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 way...so 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.
And if that's the case, then I must be beautiful too.