I can’t remember a time in my life where my inner being didn’t shy away from this word. I’m unsure if it’s the strength in the word or the culture I was brought up in’s definition of the word that makes me so uneasy with it. I’m sure it’s probably a combination of a lot of things, but at the end of the day when I hear it something inside of me ducks for cover. It’s as though some part of that little girl is inside of me terrified of the possibility of someone or something making her feel unworthy of the word. So instead, she shies away from it and avoids that scenario altogether.
I could probably write a book on all of the ways I believe we humans have distorted that word. Rather than allow myself the indulgence of that tangent, I’d rather capitalize and expand on the thoughts that have been ringing in my head for a few weeks. What is beauty? A quick default to Wikipedia (lazy research I know) tells me that beauty is a characteristic of any noun that provides the perceptual experience of pleasure or satisfaction. It goes on in great detail about how society’s ever changing definition of pleasure or satisfaction continues to create an ever changing definition of beauty and how we perceive it. To which I say a resounding “DUH”.
It’s that ever-changing part that sends me looking for something a little more concrete. Something that has stability and has been around a lot longer than the panel of judges on America’s Next Top Model or even the great artists who depicted beauty in the early ages of man: The Bible.
Genesis 1: 26, 31 gives us a pretty simple but resounding baseline to work with. Paraphrasing:
- God made mankind in His image
- He said what He had made was good
As I dive deeper into the word I can find lots and lots of scripture passages that build on this concept and usually they all bring me back to the awesome conclusion that God who is so powerful my brain can’t even fathom Him, took time to think of me, formed me into being, loves all his creations, and therefore loves me and finds ME to be beautiful. And not because He has some backward definition of the word Beautiful…simply because He made me and that alone qualifies me to be among His beautiful.
Pretty awesome actually!
That concept though, awesome as it is, is not easy to embrace or accept. Especially if you don’t even know it exists. As I mentioned earlier, MY definition of beauty has been so out of touch with God’s definition that even just hearing it makes me uncomfortable. The suggestion that my name, my body, my being, be associated with that word brings up a fear in my heart that I can’t even logically explain. Almost as though waiting for someone to disagree or capitalize on an opportunity to hurt me is too painful and so I just disagree or capitalize on it myself from the get-go and take it off the table.
“Psh, I’m not beautiful, hahahahaha. What were they thinking? My name doesn’t belong in that category. My mistake I’ll move it over here and file it under short, squishy and insecure. “
Growing up my definition of beautiful was somehow separated from God’s definition. I vaguely remember the princess phase and the knowledge that my dad thought I was beautiful. I remember the first time a person removed me from that. (5th grade. Bus ride home. Ronnie Morelan) And at some point my definition of beauty became a mantra that looked something like this:
“Brandi people will not like you until you are beautiful. You will not be beautiful until you aren’t fat. ”
Freshman year of college the “non-fat” part developed into a number. That number was 125 pounds. I was convinced down to my bones that if I could just be 125 pounds I would be beautiful and people would like me and life would be awesome and I’d finally be happy again. When I reached 125 pounds, I didn’t feel any different and so I obviously wasn’t beautiful and definitely not happy. And so, the definition and beauty morphed into closer to 115 pounds. And then 110. And then 100. And then 95.
I wish with all of my being that was when my little 18 year old brain figured it out. What I failed to learn for the better part of 15 years is that when a person ties their definition of beauty to something so worldly, achieving it will be impossible. Because the truth, the real truth, is I always WAS beautiful. And not because of a size or a number or a boyfriend or a grade card or any of the other silly things I attached beauty to….
I was beautiful simply because God made me. In His image. And He creates beautiful things.
There are days this concept is tough. Really tough. Tough in the brings me to tears kind of way. Those are the days I like to picture myself standing at that bulletin board of categories. I’m staring up at my name that I have just moved over to the short, squishy and insecure category and feeling a large shadow walk up behind me. I picture a large arm reaching over me, plucking my name out of my spot, and placing it under the word beautiful while a warm voice says,
“No my dear. Let me remind you again. You are mine. And mine, sweet Brandi, are beautiful”