Unfortunately, I grew up thinking that if I had worth, it had to do with how I looked. I wish that weren't the case, but I believed this deep inside. I wasn't a cute kid, hardly one you'd look at and say, "Wow, she's striking." I was homely, needy, and thin. I had dark circles under my eyes. (Vestiges of that still clings to me today, so I use concealer). Besides that, I was a fatherless girl, insatiably needy for male attention. I wanted to be noticed, and often felt overlooked.
Regardless of how I felt, sometime around puberty, attention came. That astounds me now, as I was gangly and terribly awkward. And I started that dance of fear, of longing for a daddy and looking for him on the face of boys my age. All I really wanted was for someone to hug me and say, "Everything will be okay." I did not want to be kissed. Or looked at. Just held. Still, I worked hard at making sure my exterior attracted attention while a little bit of my soul died inside.
And yet, I searched for attention. Relished it. As I grew into myself in late high school and college, boys continued to notice. I spent time primping and flirting. I longed for a look, a tinge of interest. Anything that validated my worth or hinted at beauty.
Unfortunately, I was so damaged back then, I couldn't receive genuine love - what I was actually looking for. Instead, I relied on my looks to conjure up "love," yet I couldn't allow any man access to my heart, so terrified I was to be known, and then hurt. Slowly, painfully, I began to grow into myself. I learned how to let go of that need to be seen, though it still haunts me.
Today I am loved deeply by a man who is handsome and amazing and smart and deep and spiritual. I revel in that. And yet, I still mourn losing my looks as I age. How uncanny is that? I should be embracing the wisdom that comes with age, the beauty of growing a more beautiful soul (thanks to Jesus' interaction with my life). But I think there's still that little girl inside me, equating my worth with how I look. And as I get older, I'm afraid.
Will I be loved? Will I have worth?
I have an assignment for you. Sometime today look yourself in the mirror. Don't cringe or criticize. Instead, say a simple Thank You. Because, truly, you're a beautiful creation, fashioned in love by God. Then ask God to create irresistible beauty inside, where it counts. In this moment, right now, you have a beautiful soul. Rest in that. Rejoice in that.
"What you're after is truth from the inside out. Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life." Psalm 51:6 MSG
"Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-GOD." Proverbs 31:30 MSG
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Mary DeMuth is a woman who is training (one agonizing mile at a time) for a sprint triathlon. She speaks and writes about turning trials into triumph. Author of nine books, she's written candidly about image and her own struggles with insecurity in her latest memoir, Thin Places. Visit Mary and find out more at http://www.marydemuth.com.
© 2010 by Mary DeMuth. All rights reserved.