On Beauty

On Beauty

Sometimes I observe the girl and think about how un-self-conscious it is. This age. Four-and-a-half and a little sprite. She never thinks, “How did that sound when I said it? How do I look? Is my butt too big? Does my mouth look normal when I talk? Does my breath smell okay?” She just blurts out what she’s thinking, laughs with abandon, loses herself in play without a thought about her appearance. And I wish I could do something to keep her so confident and . . . comfortable in her own skin—so what if that term has become cliché?

When did I start thinking I was fat? Maybe around eleven or twelve, when some of my friends were skinnier than I was and all of a sudden I thought of myself as chubby. Another “chubby” friend put me in the same category with her and I accepted it. And constantly, every waking moment, wished and hoped and tried my darnedest to be skinnier. Because, after all, if you’re just skinny enough, you’re all right. You’ve arrived. And everybody will look at you and think, “She’s thin.” And that is all that matters.

But it doesn’t matter.
At all.

I feel like I’ve made huge progress in this area in the last few years. Even during the few months after each of my children were born, when I carried around the extra 20 or so post-pregnancy pounds, I was completely in awe of my body. God’s creation. A baby, a real person, had grown inside me and I’d given birth. It was amazing! For the first couple months. And then . . . around months four and five when I just felt fat and wished I could be like my annoying friends who lost tons of weight breastfeeding and ended up skinnier than they were before, or even the ones who didn’t take a year or more to lose the baby weight like I did. And even now . . . at nineteen months postpartum, I find myself wishing I were five pounds thinner, like I was before Adrian was conceived. Ask any of my girlfriends and they’ll tell you how (un)comfortable I am in my skin—some days. It’s a day by day battle.

A few months ago, I was looking at photos from the early years of my marriage, when I was ten or so pounds lighter, when going to the gym three times and running four times a week was feasible. I was toned. I looked amazing. But I had no idea. I thought I was fat. I thought I still wasn’t good enough. I thought my build was just too much bigger than certain other women’s—the perfect women. And if I only had longer legs or a bigger bust or tanner skin or smaller teeth or less-flabby thighs, then maybe I’d be okay. I’d be beautiful. Believe it or not, I am more comfortable in my own skin now, with more flab and the work of gravity to boot.

My first thought when I saw these photos was, “I have to get back to that weight. Whatever it takes. Then I will look great!”
My second thought was something like, “I didn’t know how good I looked and I look fine now, too.”
Really deep, I know.

While we were at the beach, I read Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott. I love Anne Lamott. I disagree with her vehemently on some issues, and for that reason, I get annoyed when I read certain sections of her books, but I quickly forget those issues when I am overcome by her wit and dead-centered, on-target, truth-telling on other issues. She and I have a lot of the same weaknesses. And in this book she wrote a wonderful chapter addressing beauty. Amazingly (because I thought I was the only person who ever looked at old photos) she talks about looking at old photos of herself, too. Her thoughts? “Why did it take me so long to discover what a dish I was? And not just because of externals. And how crazy would you have to be, knowing this, yet still not rejoicing in your current looks?”

She goes on to say “The only way to win is to stay off the court. No matter how much of our time is spent in pursuit of physical beauty, even to great success, the Mirror on the Wall will always say, ‘Snow White lives,’ and this is in fact a lie—Snow White is a fairy tale.”

So true, right? Even though I’ve enjoyed Snow White over the years, I currently prefer the Veggie Tales fairy tale Sweetpea Beauty for helping girls see that inner beauty is so much more important, and shows on the outside, too. Last time Camilla watched this movie, I noticed the song playing during the credits, “Beautiful for Me”. In it, Nichole Nordeman sings from God’s perspective, “Has anybody told you you’re beautiful?”

My only beef with this video is how beautiful Nichole looks. I think she should be a little heavier and maybe wear no makeup, but she mentions this irony in another clip.

It’s a struggle for me—I want to accept the beauty in myself, to see and appreciate the beauty in every person. It’s not a competition. We are all beautiful in so many different ways. Because He made us beautiful.

Some women seem to get it. They accept their unique beauty with confidence, even if they don’t fit our culture’s idea of perfection, whether they’re carrying an “extra” twenty pounds around or not, even if they’re breaking out—it doesn’t affect their view of themselves. They’re not arrogant, they just know the truth. Nobody is perfect. And God made us all beautiful.

I wish I could somehow preserve that little kid carelessness for Camilla. It would be wonderful if she could skip the endless pursuit on which I’ve wasted so much energy over the past 25 years. But she’s a human girl living in the U.S. of A and that means she’ll probably battle with self acceptance at some point. I can only pray it will be to a lesser degree than I have. And ask for the wisdom to build up her confidence.

  • Melody Joy King
    Posted at 22:02h, 27 May Reply

    This is beautifully written and resonated with me. Thanks for sharing this Alison! I've always thought you were very beautiful. :0)

  • Alison
    Posted at 22:04h, 27 May Reply

    Thank you, Mel! I've always thought you were beautiful–inside and out. 🙂

  • Liz
    Posted at 09:41h, 04 June Reply

    Wow, Alison. This literally brought me to tears. I have faced the same struggles throughout my life. Thank you for sharing so candidly. I think you are incredibly beautiful – and thin! 🙂

  • Alison
    Posted at 09:46h, 04 June Reply

    Aw, thanks Liz. This has been germinating for some time and I'm so glad it touched you. You are a beautiful woman, too!

  • Tara
    Posted at 15:18h, 08 June Reply

    I recommend that you pray for Camilla that she will feel good about her self, about who God created her to be. My mom prayed that for me. I didn't know this until I had daughters of my own, but I could see its fruit. The reality is that my nose, butt, and feet are too big, but it never really bothered me. I was/am very confident and comfortable with my looks and my body. In fact, after the birth of one of my sons, I remember shopping for shorts. I chose a pair in my size and thought, "These must be mis-marked. they're HUGE!" Only to try them on and find they fit perfectly! LOL!
    Pray for your daughter! God is faithful. 🙂

  • Alison
    Posted at 16:42h, 08 June Reply

    Thanks for the advice, Tara. Great idea!

  • Heidi
    Posted at 06:29h, 28 June Reply

    Love your blog! You are a very talented writer…keep it up!

  • Alison
    Posted at 06:33h, 28 June Reply

    Thank you, Heidi! But this was my best post. 😉

  • Amanda
    Posted at 09:08h, 01 July Reply

    Why are we so harsh with ourselves? And how do we stop the madness?! Keep setting a good example for your daughter and you're bound to start her off on the right track!

  • Alison
    Posted at 09:09h, 01 July Reply

    Another beautiful woman weighs in. You are right, Amanda!

Post A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.