I can now see a beautiful young woman, but at the time I was just trying to be something “better” or “more”, and of course a lot of it came down to being that way so that I could please others, not myself.
I never understood the concept of worth. I didn’t have anyone sit me down and tell me that worth is far more than what you see when you look in the mirror. I remember styling my hair or choosing clothes to please people I was with. I am so happy now when I hear people saying things like “I really want to get an undercut and fade cut in my hair but ‘Im afraid so and so wont like it” and the response is “But you would like it, right? Then who cares what so and so thinks anyway because its your hair”. I mean if “so and so” doesn’t like you because you shave off part of your hair, then they clearly don’t like you for the right reasons. Imagine if all your hair just fell out, would you be able to know without a doubt that that person would be right there beside you and going with you to your Drs appointments, even if you were cranky and in a bad mood and not any fun to be around?
Because at the end of the day THAT IS WHAT MATTERS. Those people that compare you to the airbrushed photos they see or tell you that wearing makeup is “false advertising” or who call you names, maybe even bully you for being different than what they have been conditioned to desire – those people aren’t going to define you. Their cruel words or behavior do however define THEM. Why would you want to bend over backwards to please someone who would probably never treat you the way you deserve to be treated even if you somehow did fit their mold of perfection? Because you don’t deserve that kind of conditional love. You are beautiful exactly the way God created you, you are worthy and you deserve to be loved just like you are!
So, Moms especially, if you have boys, hear this. Its our job to teach boys that women are not just beautiful when they are airbrushed and Photoshopped. Start talking to boys about the true meaning of beauty. See that expectant mom due any day standing in line at the supermarket? She’s beautiful. The matriarch out for a walk on a cool morning with laugh lines and a glimmer in her eye that can only come from wisdom and living a full life: she’s beautiful. Maybe I’m doing something right because when my 11-year-old sees me applying makeup he tells me I’m wasting my time because I don’t need it, and I’m beautiful without it. Love that kid!
But don’t stop there! As women we have the unique ability to teach what beauty is in a more subtle way, by showing others that we love ourselves. If you are critiquing your figure or hair in front of your daughter, she may decide to do the same thing to herself. But if you say ” I feel so amazingly beautiful today’ (and do it when you are wearing yoga pants with your hair in a pony tail as often as when you are dressed up and have makeup on), then she will learn that beauty is not defined by what you are wearing or the size you fit into. Try VERY VERY hard to not teach a girl her worth is in her beauty. Society is already teaching her that. It taught you that. Why else would you be spending all that money on face cream and makeup primer? As a girl her first compliment will likely be “You’re so pretty” or “Your dress is so pretty”. Start to point out to her the things that make her beautiful that don’t depend on her looks.
It is said: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV http://bible.com/111/1pe.3.3-4.niv
As much as I’d like to protect my daughter from the world that thinks differently, I know the best thing I can do is teach her that she is “Not of This World” and do my best to surround her and point her towards other woman and people who are like-minded.
So, in tRUTHful style, I have found a way to weave the words of a song into a message I hope you will consider the next time you look in the mirror. “So close, no matter how far, couldn’t be much more from the heart, forever trust in who we are, and nothing else matters!” You are a beautiful child of God. God is right there with you, no matter how far away He may seem at times; trust that you are His masterpiece and perfect EXACTLY the way you are! NOTHING.ELSE.MATTERS!
Listen here: Metallica – Nothing Else Matters