I was an ugly child.
At least, if you’d asked me, I’d have told you that. I was reminded of it in a thousand little ways. The way my dad ignored me when I’d try to talk to him. The way he shook his head at everything I did. The way he never came to any of my performances. The way he commented about how I looked.
I felt ugly.
Though my relationship with my father was always hard, I never thought it really swayed my feelings toward the male population. I grew up in a large neighborhood where I was the only girl, and I learned to speak their language, to care about what they cared about. I was always surrounded by boys. I wanted to be like them.
I admired the way they said what they felt, then moved on. The way they approached life with wild abandon, and no fear. The way they built friendships that lasted, and even allowed in a girl or two.
But the older I grew, the more I realized that while their self-esteem was based on what they accomplished, mine was based more on the idea I had of beauty. More specifically, my own beauty. If I beat them at baseball, or built a better fort, it never seemed to measure up to the thrill I felt if someone — anyone — in my life complimented me or made me feel beautiful.
The older I grew, the more noticeable it grew. It became a hole in my life that clung to me like a shadow. I needed to feel beautiful, and felt terrible when I didn’t.
I hated that about myself.
As an adult, it didn’t matter how much I accomplished. When I graduated from college, it wasn’t enough. When I achieved goals in my career, it wasn’t enough. When I went back to the career I’d been too scared to try in college — writing — and saw some success, it wasn’t enough. The hole taunted me as I dated men that were not wise choices. It taunted me in my friendships with other women. It carried throughout my life, my marriage, and even the end of my marriage. It seemed an albatross around my neck at times.
The power it held over me scared me.
As a single mom, this belief that I must be beautiful in order to be loved chased me like a dare. Daring me to see who was out there in the dating world. Daring me to take an innocent comment and make it more. Daring me to make finding someone a priority in my life, rather than other things I should be focusing on. And as I’ve stumbled through this first part of single motherhood, I’ve watched as other singles face this same battle. Using beauty as not only a measuring tool to our worth, but a shield to what is really going on inside of us. Convincing ourselves we’re beautiful so that we can bear to make it through difficulties because it makes us feel good regardless of what else is going on. Allowing ourselves to overlook major issues in our emotional and mental health, as long as we feel beautiful.
And in watching, I’ve come to realize something: The world’s idea of beauty is a lie.
It has absolutely nothing to do with our looks. And hearing the words “you’re beautiful” are not the same as someone truly loving you.
Beauty comes from the heart — which is why many can’t see it properly. But, God does. Not only does He find the beauty inside of us, but He can fill the holes of our past so that inner beauty can grow. And no matter who we find in our lives, no one — no one — can fill the holes of our past and put them into perspective better than our Father.
When we push beyond the voices that surround us and make the conscious effort to listen to God’s voice instead, we allow His Word and His Spirit to put things back into perspective.
Promising us that we are loved — no matter our appearance, or anything else:
“The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” — Samuel 16:7
Teaching us His idea of what is to be cherished:
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” — Proverbs 31:30
Promising us that He sees our hearts — and values the beauty we allow to grow there.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the weaving of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” — 1 Peter 3:3-4
I’m still working on this part of my heart. It’s a place in my life that still needs healing. A deep wound left by my father that will not go quickly, but will go completely if I call out to my Father and ask Him to take that burden from me.
Because as I go into this second season of my life, as I search and find the one person to spend the rest of my life with, I don’t want to be loved because I’m the world’s standard of beautiful.
I’m so much more.
And so are you.