I have always struggled with seeing myself as beautiful. It wasn't that anyone had ever told me I was ugly. I hadn't been bullied when I was younger, my parents complimented us kids regularly, and my friends told me all about the things they adored about my looks and personality.
It was just that I had a hard time believing it.
The thoughts of actual disgust with my physical appearance and personality escalated in college. I didn't look like the world's standard of beauty, and it was tearing me up. My hair was short, my chest was small. I couldn't get a decent tan, I hated the shape of my legs. I spent time at parties and social events nitpicking everything that I did. Why wasn't I more extroverted? Why couldn't I have jokes to keep the whole room laughing?
The list went on and on - to the point where I struggled to see even one good thing about myself. I had no problem recognizing the beauty in other people. I had friends who I considered drop dead gorgeous, and I could tell you exactly what I loved about them. Their curly hair, their welcoming smile, their toned body shape, their sense of humor. Ironically, the things that I loved the most in the women around me were the things I loathed about myself. I couldn't stand the way my face crinkled when I smiled. But when I saw that same trait in the face of another, I appreciated it and saw its beauty.
I spent time chatting about our relationship with ourselves with some friends lately. One of the girls in the group pulled out pieces of paper and passed them around to everyone there. On one side of the paper, we were told to write everything we hated about ourselves. My paper filled up quickly, and I bemoaned the fact that I actually ran out of space.
Self-centered...prideful...unhealthy...awkward...introverted...over-thinker...selfish...my legs...my eyes...my hair...too emotional...scatter brained...
After the paper couldn't possible fit one more self-bashing sentence on it, we were told to turn our pages over, and then have people in the group write what we thought of each other. We were encouraged to write compliments we'd never said out loud and things we admired about the other.
Before long, my paper was returned to me. But when I turned the paper over after everyone had written on it, I found that the things that I hated about myself were not things people noticed about me. In fact, they complimented me on the opposite traits.
You're selfless...you're beautiful....you're giving...you're a role model...you've got it together...I'm so blessed by our friendship....I look up to you.
I realized that the side of the paper I had written on was truly how I saw myself. The imperfect, awkward girl who couldn't seem to grow up and become beautiful. But the side that my friends had written on was how they truly saw me...and more importantly the way that God sees me. Beautiful. Whole. Worthy.
When I got into my car the next day, For the first time since early high school, I caught a glimpse of my reflection out of the corner of my eye - and my first reaction was Wow, she's beautiful. Not in a self-centered, narcissistic way - it wasn't my eyes or my legs that I noticed and saw in a different way. For the first time in a long time, I was able to see the quirks of my personality and sincerely appreciate them.
I saw the girl who hated fish, had phenomenal friendships, and loved heart to heart conversations. I saw the girl whose short haircut spelled confidence, and whose sense of style revealed her old soul. And I didn't hate her. I liked her. And I smiled the whole way home that night.
If you've ever struggled with seeing that you are good, you are not alone.
But by consistently selling ourselves short we essentially are hating what God has made good. "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10).
And if no one has ever told you this - you are beautiful.
“She was beautiful, but not like those girls in the magazines. She was beautiful, for the way she thought. She was beautiful, for the sparkle in her eyes when she talked about something she loved. She was beautiful, for her ability to make other people smile, even if she was sad. No, she wasn’t beautiful for something as temporary as her looks. She was beautiful, deep down to her soul. She is beautiful.”― F. Scott Fitzgerald