Last week, I talked about my struggle with perfectionism, and I’m so thankful for the feedback I got. It’s good to know that there are still some people who struggle with this like I do. Sometimes I feel like I shouldn’t be struggling with these issues, that as a woman in her 30s I should have this all figured out by now. But I don’t, and hearing that others don’t have it all figured out helps me so much.
So the next thing that I struggle with is the way that I look. And I’m not sharing this to get compliments on the way I look in the comments. But this is a big one for me and has been for a long time, which is why I share it, hoping to find others who still struggle with this, too.
I’ve always been self-conscious about the way I look, even as a little kid. In sixth grade, a little boy who I had the biggest crush on confirmed all of my worst fears by pointing out things he didn’t like about the way I look. Words stick with people, and that one conversation has stuck with me for the last 20 years. Of course, I have other memories of friends telling me the opposite, but for some reason, it’s easier to believe the negative than it is to embrace the positive.
And the last few years, I’ve also struggled with my weight. I’ve been pregnant three times, and the last two times, I was well into my pregnancy before I lost my baby. So I know that a lot of the weight I carry comes from those pregnancies. I’ve also had a harder time losing the weight as I get older, and I don’t want to throw myself into an intense exercise or diet plan because I want to get pregnant again, and I fear anything too extreme that might mess that up. So I have to lose the weight the slow and old-fashioned way. And I am losing weight, but this weight is also a reminder of my pregnancies. It’s hard when I look pregnant but I’m not anymore.
But just like perfectionism, there are flaws to this struggle.
Society can’t decide what the ideal beauty actually is. In Ancient Rome, larger girls were thought to be beautiful, but when I was growing up in the 80s and 90s, heroin chic was more desirable. And just a few years ago, I remember the thigh gap craze. There was an article in the Huffington Post about the woman’s ideal body according to different countries. Each country had a completely different observation of what beauty really was. Society can’t make up its own mind, so why should I allow it to make up mine for me?
God already believes that what He created is beautiful, and there’s nothing I can do to take away from that or add to it. In Genesis, God created waterfalls, sunsets, and gorgeous landscapes and called them “good”. But when he created man and woman, he called them “very good”. I know that there are verses in the Bible that talk about charm and beauty being fleeting and deceptive. I know about the verses that talk about not braiding your hair or wearing fine jewelry. But I’ve also read the Song of Solomon where the woman’s body is celebrated, honored, and cherished. In the Christian faith, we focus a lot on the inside, and I don’t want to argue with that, but I think we need to recognize the beauty God created on the outside as well. The way we shine comes from what is inside of us because we are all uniquely and still equally beautiful on the outside already.
All of my friends are beautiful, and none of them look the exact same. This was the realization I made while writing this post. I have some gorgeous friends. But none of them look like what society would tell me is beautiful. And none of them look similar to each other, either. All of my friends are different shapes and sizes, with different eyes and hair and profiles, from different cultures and races. And they are all beautiful to me. So if I don’t have a standard of beauty on my friends, why am I creating this standard for myself?
I am slowly embracing the way I look. But it’s a long road. And I don’t need to be ashamed that I’m still struggling with it. It is what it is. Again, it comes back to how I want to be as a mother. My mother taught me to embrace everyone wholly, not putting them down or putting them on a pedestal. And I want to be able to teach that to my children with the way I view myself, as well. I want my children to understand how much God love them as He created them to be. And I want them to take that love and share it with others, shining a light in the dark places God will send them. And know that God walks them along that path, just as he walks along with me.