30 Oct 2014

Why Women Don’t Need to Be Ashamed of Needing to Feel Beautiful

There are books and blog posts and news articles that I comb through in the dark hours while my daughter sleeps. And they say that girls need to hear that they are brave and strong and capable. That their bodies are useful more than they are beautiful.

I don’t doubt that’s true.

But my baby is fast asleep next door wrapped around with the pink and white and wildly frilly tutu she wouldn’t take off before bed.

And I imagine there’s something to that too.

And last year when we were packing up suitcases for our flight home to South Africa and Christmas with the family we hadn’t seen in two years I threw in six princess dresses at the last minute. They were soft hand-me-downs and folded up so small and light and fragile into the nooks and crannies of space between our every day essentials that you’d hardly notice them.

On impulse I packed a blue Cinderella and yellow Belle and pink Barbie. Part of my brain thought it ridiculous.

But I had this other feeling that there may be princesses in need of dresses.

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The thing about beauty, is that it’s always there.

It just looks different for each of us.

But it’s always there waiting to be called out.

A grown up friend writes me that, “I want to be told that I’m beautiful too.”

Behind our glasses and insecurities, behind our unruly bangs and business suits or yoga pants, behind our accomplishments and husbands and kids, there is always the little girl who wants to be told she’s beautiful.

I know this because I see her in the mirror.

I ignored her for years. But I’m learning she needs to be taken seriously. Having a daughter is teaching me that.

As seriously as I take her brain and her athleticism and her kindness. As seriously as I take her passions and ideas and hurts.

Even though I’ve spent years pretending she doesn’t exist. This part of me that embarrasses me; embarrasses my self-image that wants no part of Barbies and defines herself by her brain and not her looks – this part of me that longs to be named, “beautiful.”

Because I remember all the ways I did not and was not when I was a young girl. Or when I was a speaker at a conference last week.

She has thin, straggly hair. Her ears stick out.

These are labels I have accepted about myself since I was a teenager because a too-hip-for-his-age hairdresser once whispered them to my mom. As if they were a shameful secret. As if I should apologize for ears that got in the way of his scissors.

I remember how my cheeks burned. How for years afterward I felt embarrassed anytime a hairdresser came to trimming in the vicinity. How I imagined they must be appalled by my big and sticky-out-ears.

He named me un-beautiful and I believed him.

I wonder what would have happened if my mother had voiced a response to the sentences that slipped so careless from a hairdresser all those years ago? I wonder with all of life’s long list of busyness if moments like those even qualify for taking the time to respond?

And then one afternoon decades later in South Africa we have a princess party for our daughters. And I see in each of their wide eyes and longing looks at the mirror that beauty loves to be called out, to be celebrated and cherished and recognized by our mothers.

Our daughters will see themselves as beautiful in our eyes first. If we let them.

And once they’ve seen themselves as beautiful in the eyes of their mother, maybe they’ll be braver dancing through the minefields of what the movies and magazines scream is desirable.

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On a whim the moms dress up too.

The only princess dresses that fit us are the ones from our weddings. I haven’t worn mine in 14 years and it won’t zip up all the way in back.

But I step into it anyway and see my own wild hopes echoed in five pairs of eyes.

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How beauty is more than dress size and at the same time never less than princess size.

How God looks at our insides but He also made our unique outsides and maybe we need to stop making false divides.

And I feel how I am wired to feel beautiful as four sets of small arms wrap tightly around my neck and the promise that the future holds love stories for each of us.

Daughters lost and found, abandoned, broken and adopted.

Daughters beloved.

Daughters beautiful.

And the word might not always fit us. It might feel like it’s too tight or sticking in back like my dress that gaped open with a disgruntled zipper. But it didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that I’d outgrown that dress, because you can’t ever outgrow the beauty of being loved.

And when my two year old daughter wrapped herself around with my veil I saw my past, present and future all cupped in that singular moment in the hands of the God who declares us all beautiful.

He has made everything beautiful in its time. ~Ecclesiastes 3:11

That means you and me and our hurts and unhappy endings.

Everything is beautiful when reflected in the eyes of the God who names us so.

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Beauty like so much grace, so much hope, so many promises,

in the eye of the faithful, heavenly beholder.

Hear me; hear Him

you are beloved and wildly beautiful friend. It’s OK to ask.

From your cracked, tired heels to your fingers all wrinkled from dish water and diapers changed in the dark. From your brain bursting with curiosity and creativity to your hair that you wish was curlier, straighter, thicker, thinner.

That mole, that wrinkle, that pair of jeans that doesn’t fit like it used to on that set of hips. Those tired eyes, those strong arms, that crooked grin.

That brave mouth that speaks up for children when they can’t speak for themselves, those feet that run hard after a God who has called you.

Those aching muscles, that broken heart, that doubting faith.

Every freckle.

Every laugh line.

Every wrinkle.

Yes even that belly, all soft with the memory of life.

Especially that.

Every inside and every out.

Beautiful.

 

Related:

Keep reading about my struggle with beauty and what my daughter has taught me about it in my book, Surprised by Motherhood.

Click here to order your copy.

Click here to read the first three chapters for free.

 

Comments

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  1. 1

    oh my goodness, this is so so good. thank you for your fresh perspective and obedient words to what has revealed to your heart. i’m so thankful to be on the receiving end of these today. i would love to feature a snippet on my website and encourage readers to know this message you are sharing. thank you, lisa-jo!

  2. 3

    And there’s the thing, I have frequently wanted to tell you how beautiful I think you are. But, I thought you would think it odd to hear, because I thought you could see your beauty. You are tall and smart and your hair flows and shines. You look different from me in ways I admire. Not that I’m putting myself down.

    We need to listen to the small voice inside that tells us to be brave and compliment another woman. We never know what messages they have heard to influence who they are. Sometimes I think we miss the ministry of changing the message in another woman.

    You are beautiful Lisa-Jo. Just thought you should know.

  3. 4

    You made me cry this morning. I lost my husband a little over two years ago at 55. I have a new man in my life and the other day in a tender moment, he told me I was beautiful. I didn’t know what to do with those words other than dismiss them, but you have made me understand that I am beautiful, not in the worldly sense, but as one that God made and loves deeply. I also remembered that I have a mirror my daughter gave me after my husband’s death with the same Ecclesiastes verse on it. I need to look in that mirror more often. Thank you.

  4. 5
    Libby Jackson says:

    Oh my! Your beautiful post brought tears to me eyes, remembering myself as a little girl in the 50’s and 60’s thinking she was ugly because her mother who was raised by Victorian parents would tell her “It does not matter what you look like, I still love you.” You see back then they did not want to give the child a “big head”. But those words hurt so bad and did nothing to build up my confidence in any way. I struggled with this for years. After many Bible Studies after I turn 50, I now know I am a daughter of the King and in His eyes I am a beautiful princess just like my daddy would call me. As a mother I do tell my daughters how beautiful they are and how much I love them. I wish I had had princess parties. What a precious memory your daughters will have!

  5. 6

    I loved this article so much. Thank you. Thank you, Thank you.
    I shared it on my photography website: https://www.facebook.com/fairiefotography

  6. 7

    yes! When God first unveiled my deep desire to know I was beautiful about 5 years ago it was painful and amazing all at once. So thankful he showed me that and so thankful for reminders like this one that it is still true. Especially with a belly soft and pudgy combined with hips that won’t keep jeans up and the daily struggle as a mom of a 5-month-old and a 2-yr-old to keep taking care of myself. Thanks.

  7. 8

    Oh Lisa Jo, you’ve captured things so many of us feel and don’t dare to express. I’m 50, hair thinning a bit, more weight around the middle. :-) But my daughter tells me I’m beautiful, and I believe in her eyes (and in God’s eyes!) I am. Funny that when I tell her she’s beautiful, she says I say that because I’m her mom.

  8. 9

    One of the things that I misse the most in not attending Allume this year was seeing Beautiful you… and hearing your South African sneak out here and there and drinking in the grace that you so freely pour out and oh my goodness, how can that be anything but Beautiful! LOVE this… and those photo’s? Gah! So much joy and belovedness going on in them! (May it be so, Lord! May it be so!)

  9. 10

    Well, I’ve now read this through twice, once this morning and once again tonight, and cried both times. I think this is a message women yearn to hear. Our culture shouts that we don’t need to hear it…that we’re being sexist if we call women beautiful. But the truth is, we need to be told we’re beautiful as much as men need to be told they’re gentlemen. But that’s another topic…

    I love that verse in Ecclesiastes. I’ve never thought of it as applying to ME. And as I look at myself. My soft belly, my dark under-eye circles, my tired legs, I now see that I’m not growing LESS beautiful with time, I’m growing MORE beautiful. Because that’s the way God works.

    Thank you so much for this post. What a blessing it was in my day today.

  10. 11
    Sherylann says:

    Beauty is part of me now, I don’t apply it like so much eye liner. I wear it. Even on the days I only wear sweat pants. Lisa Jo Baker – Tales From a Gypsy Mama

    A quote that I often think about and often believe.

  11. 12

    Comforting. Inspiring. Encouraging. Oh that we would be intentional to call the beauty out in our daughters, our friends, the girl working the register at Target, and ourselves.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Why Women Don’t Need to Be Ashamed of Needing to Feel Beautiful @ Lisa-Jo Baker […]

  2. […] post from Lisa Jo Baker about why women don’t need to be ashamed of needing to feel beautiful stuck […]

  3. […] “Behind our glasses and insecurities, behind our unruly bangs and business suits or yoga pants, behind our accomplishments and husbands and kids, there is always the little girl who wants to be told she’s beautiful.” From this truthful post—Why Women Don’t Need to Be Ashamed of Needing to Feel Beautiful. […]

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