“I have always been drawn to you from the moment I met you. You’re attractive—not like an actress or a model—but you’re beautiful to me.” Those words, though spoken out of flippancy and without a tinge of guile, sent me reeling. The boy I had fallen in love with over several months of friendship had finally confessed his feelings for me. But he had an unusual way of expressing it that night.
From birth I was “blessed” with bushy eyebrows, a space large enough for a straw between my teeth and a large, crooked nose that one boy in school even compared to a prominent member of the male anatomy. Even though I eventually discovered the miracle of tweezers and got braces to fix my teeth, I had grown accustomed throughout my life to developing my non-physical attributes: academic excellence, empathy, integrity—the only characteristics I actually could work on, unless I decided to take up the plastic surgery option that was so often suggested to me.
As a lover of ballet, poetry, flowers and music, I had developed a deep reverence and appreciation for all things pure, lovely and beautiful. But I always believed physical beauty would never be mine.
Aside from binge-watching the occasional America’s Next Top Model marathon, I had never taken great interest in the world of fashion and physicality. But once social media became a part of my life, dissatisfaction with my physical appearance surged deep into my psyche and began to taint my thoughts, desires and entire being.
Instead of dreaming about the ways I could use my gifts of intellect, compassion or creativity to alleviate the world’s suffering, I began the subtle slide into the world of Instagram models, Hollywood junkies and high fashion. Endless scrolling, endless comparing. Refresh, repeat. If I had no beauty, I had no worth.
Brianna Wiest, writer for Thought Catalog, captures this internal struggle so well in her musings on beauty, “Once upon a time, not so long ago, beauty was the greatest accomplishment – the only accomplishment – for women. Being objectively beautiful, better than other women, is something that’s so deeply ingrained in our psyches, and it’s only now being rendered obsolete as we (thankfully) change the way we determine ‘worth.’”
Flashback to that fateful evening: After probing further about the comment that launched me into the depths of insecurity, the boy—no longer a boy, but a man—from the first paragraph explained that he had tried to express that a rarer, deeper beauty within me had captured his heart.
He had originally been drawn to me for my strong moral convictions, my sense of adventure and the way I marched to the beat of a different drummer. His physical attraction for me had been birthed out of friendship based on mutual understanding and enjoyment of one another’s company—and his belief that I was a woman unlike any other he had met before.
Early on in our friendship after an emotionally explosive evening, he sent me the following text: “There is a new shine in your eyes. The shine of God.”
His love for me has only deepened over time; so has my perception of beauty.
Let the ancient words of the Apostle Peter, rephrased through The Passion Translation, ring true: “Let your true beauty come from your inner personality, not a focus on the external. For lasting beauty comes from a gentle and peaceful spirit, which is precious in God’s sight and is much more important than the outward adornment of elaborate hair, jewelry and fine clothes.”
However, especially in this age of social media, I believe how we view our physical makeup matters as well. Until we accept our outer-selves, the self-hatred spurred on by women’s marketing campaigns has won. Regarding physical self-acceptance, I learned we must not simply accept our perceived flaws or self-proclaimed ‘worst’ features, but embrace them. This process began for me when I woke up each morning to pray, “God, please help me to love the parts of myself I have always hated the most.”
I beginning to love the nose I once dreamt of chopping off into a bloody stump. I’m even planning on getting it pierced at the end of the month as a declaration that from now on I will celebrate my unique traits—physical or otherwise—and believe in the power of their beauty. And that decision has helped me celebrate the unique beauty of other women instead of pitting myself against them, for better or for worse.
After a lifelong battle against insecurity and unworthiness, I am finally beginning to love my own brand of beautiful.