Shallow

Somewhere along the way, I stopped believing I was beautiful.

I think I believed it a while ago, once, in the middle of a summer haze, laughing with friends in the glow of street lights. But then something changed and I forgot again.

I lived like I wasn’t sure who I was.

Sitting in a plush chair in her tiny office, I stared at her from across her desk. We were both ENFJs on the Myers-Briggs, a fact she brought up early on that somehow made me feel closer to her emotionally. This office was where I came to process. Where I came to try to understand.

I thought counseling would be like an affirmation circle. You know, the ones they do in youth group where everyone goes around and says something they love about Susan, then Rebecca, then Ashley? Those always felt forced to me. Counseling wasn’t like that. Instead it was like a dull knife cutting me to rip away dangerous things: emotions and memories and responses. Feelings I had buried underneath my skin and hoped wouldn’t be dug out.

I remember when I told my counselor “I don’t think I’m beautiful,”

She just stared at me, like I was an idiot. That was the one time I can remember being baffled entirely, at a loss for what was going to come out of her mouth next. She was incredibly honest, cutting even, and I braced myself for what would come next.

“Really? You think you’re not beautiful…? I think you’re one of the most strikingly beautiful people I’ve ever seen.”

I just sat there for a moment, trying to process.

Me? Strikingly beautiful? You’re kidding, right?

I was SO sure. SO SURE that I wasn’t actually captivating, because if I was, maybe things would have been different. Maybe I wouldn’t be in counseling. Maybe I would be okay again.

I realized in that moment, with that life-changing, heart-racing compliment that cut to the core – maybe I was beautiful. I so desperately hoped and dreamed I was. Maybe I’m not beautiful like her. Maybe I’m not consistently perfect. Maybe he’ll fall in love with someone who takes his breath away every time he looks over, like he did for me. And that’s okay.

My beauty is another thing entirely, something that has to remain untouched by my surroundings and who I allow to speak into my life. Easier said than done.

I love aesthetics. I prize beautiful things. I mean, who doesn’t? But I’m especially terrible; constantly glorifying the visual. I’m guilty of caring too much about the things you’d write poems about. Things I’ve written poems about in the past: his eyes and that shirt and the way he orchestrated every song that played with his hands. I follow models on Instagram and I secretly hope someone who looks like Levi Stocke, my current favorite, will walk into my life. It’s ridiculous. Everyone knows aesthetics will one day fade to black because only character survives.

I uphold impossibly high standards for myself and others and hope some day to be happy.

Maybe something in me needs to shift. Now.

I can’t be an advocate for women, a champion of our own individual, personal beauty, if I can’t see my own. I need a daily humble acknowledgement that my worth and beauty have nothing to do with the symmetry of my face and how many guys compliment me. It has everything to do with how well I love.

I refuse to let my love be crippled by my aesthetic preferences.

always,

angela

P.S. The above photo of me was taken by the lovely Hannah Ward. What you don’t see in this photo is the crushing desire I have to be beautiful. I want it so bad it hurts. Part of me wants a photo to prove that I’m lovely and desirable. The other part of me is depressed because I know I’ll always be dissatisfied with the final product.

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8 Replies to “Shallow”

  1. Hi Angela,

    Thank you for posting this.
    I needed to read this. Your bravery in honesty certainly related to so many of my own feelings.
    Humans have the insatiable desire to experience beauty. “My heart yearns within me”… Oh God, it yearns. We want to know beauty, to be it. We want to be wanted. I so often look to the mirror, or to compliments, or to my insta feed and BEG to be filled. And while I may be satisfied for a time, it is only temporary. The void returns once again- the ache for beauty more painful than before.

    But this is a good thing.
    It is a very good thing.

    Something I’ve learned over the past few months here at Cedarville (where I also attend school) is that this is what I have been created for. This is my purpose: to crave a beauty so deep that nothing in this world can satisfy my longing, especially not my own reflection. We were made to search to and fro throughout the earth to find beauty, never to rest until we gaze upon the mystery of the Lord in the beauty of His holiness. Our purpose is to BEHOLD the beauty of Christ, and in turn, ascribe unto Him the glory due His name.

    We so often quote Psalm 139, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made” as we look at ourselves. We beg the Scriptures for some affirmation that we are beautiful and desirable and worthy of affection. However, we forget the most important part of the verse, “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” We overlook the Maker when we look at ourselves. We are fearfully and wonderfully made because HE made us this way! Our personal beauty and design have NOTHING to do with us. HIS works are wonderful, and I am His work. Oh God, make my soul know full well who I am, and who You are.

    So, our quest for beauty is one that will only be satisfied while looking unto Christ. My eyes are deceived lest I look unto Christ who knows me and wants me and calls me beautiful. May we turn our eyes upon Jesus, and meet His gaze that never looked away- His gaze that is more affectionate, more tender, more compelling than any I have ever known.

    Sorry for the novel, I mostly wrote it because I needed to hear it.
    Thank you again for posting,
    Nina

    1. Whoa! You’re awesome! Thank you so so much for writing this, for getting it on such a deep level…that’s why I wrote…to get to the heart of things. To connect with people who feel the exact same way. The fact that you do means the world to me. You’re solid. Let’s be friends, even from a distance. (I’m in Houston now! I graduated in December.)

  2. Your P.S. is astoundingly true of me and many others. I never think I’m beautiful. Some days, oh, I look okay today; but, never think “beautiful” . Until, this weekend. I saw a shot captured at my daughter’s wedding. I felt happy. I felt at peace. I had prayed for a light and happy heart. I looked beautiful someone said. I felt beautiful. What a gift it was to believe it.

    1. That’s incredible…what a story!! Exactly!! We yearn and long for those moments, when we glimpse our own with and beauty. You had it inside you the whole time. Have you ever read Captivating by John & Sherrie Elderedge? (Spelling may be off, sorry!) I recommend it highly. It speaks so many truths about and on this subject.

  3. I see this as a reminder that we can never judge a book by its cover. I see you, how beautiful and fun and passionate you are and think “if only I had an ounce of the confidence Angela has…” I’ve sat in a room with you and wished to look more like you, to be more myself like you, to love more like you. Yet, you don’t see it. Well, I also see this as a reminder to speak life into the people around us. You are lovely my dear, and I’m better for knowing you.

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