“I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
Their faces are never covered with shame.”
Psalm 34:4-5 (New International Version)
Dear God – You’re Beautiful
“It’s different for you – you’re beautiful!” Words I never expected to hear from one of my friends. I was trying to convince her that swimming would be a great activity to get involved in, and she was trying to convince me that she would never get in a bathing suit. She is probably 10 sizes smaller than me, with a much better shape, and a beautiful face and hair. I saw not one flaw that should prevent her from feeling awesome in a bathing suit.
Now, when I look in the mirror and I’m in my big girl’s bathing suit, I see the opposite of beauty for sure. Where does that come from?
Throughout my childhood and young adulthood, I do not recall even thinking I was acceptable looking. As far as I can remember, I was never told I was pretty or beautiful. I remember being made fun of in grade school because I had a big butt (that really hasn’t gone away). Is that the root of my perception that I was plain or even a bit ugly? Or was it the severe acne that attacked my face through my teen years, warranting doctors digging out the pimples on my face, as well as me having to watch being in the sunlight for all the tetracycline that I was prescribed?
Perhaps it was the fact that my father got me a book that seemed totally out of character for him. Flashback – believe it or not, I think it was a Catholic young adult romance type of book – wish I remembered the author’s name. It was about a young lady who was plain, lacked confidence, and resented the popular teens in her high school. But the football star saw something in her, befriended her, and they dated. Her insecurities made her react wrong in situations, and he helped her see that it was her own issues that were messing up her relationships with people that would like her if she just accepted them and let them like her. The fact that this book was given to me messed me up for quite a while – why was I given it? I wondered if I was being told that I should become religious? Or did I lack confidence because I was plain? Or was I bitter towards popular people? What, what, what was the matter with me I wondered? Why was I being spoken to through a book and not actually addressed? Was it something that bad that it could not be said?
I wonder if parents realize the meta messages they send their children when they do not communicate clearly. Of course, it helps to have a responsive child, and I am absolutely positive that that was a challenge for my parents! “Prickly porcupine” is probably an appropriate description of what they were dealing with in terms of my personality.
Many people I know will not believe this, but it wasn’t until perhaps my late 20’s or early 30’s that I even got the notion that it was possible that I might have at least average good looks. I remember the event distinctly. I was sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, doing makeup and hair for a night out on the town. My mother said to me, “I think you have the prettiest features of all.” Words I never expected to hear from my mother.
I was pleased for about 10 seconds, and then the thought came to me: “Am I that bad looking that Mom feels she has to boost my confidence by saying this to me?” I’m not kidding. That is exactly what I took away from this experience. That somehow I conveyed a lack of confidence along with my lack of good looks to the point where my mother had to tell me that I had pretty features.
There are decades of my life where there are almost no pictures of me because I hated my picture and refused to allow people to take one of me. This changed when I was 41 years old. I had torn my patella tendon, gone through rehab and started the Body For Life program. I began to think that my not wanting a picture of me taken was an actual phobia. I decided I no longer wanted the phobia. So, every day for 90 days while I was on the program, I had someone take a picture of me in the gym. I would even ask strangers to snap a shot on whatever piece of equipment I was on at the time.
When I reviewed the pictures taken, it confirmed my suspicion that taking a good picture is a numbers game. For every 5, 6, or 7 bad pictures, there was a really good picture. I could live with that. I had lots of flaws for sure – I was really overweight, still had a big butt, and posture wasn’t great. But, I started looking at myself differently…seeing not just the bad pictures, but the good pictures, too.
Shortly after completing my first Body For Life program, I visited Edmonton and the Canadian Rockies and it was at that time that I met and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. As I read the bible, read some Christian literature – like The Purpose Driven Life, and attended church, I began to realize how special I am to God. Not for looks or for goodness or for anything other than the fact that I was born of God. I am a part of the tapestry of God’s story. He made me the way I am – looks, personality, foibles, desires, etc. – for his purposes. That is, to bring Him glory.
Today, I left the house for my walk with my red Champion biker shorts displaying the cellulite on my thighs, and a sleeveless raggedy tank top displaying flabby arms. I had stressed out while dressing about what people would see as I walked down the road, and as I closed the door to leave, felt the familiar desire to just stay inside and so not expose myself to anyone else’s view or judgment.
But I realize that every time that desire is conquered, God is glorified. For it means that I understand that He did not create this world, with its beauty and health giving sunshine, just for supermodels or perfect people. As much as the Vitamin D from the sunshine is for them, it is also for me. And as much as it is for me, it is for you.
As I walked today, I wished many people a good morning – I did not notice that anyone glanced at my fat thighs or arms…but so what if they did? God loves me and perhaps has been merciful to give me those issues as opposed to others I would have a harder time dealing with. I pray that I continue to develop a better perspective.
I don’t share these things in the hopes of getting sympathetic, “Oh Kathy, you are beautiful” compliments, or reassurances of any kind – I know now that I am okay looking. I share these things with the hope that anyone else who may have a misguided perception of themselves may benefit from knowing that they are not alone and also from knowing that there is a God who created them, loves them and knows that they are beautiful as well.