I learned something about beauty this week. Perhaps I should more accurately say, our “self-perception” of beauty. The image we hold of ourselves is often cruel and distorted. I believe the image others hold of us, may hold more truth. This understanding was revealed to me by two friends who are quite different from each other (and from me for that matter).
Allow me to paint you a mental picture of them. The first is a very tall, thin woman. She is the ‘no fuss, no muss’ kind, a tomboy by definition. Her everyday attire includes athletic pants, t-shirt and a zip-up athletic jacket.
She has short hair which she keeps hidden underneath a baseball cap that’s always tucked down low. She never wears make-up, and any jewelry she wears is extremely simple. A total sports nut, she has passed her competitive, active spirit onto her kids. She’s the kind that always has a dog hanging out the window while driving to athletic events.
The second woman is only about 5’3, with shoulder length thick, strawberry blonde hair. (The real shade, not the kind you get from a bottle.) She has huge blue eyes and very fair skin. I think an “American doll” should be created with her pretty features.
There’s a genuine southern lilt in her voice and she’s always scented in a flowery perfume. A ‘girly’ girl by definition, she’s big on manners and proper etiquette. She’s the kind that always volunteers at school, laminating projects or cutting shapes out of construction paper in the teacher’s lounge, and doing it with a smile.
Now onto my Ah-ha moment…The three of us were meeting for breakfast, and my second friend arrived early. As we began chatting, she shared how she didn’t feel beautiful because of some weight that she hasn’t been able to lose. I was thinking that included about 98% of all women, but realized how deeply this issue cut into her when she got teary. Those crystal blue eyes turned into pools of clear ocean.
I was taking in every word of her pain, but at the same time wondering why she didn’t see what everyone sees when they look at her. I assured her that she looked wonderful, but she wouldn’t believe me. Unrealistic societal standards have transformed her self-perception of beauty. The image she holds of herself is vastly different from what others see.
This is when I felt that “Ah-ha.” We are told that God made us each in His image. The image of God within all of us is diverse and perfect for our life and the people who share it.
Here is the image that I hold of these two women….
For friend number one: She’s real. She is one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met. With a completely bare face, she absolutely glows with rosy cheeks. She radiates light. She loves to talk about sports and things I know nothing about. It makes no sense that we’re even friends, but I love her energy. I love being near someone that true to life. She has a wonderful laugh and has made an incredible commitment to volunteering and fighting for those who don’t have a voice. This willowy figure is a fighter. Her strength of character and honesty is good for my soul.
For friend number two: Her witty humor keeps me laughing long after we’ve parted. This southern belle has taught me to approach the day with an open heart. The genuine love she shows in every action is a lesson for me to strive to be kinder.
The crowds of children who run to embrace her, are not thinking about those extra pounds she dislikes, but only of her warmth. She makes you feel special by listening attentively and giving encouraging words. Her unshakable faith and firm stance in right vs. wrong, always gives me food for thought. But it is her love of God that leaves me in awe.
God made us in His image. That includes the tall and short, slender and average, long hair, short hair, and a million other physical distinctions. His true image is revealed through the eyes of people enjoying your qualities, admiring your characteristics, smiling at your talents and thankful for your friendship.
Real beauty doesn’t lie within our perception as much as it does in the image others hold. We need to stop beating ourselves up. Today, I’m going to tell my friend what I see when I look at her. I challenge you to see the image your family and dearest friends have of you. I think you’ll be surprised.
My hope is that you find truth in your image!