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Monday, July 21, 2014

Embracing "Beautiful"

I can remember back to my adolescence, when some people would call me "string bean" or "small fry", always with laughter...always in a negative way. At 5'5" and somewhere between 110 & 115 lbs., I used to stand in front of the mirror for long periods of time and do nothing but pick myself apart. I concluded I was fat, my eyes didn't really sit evenly on my face, I needed a nose-job, and a total mouth makeover may help.

I never believed I was thin. I never believed I was good enough or pretty enough. And going to school with girls who were so crafty with how they would pick on me - giving the appearance of "good fun" when they were killing me inside - didn't help.

Then I was out of high school and met that one guy who would tell me he loved me while telling me over and over every day how fat I was. He didn't just tell me I was fat, though. He was able to convince me to buy a size Large shirt because the Small I had in hand was obviously the wrong size. And because I believed he was right, I bought the size Large and began starving myself.

I'm nearly 35 now and those things still stick with me. I have struggled with body image to the extent that I've subconsciously bought brand new clothes in sizes that are too big because "I couldn't possibly be a smaller size than that". I felt a sinking in my heart every time I realized I had done that yet again.

I have gone to bed wishing I could afford a chin implant and a nose job and veneers and cold sculpting on my stomach and thighs and fillers and botox.... All the while, I'm raising 3 children that God has given me and trying to teach them that He made them just right. Also? The negative comments keep on coming from people around me.

I wish those who were so negative could see right into my heart.

I've heard it all, from "Skinny b*%$#" to "I hate you" to "You're SO SKINNY!". I've heard people compare/contrast themselves to me, in front of me, and left me feeling horrible that I live in a smaller frame with a quick metabolism while they live in a different body altogether. I tried to shrug it off, or say nothing at all, while crying on the inside. One time I told my husband that I wished I could gain 10 pounds because I feel like that would make everyone around me happier.

Everyone around me...

See, I realized one day that I lost myself - I lost all of ME - in the quest to make everyone around me happier. I counted myself out completely. I thought people would be happier if I focused on what they had that I didn't have rather than embracing who I was.  I never dared to look at my reflection and say I was beautiful.

Then one day a friend called me on the phone and we ran the gamut of topics to discuss, as girls sometimes do. At one point she started to talk about me. And she started to cry. She said, "It kills me that you don't know how beautiful you are". I sat on the other end of that conversation feeling bad that she was crying but feeling otherwise lost. "She thinks I'm beautiful? What? Why?"

I asked God to show me what I should see. I asked Him to show me why it even matters that I claim the word "Beautiful" and say that I am. And He has answered me in some of the most painful and meaningful ways but He started by helping me to see who I am in my very heart. Claiming the beauty of who I am has changed the way I worship, it's changed the way I parent, it's changed the way I am with my hubster, it's changed the way I am as a friend, and even further beyond these things, it has changed me.

Reveling in who I am as the person God made me to be then makes it a bit easier to look at myself in the mirror. It makes it easier to let myself buy the size small and wear the clothes that fit. It's taken the blinders off my eyes and see that He made me just right too. And He's helped me understand that negative comments aren't really about me, they're about someone who's on their own journey to seeing their own beauty. See, the outward appearance and acceptance always had me fighting for my spot with the "in" crowd. But understanding what God sees when He looks at my heart keeps me content to be chosen & loved by Him, leaving the fighting behind me.

Of course, I'm still imperfect. I still fall to temptations of comparing myself and picking apart all that's wrong with my body. That's the trouble with living in a broken world. But more and more I'm choosing to believe what He sees and pick my chin up, confident in who He made me to be. I'm learning to fight off the lies and stop chasing the unattainable definition I made up in my own mind of what beauty is.

There is more yet to learn but in this learning, there is more peace than I've ever known.



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