I’m not one for girly girl posts, but I think this one is about to become one….
For most of my life, at least all that I can remember, I have struggled with feeling like an ugly duckling, a blemish to society. I have hated and raged about the way I looked, even when I was only 7! Thankfully, at that age, I wasn’t aware of the anguish that would come later as my body changed from a little tomboy to a blossoming young woman. As time passed and I grew up, I went through so many phases with liking something and wearing it all the time, to absolutely hating everything in my wardrobe. I would wear a sweatshirt and jeans in the middle of summer because I was ashamed of showing any of the “bacne” I had on my shoulders, or showing my slowly forming womanly frame. I was sure everyone watched me and thought I was ugly.
I grew up in a home where encouragement was not a norm, and still isn’t to this day. I have had to really work on encouraging my husband, and let me tell you, it’s a habit that’s hard to form! Neither one of my parents grew up in “loving” homes, but instead grew up in broken homes. My mom’s dad was emotionally absent and just simply wasn’t there. Her mom was an alcoholic and her oldest sister pretty much raised my mom and her siblings. My dad’s dad was a military man, bound to anger, and my dad will say that he never heard his dad say I love you until my dad was out of college. Both of my parents are 1st generation Christians and have a lot of regrets from their growing up years before becoming a Christian. Which, on a slightly different topic, is why patriarchy and the Quiverfull lifestyle appealed to them so much. It was a lifestyle that promised a much better life for their children. But, I don’t blame them for not being emotionally supportive throughout my life at home. I am sorrowful because I know they simply didn’t know how to be there for their children like that. It is my goal to try my best at helping my future daughters know they are truly beautiful.
As I got closer to my teen years, I remember watching the older girls around me, especially at our house church (yes, my family did house churches for a good bit in my young young years). They were so pretty, had really good looking clothes, had their ears pierced, and they got to wear makeup. I remember when I got my ears pierced for the first time when I was 12. I remember when I got my first little makeup kit when I was 14. I remember always dismaying over my big fat thighs, and worrying that my waist wasn’t thin enough. I thought that if my legs were skinnier, my waist thinner, my breasts bigger, or my hair less curly and frizzy, my dad would say I was beautiful, and people would tell me that I was pretty. I can’t honestly remember right now if my dad has ever told me, I was beautiful. I am probably forgetting something. I remember one time he told me that I looked “really nice” and that was it. I don’t remember my mom telling me I was pretty, much less beautiful. The only times I can remember getting praised was on my birthday, and it would in a card my parents gave me, or when I had accomplished a great piece of music at a piano recital or audition.
I remember asking my mom at one point if I was pretty. I don’t remember her ever answering that question directly. I think she said something like it wasn’t about outward appearances, but about the heart. As I started going through my teen years, the acne hit, and there were many days I was too ashamed to be seen. I couldn’t control it, no matter what I did. It was terrible, and I hate, even now, looking at pictures of myself from those days. It is hard to look back on that teenager me and not feel anything but pity and sadness for her. She was so eager for approval for her sewing, her piano playing ability, her writing. She was starved for affection, aching to feel loved, to feel beautiful. Behind that stony exterior, that I got so good at projecting, was a tiny little girl who’s heart wept and ached for affection.
My married, 21 year old, self still feels the ghosts of those aches and longings. I am married to one awesome dude who is constantly lovin’ on my body, telling me how much he loves the way I look, and how much he is so rich to be married to me. Me! the older version of that little girl! He loves me! Sometimes it is too much for me, but I am slowly learning to accept it and know that I truly am beautiful. It’s really hard though. Even more so living in a culture that praises the thin shapely legs of a very skinny person, the thin flat stomach of a barbie doll, and the round voluptuous breasts of a D cup. You’re not going to see this culture praise wide hips and thighs, short waisted, B cup women. Do you know how hard it is to find clothes to fit endowed hips and butt? Or how hard it is to find a dress or shirt that looks good on some with a short torso? It sure requires a lot of digging and and usually takes awhile to find something that fits and, in my opinion, looks good. I truly believe that most women struggle with feeling disgusting and ugly. I know I’m definitely not the only one. Knowing that doesn’t make it any easier though.
I stumbled across several articles a friend shared with me a few months ago. They dealt with women who, like me, had grown up in a broken home, or with emotionally absent parents, and couldn’t see their own beauty. They shared their journey of realizing that they were truly beautiful, and how it was draining them to constantly be picking on themselves for their perceived ugliness. Those articles were another step in this journey I’ve been on in regards to my weight, body, and the perspective I have of myself. I am tired of constantly beating myself up for gaining weight after I got married because I was finally free from the stress of my family’s home and I was happy, and I finally could eat without feeling sick to my stomach. I am tired of worrying that I’m ugly and seeing pictures of myself and wanting to hide and delete every picture of me. It is embarrassing feeling ashamed of myself. I am done with not accepting my husband’s eager pride in me and how I look.
I have made it my goal to find one thing, usually more, that I can praise my friends about, and especially praise and encourage my sisters. I know how it feels to feel ugly, and I want to make sure my sisters know that I see them as beautiful young women. It really does help my view of myself when I’m more concerned about encouraging a friend or sister than how I look. I have made myself find one thing, or more, that I absolutely love about myself every time I look in the mirror. I am working out, and watching food amounts so I can lose the 20 pounds (or more!) I have gained since getting married. I refuse to step on a scale because of how depressing it is to me. I work hard to make sure that my wardrobe is only full of clothes I love the way they look on me and I am comfortable in them. I have learned what times of the month I am most prone to beating myself up, and I set up reminders for myself that this is for only a little while. I know the times of the month when I feel the best, and I think I look the best. Even with doing these things, my husband still has to put up with my anguished cries of feeling fat and ugly. That still happens on many occasions. and each time he constantly reminds of me of how much he loves the way he looks.
I am learning to be constantly amazed at two things. The first is that over every single woman in the world, my husband chose me. He CHOSE ME. The short, thick-thighed, non-flat stomach me. The little girl inside the older girl asking, “am I beautiful?” Yes, he answers, yes, you are beautiful. My husband once told me, when we first start dating, that I was the one he wanted to grow old with, and he knows I will be still beautiful even then. The second, I think even more important, is that God has chosen me, loved me, wanted me, called me perfect and beautiful since before the beginning of time. I am awed that I really am beautiful, I am graceful, I am worth something. I am brought to tears as the little girl inside me claps her hands in delight.
I am learning, I am striving for my own perfection levels, and I don’t always remember that I am beautiful. I am constantly comparing people I see to myself, and tearing myself down with each comparison. I truly am my worst critic. That is, until I can again remember, I am beautiful.
With that in mind, and without further ado,