I was in second grade when the Disney version of “Beauty and the Beast” debuted in theaters. It was also shortly after this time when a girl in gymnastics class told me I was ugly. A more self-esteemed girl might have coughed up a nasty comeback, but I found myself paralyzed with this new truth. Up until then, I was fairly oblivious, but it was at this time that I realized that there was an appropriate way to look, and I was not it. A slew of Disney films in my childhood only solidified this new worldview. As I recapped my favorite movies—“Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”—I realized that the epitome of womanhood was to be beautiful and loved by a man. Unfortunately as I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see myself in any of these beloved images, and I realized that I might just not be pretty.
As a thirty-two year old woman, this is the moment when I am supposed to tell you how much I’ve grown since then. How I realized that there are so many parts of me that are beautiful and God wouldn’t want me any other way. However, if I said that, I would be lying to you, because the truth is I’m not there yet. Instead, I’m going to say the thing that some women think, but we aren’t supposed to say out loud after a certain age.
I don’t like the way I look.
This is when many people rush in to give some sort of quick gushing compliment, as they assume my statement is a passive aggressive attempt at gaining attention and flattery. Nope. Not the case. It’s simply my dirty inner secret. If you were to ask me what is beautiful about my physical appearance, I would probably stare blankly at you then quickly devise a joke to change the subject. Yet if you asked what I would like to improve about my physical appearance, I could easily list at least ten unsavory attributes in less than thirty seconds.
Before you all start rushing to find a therapist for me (don’t worry, I have one), be assured that as it turns out, God is starting to work on me in this area a little bit. Recently I was asked to complete a project as part of a group I’m participating in. We were focusing on self worth, which is a surprisingly easy topic for me to preach to others or teach to the fifth and sixth grade girls I used to teach. “All of you are beautiful!” “Look at your gorgeous eyes!” “Girl, be proud of yourself – let your light shine!” However, in a clever and evil twist, we were forced to examine our own self worth.
I decided to cheat and write it as a song. As I sat down with my guitar to write about my self worth (insert gagging noises), I strummed aimlessly for a few minutes, got up to pluck my eyebrows, came back, remembered that plant I never watered, then decided I should probably vacuum my pillows. After organizing my refrigerator, I finally ran out of distractions and returned to the empty pages. Why was this so hard? I realized that it was almost impossible for me to speak kindly to myself about how worthy I am because my self-talk is littered with repulsion and negativity. This is great for self-deprecating humor and entertaining the masses, but kind of terrible for self-esteem.
Luckily I remembered that there’s this book that God uses to say nice things to us every once in a while, so I pulled out my laptop to Google Bible verses about self-worth. Lo and behold, there was Psalm 139 – the Psalm that has been haunting me through various venues, devotions and sermons over the last six months.
“I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Wonderful are your works;
My soul knows it very well
My frame was not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Intricately woven in the depths of the earth.”
Boom. There it is. Thank you, King David, for giving me a hook for my new song. I realized that last line was begging for a melody. Finally I had a starting point and I weaved lines into verses, a chorus from the hook, and even settled on a decent bridge. However, I realized God kept pushing me to change a line that I did not want to. I argued, erased, rewrote, possibly rolled my eyes. Finally I relented and finalized my new chorus.
“Intricately woven in the depths of the Earth
I’ve adorned you with beauty and worth
Stop trying to hide who you are
Your shine is designed to exceed the stars.”
God, let’s be reasonable. I cannot sing that. Seriously, the whole line about beauty is just…too much. It feels so wrong coming from me. “Your shine is designed to exceed the stars?” How egotistical is that? I kept trying to change it back to my original words, but God has this nagging habit of getting his way.
The unfortunate reality in writing this as a song is that it came with a melody, which then got stuck in my head. I found myself singing these phrases over and over to myself. Occasionally, it would even sneak its way in while I was busy criticizing myself over my appearance or a mistake I made. Over time, I realized this song was a gift for me from the Big Guy in an attempt to begin the process of healing.
If you are like me and you don’t love your reflection, I hope that you will be a little kinder to yourself than I have been for the past thirty years. I have some ideas for you this coming month.
- Try to imagine what God would say to you. About how beautiful, delicate and awesome you are. Or if you’re simply more programmed to respond to critical self-talk, imagine what God would say about you talking trash about one of God’s fearfully and wonderfully made creations. “Not cool,” God would say with a little tsk tsk.
- Each day for a month, look in the mirror and name something out loud that you like about yourself. It can be a physical characteristic, character trait or spiritual gift. However, make sure it’s a different something each day.
- Research Bible verses on self worth and write your favorite on a sticky note. Slap that bad boy on your mirror so you see it each morning when you drag your slobbery morning self in to brush your teeth.
Sadly even after my song experience, I still don’t quite see myself as pretty. However, the beauty of this crazy Christian life of sanctification is that I know someday I will. I’m going to personally try all three of these things for the next month and sing my little song to myself each day. This song will repeat until I scream, then God will replace it with a new song or affirmation. Then that will continue until eventually one day I look in the mirror and start to believe that maybe I am a beauty underneath this beastly low self-esteem.