So this picture. This picture I took with a Kodak disposable camera that I cranked after shooting. This is what I respectfully refer to as “the hotness.” My hotness was so on point that day that I had to get it on film. My selfie game was strong, even before the game even existed. (looking at the pic now I don’t know why I am so serious, but I digress. Also-shout out to the bathroom in the home I grew up in!)
Somewhere around the age of 17 my unfortunate stent in the awkward stage finally started to let up. You know the one. Those school pictures don’t find frames very often. Over a course of a summer my body and my face finally figured out where they were going, and with new found attention from boys and a few pageant wins under my belt-I became obsessed with, well, ME.
Finding and perfecting the hotness became a quest. Had selfies been a thing during these years-I am convinced I would have broke the lens of my camera. My phone would have been so tired of looking at me it just would have given up.
I never grew tired of looking at myself though. If there was a mirror around, I was in it. If I went out, I was in the bathroom on the regular making sure I still looked good. It was my thing. And many people saw my self-respect, love, whatever as confidence. Nah. I wasn’t confident.
I was a bonafide vain-junkie. I was addicted to myself. And being beautiful.
While looking through pictures of the hotness I forgot how often I used my chest to get free drinks. You know-using the goods God gave me. For free drinks. No big deal. It was exhausting being that girl. But I didn’t know it then.
There is trouble in being addicted to yourself, and to the game of being beautiful. Nasty, unnerving trouble.
Plus, all the work of achieving outer beauty is really work at fixing something on the inside.
Here is how things went down. The hotness ran it’s course for a solid 8-9 years, peaking somewhere after Josh and I got married. (How else would I have landed him?) And then, like a freight train, the last 10 years hit me. In it’s wake, I don’t look in mirrors quiet as often. And I sure don’t like taking pictures. Because beautiful just doesn’t have the same definition anymore. It’s not the face I look at in the mirror.
(For new readers-I had two children back to back and what carrying a child and exhaustion does to a body, both physically and mentally; there are just some things you can’t cover up with make-up. You feel me?)
~Now let me pause here before my amazing readers battle cry “but you are beautiful!” I had a very defined, very external view of beauty for a very long time. My beauty. I knew what I needed to do and look like to be beautiful. That, my friends, is what ran it’s course.~
This is what happens when someone addicted to the way they look looses their grip on the way they look. They feel like they are dying. Just like a junkie needing a fix. They draw into themselves, become envious and rooted in jealousy, and find that the insecurity that drove the obsession in the first place is the only thing left to look at.
Me. This is what happened.
I started dismissing compliments (still do), believed that I was indeed ugly, just as I had always known and tried to fix, just as I was trying to tell the man I married. The man I married-who I no longer felt comfortable undressing in front of-who I pulled away from when he reached for me.
And my sweet blue-eyed boys. Those boys. When you are a vain-junkie you can find yourself resenting the things that steal your beauty. Those beautiful little boys.
All this nasty and unnerving trouble. It was also exhausting work.
In the fall off my pedestal of grandeur and defined beauty I learned something that was worth every moment of my coming undone. I learned that for so long, I knew nothing of beauty. Nothing. The girl in the pictures above had some amazing experiences. Travel, love, family gatherings, college, nights out with the best of friends. My memories of those times are blurry because I missed it. (and well, alcohol.) I missed the beauty in the things right in front of me. I couldn’t see it; I was the only thing in my line of sight. I missed it all.
Don’t miss it all.
Now, I know that beauty can’t reign externally. It should reign planted and abundantly growing internally. Inside us. Deep inside of us. Where we can only feel it, and then it makes us see our lives differently, outwardly. It helps us see beauty in other people. Beauty is impossible to see in other people when our eyes are fixed on our own.
This is an issue of the heart. And I follow a Jesus that tackles, and heals, issues of the heart. I was reminded of this yesterday in counseling. (go-you have to go.) Our good friend said “you know, I think the Pharisees were people who were always talking about ideas. They were idea people. Fixing ideas and problems. Jesus, Jesus was after the heart. He wanted the heart issues.”
Yeah. Over the past several years of letting go of my idea of beauty, I have seen the most beautiful of things. I have never before been so in awe of beauty. And Jesus works on this heart of mine, and these troubling feelings of despair and loss over the hotness, one patch at a time, telling me to look out of myself and to look again for what I am missing.
My husband is one of the most beautiful men I have ever looked at, largely because of his character. The stuff on the inside. I miss it all the time. Because you know, he threw his clothes at the top of the closet, again.
My children. Sweet Taco Tuesday they are beautiful. The stuff on their insides is so innocent and goofy and exciting and a little strong-willed. Some days, I just don’t see it. Because I am lost, somewhere inside of my head, trying to look out.
And as for me, well I am working on knowing I am beautiful on the outside. I believe it is important for women (everyone) to feel amazing in their skin, and beautiful. As long as their definition of beautiful is a healthy one.
I also know that the beauty rooting itself deep inside of me is the best I have to offer. I want, more than ever, to feel complete on the inside first. The girl showing up in pictures these days looks a little tired, is the biggest she has ever been, and doesn’t get ready as often as she used to. But she is on the way to being HEALTHY. Mentally healthy. Heart issues healthy. Love healthy. I appreciate that about her.
As for you-I wish I could say “you are beautiful just the way you are.” But I have never been a fan of that sentiment. Sometimes, just the way we are, is a mess. And we don’t feel beautiful. And we aren’t healthy. And we are stress eating three bags of Cheetos (shhh.) And no matter how many people tell us we are beautiful or blessed, well, we just don’t feel it.
So to you I say “There is beauty deep inside of you. Beautiful things that want to come out. Kindness, love, gentleness, compassion, a sound mind. They are in there. That is what you will feel. That is when you will feel beautiful. When it comes out. Then as you look outward, you will see it. Beautiful things. You will be one of the things.”
There is the most awe-inspiring beauty inside of you. I know it.
It is the Holiday Season friends, turn the camera outward, find the beauty inside. Then you will see everything you have been looking for.
Strength for today.
~But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.~ 1st Samuel 16:7
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