Monday, September 06, 2010

Being Beautiful

As long as I can remember, I have hated my body. I hit puberty relatively early in life, around the age of 10. I also began gaining weight around the same time...and have never remembered a time since then when I didn't feel fat, ugly or undesirable.

Yes, I know I'm sharing a lot. You don't have to keep reading if it makes you uncomfortable.

My lifelong battle with my weight has shaped nearly every thought I have about my personal appearance.

"I am ugly," I tell myself. Oh sure, I have pretty green eyes and quite nice lips and killer eyelashes. But, in my mind, my fat body negates all those. It doesn't matter how nice my face is, if my body looks the way it does with all its jiggles and stretch marks and flab.

"No one could love this," I think critically, as I stare at myself in the mirror. "Who would choose me, when there are so many beautiful women out there?"

And, unfortunately, my life experience reinforces that thought. The one serious relationship I've had ended when the guy cheated on me and left me for a much younger, much thinner, much more physically beautiful girl.

So to fight those fears, I remind myself that the Lord doesn't see as men see, for men look on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. But even then, I end up in the spiral of self-hatred.

"Why, Lord? Why did you make men that focused on physical appearance?" I plead. "You could have made them to look at who a person is, rather than how a person looks!"

Then the Lord gently reminds me that I am doing the very same thing that I accuse men of doing: I am more concerned with my body than I am with the state of my heart. I worry more about looking beautiful than about being beautiful. I think more about having a lovely body than about having a lovely character.

So I work to refocus my heart and energy on what really matters. And I try to remember that beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
This is true. But every woman wants to be beautiful.

Earlier this year, a man who I respect and admire very much looked me in the eye and said "I want you to know that you are beautiful." It was the only time I've ever heard a man say those words to me. And it was the only time I can remember believing that it might be true.

As much as I treasure that moment, that one experience only takes me so far in my effort to overcome nearly 20 years of thinking negatively about myself.

Then last week I stumbled across something called the Beautiful Women Project. It's an art exhibit depicting the torsos of 120 women between the ages of 19 and 91. As I looked at the images of real women, I was struck by how few of them look anything like what we see on TV or in magazines. In fact, most of them look the opposite. But...they are beautiful.

They aren't perfect. They aren't ideal. But they are beautiful. They are fat. They are flabby. Some have breasts that sag. Some have no breasts at all. But they are beautiful.

They look like me.
And if that's the case, then I must be beautiful too.


ADW said...

Thanks for your honesty. I did take a minute to breathe deeply, as the *C* word sends me over the edge, and I didn't want to use the *J* word on your blog to refer to someone who did that to you! You are beautiful, regardless of what your mind and the world tells you. It's a battle that we fight every day. If it weren't an issue, there wouldn't be foundations set up to make sure young girls keep their self-esteem up, or art installations that prove that women come in ALL sizes and are beautiful regardless. I like the site

Megan Bennett said...

You are by far one of the MOST beautiful women I have ever known! I appreciate your honesty and pray you will receive that you are a beautiful child of God's and a beautiful sister in Christ!!!

Alexis Grant said...

Love this project. And your honesty here! Funny, in a way, because I always thought you were super pretty! But sometimes it's hard to see ourselves how others see us... I suffer from the same problem, as I'm sure a lot of American women do. But you're so right that we're all beautiful in our own way :)

Laurie said...

Thanks for the encouragement and affirmation! I was hesitant to put so much out there on the blog, but it's such a huge part of who I am. I appreciate your words!

Mimi said...

You have made me cry! I was talking to my mother about this not too long ago (this past weekend). There are things that I beat myself up about - almost to a bloody unrecognizable pulp. And then I think of how it must hurt the Artist who created me!

Thanks for sharing your honesty. I admire it! :o)

I would love to see this exhibit.

Listen to God Loves Ugly from Christa Black:

Ulovebeth said...

I love all your writing and how your mind ticks (and tocks), but in my opinion, this is one of the best things you've ever written. And that I've ever read. I might print it out and read it every day.
Love you, much. And I love me, too. We're beautiful. :)

Erin said...

catching up on your blog. love this post - thanks so much for it! couldn't agree more on it all...and especially on the last statement (most definitely!)

Kathleen Shumate said...

Thank you for writing this, for giving people the gift of knowing we are not alone. (I hope you don't think it's weird that I follow your blog! I just like you.)

This is my favorite line: "I am more concerned with my body than I am with the state of my heart. I worry more about looking beautiful than about being beautiful. I think more about having a lovely body than about having a lovely character."

Just like the other commenters have said, I have always seen you as beautiful, and confident. But I know the inner feelings of insecurity and self-hatred. I have struggled with my body image since I was about 6, thinking I am fat (I think I have finally learned this one isn't true--and it took gaining 55 lbs with pregnancy to do it) or ugly or awkward or have weird features or blonde invisible eyebrows and eyelashes or ugly pale skin. Sigh. So, uh, I guess any sized or shaped person can think the exact same things.