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Are You Too Afraid To Feel Beautiful?

Editor’s Note: Today’s beautiful words are by Renee Roden. At the end of this post, you may want to sit down and write out a moment that you felt truly beautiful. And if you’ve never felt it, ever? Wrestle why you feel afraid to feel it. Renee blogs at finnabealightbearer.blogspot.com – Lauren.

Photo by Christine Reid

There are some days—we all have them—when you look and the mirror and simply groan.

Your reflection is just not what you wanted to see.

On those days, all you can notice is that scar on your chin, or the blot on your nose, or how your eyebrows need trimming. You are incapable of noticing how bright your eyes look that day, because you are too busy trying to erase the dark circles underneath them. Your hair seems to be varying between wildly frizzy and completely untamable, and dead and flat, looking absolutely lifeless, lacking any volume. Those are the days that you wince each time you walk past a mirror.

But there are some days, for some magical reason, you feel as though you are floating in a cloud of beauty.

Your confidence in your own radiance is unflappable and unshakable. No mirror, tape measure, or scale could possibly do away with your solid belief in your own beauty. You step is lightened, as you walk through the world, feeling beautiful from the tips of your split-end-riddled hair down to your un-manicured toes.

Those moments are little lifelines to hold onto in a world that shoves conflicting, confusing images of beauty in our face.

We are constantly being pulled between different standards of beauty. When it comes to being beautiful, there seems to be a never-ending stream of dos and don’ts being shoved in our faces.

One magazine devotes pages and pages to products that will give its readers perfect hair and skin; while another touts ideal BMIs and the perfect weight goals, and provides its audience with rigorous diets and exercise stratagems to achieve them. One of our friends pines for curves and complains that she has no chest; while another comments on how big her hips are and how she needs to lose weight.

Although it seems that beauty standards, styles, and fads are perpetually in flux, and changing at a moment’s notice, there does seem to be one consistent trend. None of us can manage to be satisfied with how we look.

We all seem too busy being dissatisfied with our appearance to take the time to appreciate our own unique beauty.

There is one moment in my life I always remember as a moment of unshakeable beauty.

I was at senior prom, and I walked into the girl’s bathroom.

The bathroom was very softly lit. The floor and ceiling sparkled with a very deep blue, almost black, glossy tile, which had little flecks of mica embedded in them. That bathroom looked like a little nook carved out of the night sky. 

When I walked in, my dark blue dress mirroring the starry sky of the bathroom, I felt as though I walked right into a constellation. Everything sparkled: the very air was iridescent.

I looked into the mirror, and I softly caught my breath. There was a girl in the mirror looking back at me, and she was beautiful.

And I was that girl.

It was shocking.

I remember looking in the mirror and being surprised. I was surprised that how beautiful I felt matched exactly how beautiful I looked. Or that how beautiful I looked matched how beautiful I felt. It was a moment where my interior beauty I knew was there was somehow present in my face as I looked in the mirror.

That starry little bathroom was filled with joy. I’d never felt such a joy in being beautiful.

I looked at the mirror and smiled at myself. And blushed at the audacity of doing so. I saw a girl with long cinnamon curls and sparkling eyes smiling back at me. Her cheeks were flushed from dancing, and her entire body was reverberating with excitement.

That girl in the mirror and I smiled at each other, basking in the radiance of the beauty I’d just discovered. I felt like the brightest star in that luminous sea of shimmering lights.

No matter how many bad hair days I have, or how blotchy my skin is, or how full or bloated I feel after eating a large Thanksgiving dinner, I will always look back at that moment and remember that I felt beautiful right then. There is nothing that can shake my confidence in my beauty at that moment.

We are too scared to talk about our bodies as though we actually love them.

We forget to rejoice in having a body uniquely our own, and glorious in its uniqueness. It’s easy to find beauty in nature around us, or look at all our friends and find their beauty so evident. But it’s harder to look in the mirror and acknowledge the beauty right in front of us.

It’s hard to accept a compliment on a day you feel particularly not beautiful. It’s hard to accept the fact that our point of view is not the only one that matters: there are people who love us and find us beautiful even when we cannot see our own beauty. We are too afraid to acknowledge that we are worthy of being loved, and beautiful because of that.

We are too afraid to rejoice in our own beauty.

For The Girl Criticized For Not Having A Quiet Spirit

Editor’s Note: Today’s post by Taylor is on a topic that really fascinates me. Most women in the Bible had radically strong and “vocal” spirits, yet many of us are raised to be quiet, introverted, and ‘gentle.’ I grew up believing that I didn’t have a gentle spirit and I needed to fix myself, until multiple close friends insisted I was a quiet person. Whatever side of the fence you fall on, be careful when you let others speak into what kind of spirit you should have as a person, or as a gender. It can alter your life. Taylor blogs here and tweets at @tayholder. – Lauren

There really aren’t many things that annoy me more than gender stereotypes, and that’s mainly because I just don’t feel like I fit into any of them. Specifically, the ones the traditional Church has promoted.

In my eyes, I am too opinionated. I’m too loud. Too strong. Too tall. Just too much. I just need to be more dainty. No matter how hard I try, my car ends up being a mess. Maybe I should pluck my eyebrows more regularly… yeah, I probably should.

Over the past 6 years that I’ve had a relationship with Christ, I’ve had many victories, disappointments, lessons learned, heart aches, and relapses. The beautiful thing is that Grace has always been there to pick me up. Every single time. And somehow we just keep on trucking, together.

But somewhere along the line, I stopped being the too-strong girl.

That loud, obnoxious one who wore the puke shade of orange and argued ’til she was blue in the face about why Phil Fulmer and the whole Clausen family could all go to hell (For those of you who don’t know, that’s a football thing).

It first hit me a couple months ago when I was told, for the first time ever, that I’m kind of a quiet person. I was taken aback. Quiet? Me? No. Then again, yesterday, when I said to a friend, “I just have too strong of a personality,” he quickly refuted it.

Where did that girl go? And when? Is she forever gone? Is that even a good thing?

I think in the end, it all depends on why she left. Was she transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit? Or was she scared off by insecurity and a need for approval in this new community? A new community in which women look very different than she used to look.

Bottom line is that yes, I think we can all agree that the girl who willed sports players to eternal damnation can kick rocks, but why is the opposite of her a quiet girl to the extent that she’s a coward?

Why can’t the opposite of her be a strong-willed girl who is loud for the right causes?

Like the cause of justice? Of truth? Of grace and love, in a culture filled with judgement? Can I use my loud-ness in favor of Love?

I haven’t become that girl. Somewhere along the line, expectation reached out and grabbed me. And I didn’t even put up a fight, believing that the expectation came from those around me, who pointed fingers at me, or whispered about me behind my back. And it came from me too. I joined in and threw rocks at myself in judgement, while Jesus stood in the gap, drew lines in the sand, and defended me from my own hatred.

When I’d become a Christian, I’d resolved to know who I had to be so that I’d fit into the church. Who I had to be in order to have a Christian man desire me, value me, and even want to keep me around.

I was so far from being that kind of girl, and I hated myself for it.

Instead of going after Christ whole-heartedly, half of me was always stuck on being a better woman, or at least my perception of a better woman. I kept wondering when Jesus was going to transform me into the perfect Christian friend and wife.

All I wanted was to be a different person than I who was before I knew Christ, but I took it to the extreme, and in the end I kind of lost myself. Not completely, though. Sometimes the “old me” comes out, but I’ve resented her, and have quickly reprimanded her.

Sometimes, I still get a little loud. I feel like it’s the old me that comes out and fights and fights. Sometimes trivially, and sometimes for the best reasons.

Sometimes she says, “MEN, WOMEN ARE NOT DISPOSABLE.”

Sometimes she screams, “STOP RUNNING TO THAT THING, IT WILL NEVER SATISFY YOU.”

But this week I realized that maybe that girl isn’t the old me, maybe it IS still the new me. The me who is in Christ, but is still just me, “The too-tall girl from the wrong side of the tracks.” (If you know that reference, you get me.)

***

I can’t wait to get to the place where I can put down expectation and be who God has made me.

I want to be her fully.

A woman with a quiet spirit, but not always a quiet mouth. A woman who has a really weird, goofy, over-the-top side. A woman who likes to debate, but is open to being wrong. A woman who challenges those around her, hoping they will challenge her back, because at the end of the day, she just really wants to learn. A woman who always wants to be the best version of herself.

Maybe this girl doesn’t fit into the perfect gender role molds, and maybe that’s okay.

Sometimes, “Being A Woman” Makes Me Tired

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by Kirsten Oliphant. She blogs at stillhatepickles.com and tweets at @kikimojo. I read her submission with great relief and peace. It also reminded me a little of Hannah’s post, The Life I Discovered Inside of 13 Days Without Social Media. Enjoy the rest of your week, girlfriends! – Lauren

The past few months I have been branching out online, reading blogs and posts and sites that are a little outside the typical, comfortable easy space for me. It has been really enlightening to hear views from women I respect and admire about feminism, submission, marriage, oppression, and the Proverbs 31 woman. Many of these posts and voices are in complete disagreement with each other, which is great for making me think.

At first, I was taking in all these new ideas, mulling them over and letting them sort of steep in my head. I felt excited and energized and like I had so many things to think about, places I needed to grow.

But now I just feel tired.

Weary from the reading and the thinking and the weight of so many expectations of me – just one woman. According to these various voices:

- I am to be like the Proverbs 31 woman in all her success and busyness. Or, I am not to be like her, but to celebrate the victories in my day, small and large.

- I am to submit to and respect my husband. Or, I am to be his equal partner.

- I am to think of myself as my husband’s complement. Or, I am to think of myself as his exact equal, which is somehow not his complement.

- I should strive to be a homemaker. Or, I should strive for success wherever I feel gifted.

- I should dress myself in a way that doesn’t make men stumble. Or, I should know that it is a man’s responsibility to tame his lustful thoughts.

Do you feel tired yet?

I chose opposite viewpoints and over-simplified them just for the sake of example. In my reading, I have found that there are so many beliefs about who a good, godly woman should be – running all in between (and maybe outside) those polar points.

The bottom line, however, is that no matter what blog or viewpoint I was reading, I ended up feeling weighed down by expectations of being a Woman. Can I take a timeout?

I’m still not sure where I land on a lot of these ideas, but maybe I don’t want to pitch my tent in a camp with a title on it, whether that be complementarian, egalitarian, feminist, or something altogether different. I want a break from categories and expectations.

I want some rest in trying to interpret what every directive towards women in the Bible really means in today’s culture and in my life.

I want to take some time and stop thinking of who I need to be as a woman, and simply think of who Jesus wants me to be as a human being. As a follower. As a sinner, washed clean by his grace.

For this moment, that seems a big enough task without adding on top of that what kind of woman I am supposed to be.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Paul says in Galatians 3:28. Why? As he tells us in the prior verses, this is because we have been clothed with Christ.

The outer trappings of our selves are colored with the inner trappings of a heart washed clean, belonging to Jesus. This clothing transcends gender and culture and position. It transcends denomination and affiliation and movement. For a brief time I can rest easy in this truth, shaking off that feeling of pressure to be the right kind of woman. No, my affiliation is ultimately with Jesus.

Paul is not saying that those things do not matter, only that underneath all the divisions we have a unity that transcends them all. For a time, I simply want to rest. I want to rest at the feet of Jesus while he speaks, not busying myself with other things, as significant as they may be. At his feet, I see the grace of one who crossed barriers and social constructs and religious expectations. I see the grace of one who touched the unclean, who put his own spit in the eyes of the blind, who let sinful women wipe his feet with their hair.

The view from down here is lovely, and when I’m looking up at him, I don’t need to worry about what kind of woman he wants me to be. I think that he is pleased with me being right here at his feet in worship and adoration, in intimacy. I can just be.

I greatly appreciate all the smart, thinking women who are so eloquent in their written thoughts about womanhood. I will continue to read their blogs and posts and tweets. I’m not saying that womanhood isn’t extremely significant, or that affiliations and identity and persuasions do not matter. I simply need a break every now and then to put them in perspective.

My identity, beyond that of womanhood, is as a person of God.

So I am taking a break for a moment to get back to the well itself, from which I can drink deep, be refreshed, and then dive back into the fray of diverse thought on what it means to be a woman.

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