I was 6 years old when a boy first made me cry. He called me Plucky Duck on the playground in front of other kids, laughing over his own clever joke about my “big” lips. I ignored him and kept playing with my friends as if nothing had happened, but later that evening I stared at my reflection in the bathroom mirror, biting my lips to make them appear smaller while holding back tears.
I didn’t wear lipstick till I was 25 years old.
I was 9 years old the first time someone called me fat. I was in the stall of the girls’ bathroom, when two girls walked in to tighten their ponytails. Someone mentioned my name, with no idea I was in the same room, and they both began to laugh. One of them pointed out that I had some extra jiggle on my backside when running in P.E. class earlier that day. Extra jiggle.
I thought I was overweight till I was 32 years old.
It’s amazing how small moments in time can play such large roles in how we see ourselves. Most of these moments are subtle and quick, leaving it hard for us to understand the full ramifications they will play in our lives. And they happen more often than we think, feeding on each other and in the process, growing in power. That mean word from a mean girl or the parent’s passive aggressive comment or the awkward moment amongst our peers all seeds self-hate that is nourished to life by airbrushed images on magazine covers and a very limited portrayal of beauty in media and countless ads promoting weight loss, plastic surgery and flawless skin.
Flawless skin. Implying the wrinkle or the scar is an imperfection, instead of a story or a life well-lived. Says who? Who makes up the rules for beauty? If beauty is still being defined by the Barbie doll we all grew up with, then if you aren’t a certain color and your hair doesn’t style a certain way and if you aren’t a certain height and a certain weight able to wear a certain size, well, then, sorry, but you’ll never be beautiful.
I mean, who is it exactly holding the copyright to beauty? The fashion industry? The entertainment industry? The health industry? Your peers? Your social media celebrities? Your family? Your boyfriend? The childhood bully who called you fat or your nose too big or your skin too dark or your teeth too crooked or your hair too messy? Who is it exactly who defines beauty for you? If they are doing it in a way that excludes you from being celebrated as a “beauty”, they are failing miserably and should be fired immediately.
It’s time we redefine beauty. Beauty is not a size or a skin color or a body type or a facial structure. We are magnificent creations, each and every one, molded and fashioned uniquely by the Creator Himself. Beauty is living a life worthy of who we are as children of God- lives of love and grit and courage and hope and joy and peace and justice. Beauty is not posting the perfect selfie; it’s reminding someone else they are stunning. Beauty is not how much pregnancy weight you’ve shed; it’s how you love your child. Beauty is not wearing the latest fashions; it’s wearing humility and grace to work every day. Beauty is not #hotcouple; it’s how you stay devoted to each other in the difficult times. Beauty is not being on the cover of a magazine; it’s doing what is right when no one is watching. Beauty is not being the sexiest woman in the room; it’s being the kindest and bravest and smartest and most resilient woman you can be.
Love is beauty. Joy is beauty. Peace is beauty. Patience is beauty. Kindness is beauty. Goodness is beauty. Faithfulness is beauty. Gentleness is beauty. Self-control is beauty. (see Galatians 5:22-23)
You were beautifully made and made to be beautiful. You are the kind of beauty that can’t be defined by a dress size or a skin tone or bra size or a sense of style, that can’t be captured in a photoshoot or a runway or a filtered video, that can’t be compared or replicated or rivaled. You are through and through, altogether, beautiful, and it’s time you embrace it.
So here’s a few ways you can celebrate the beauty you are:
- Stop the name calling.
I was speaking to a friend the other day who recently realized how negatively she talks to herself with little side comments like, “Oh, why am I so stupid?” and “I’m so dumb.” It’s so easy to become our own bullies, verbally and mentally criticizing the way we look in the mirror or mumbling insults under our breath. But under breath words have power. Our words reveal what is happening in our hearts. So be kind to yourself. Run your very own self-bullying campaign and retrain your thoughts and your words to celebrate you, not demean you.
- Escape the comparison trap.
I have a huge confession to make: A couple weeks ago I caught myself insta-trolling a woman I didn’t know because I was convinced she had plastic surgery, and I wanted to confirm it by finding an older photo of her before the alleged “surgery”. As I was scrolling down, I had a moment of clarity: “What am I doing? Why do I even care if she had plastic surgery? Why am I searching for the right photo to judge someone I have never even met???” I got caught in a comparison trap- comparing her look to mine, envious of her beauty and looking for a quick way to make sense of why I thought her more attractive than me, instead of addressing the insecurity in my own heart. Every time we pick up our phones or walk into a room, we get to choose whether we will celebrate other women or find ways to cut them and ourselves down. Let’s be women who celebrate!
- Take care of yourself.
Your health matters because you matter. Make time for the things that replenish you at the end of the day or a busy week. Be around people who bring out the best in you. Do things you love doing, even if there isn’t a paycheck that comes with it. Invest in your passions and interests. Go to the gym regularly and get good sleep and eat a healthy diet and take your vitamins. Plan the Europe trip with your girlfriends and take up a new sport. Decide that you are going to treat yourself like the beauty you are.
- Receive the love.
You are not an accident or a mistake. You were dreamt up by and formed and given life by a God who loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His very life for you to redeem you from sin and darkness and reconcile you to relationship with your Creator. Jesus died for you and conquered the grave for you and offers you eternal life all out of His unending love for you. It’s a love that heals every wound and silences every fear and transforms your life into a vibrant one that reflects the very glory of God. This love is yours for the taking. You don’t have to earn it; you just receive it and trust in it. And when you do, and you let His love penetrate the chambers of your heart broken or hardened or bruised by pain and rejection and plagued by insecurity and self-hate, you will begin to live in a freedom like you have never ever known!
- Give back.
You have something truly wonderful to offer this world. You have a story to tell. You have gifts to give. You have passions that can help care for those who are hurting in our world. You have love to spread. You have ideas that ought to become more than just ideas. You have convictions that should be acted upon. You have time to invest in someone else. You are a light in this world, and light doesn’t stay hidden. It shines bright for all to see.