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.
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. 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 passive aggressive comment or the awkward moment amongst our peers all seeds self-hate that is nourished to life by photoshopped images on magazine covers and a limited portrayal of beauty in media and ads promoting weight loss, plastic surgery and flawless skin.
But 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?
It’s time we redefine beauty. Beauty is not a certain size, skin color, body type or facial structure. Beauty is living lives of love, grit, courage, hope, joy, 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.
You were beautifully made and made to be beautiful, and it’s time you embrace it.
Here’s a few ways to celebrate your beauty:
1. Stop the name calling.
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. Be kind to yourself. Run your very own self-bullying campaign and retrain your thoughts and your words to celebrate you, not demean you.
2. Escape the comparison trap.
A couple weeks ago I caught myself Instagram 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 to me, 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 others or find ways to cut them and ourselves down.
3. Receive the love.
You were dreamt up and given life by a God who loves you. Jesus loves you so much that He gave His very life for you to redeem you from sin and reconcile you to relationship with your Creator. His love heals every wound and silences every fear. This love is yours for the taking. When you let His love into the chambers of your heart broken, hardened, or bruised by pain and plagued by insecurity, you will begin to know freedom like you have never known!
4. Give back.
You have something wonderful to offer this world. You have a story to tell. You have gifts to give. You have passions that can help 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.