My journey of discovering true beauty
I have been hiding behind my spectacles from the age of 10. I hide not because I have “Asian eyes,” but because my left eye is smaller than my right and my eye bags are the size of fish bowls. The hair I have on my forearms are long enough to be combed lightly. I have long, odd-shaped, manly fingers due to my habitual finger and knuckle cracking. In proportion to the rest of my body, the size of my feet can be considered to be that of Bigfoot’s and the size of my head is tiny as a peanut in comparison. People have casually mentioned that I’ve got “thunder thighs” and “an obvious moustache.” To this day, I remember this to be the way others viewed my physical body because it was most evident, and it sure didn’t make me feel beautiful.
At 25 years old, I have grappled with the concept of beauty all my life.
Growing up, I was hyper-conscious of my body image as the leotards we had to wear at gymnastics training often left me feeling exposed. Years of competing in such tight, revealing attire left me with stretch marks on my body; these permanent marks and scars were more than skin-deep, as they scratched into my fragile heart as the years went by. My body felt bruised and damaged and I was dissatisfied with the way my body now looked. I avoided the swimming pool or the beach as I was too afraid to expose the “injured” parts of me. I didn’t want to be seen; I struggled with loving myself.
Male or female, we are all made of flesh. This means that insecurity often eats at us like maggots nibbling from the inside out. Our blinkered eyes will see and perceive what it will; our gullible ears will hear what is spoken to them; our downturned mouths will defeatedly echo words we assume to be true. Our definition of beauty is contingent on how others have defined us.
While many perceive this desire to live up to society’s standards of beauty to be a cry for attention and acceptance, I see it as a plea for freedom: the freedom to be exactly who we are.
“I want to be beautiful, make you stand in awe
Look inside my heart, and be amazed
I want to hear you say; who I am is quite enough
Just want to be worthy of love, and beautiful”
-Beautiful, Bethany Dillon
We all long to roam in the freedom of knowing that we are worthy, loved, and beautiful; that we are enough. While the dictionary might conceptualise beauty as “qualities in a person that pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit,” beauty to me is being able to look at oneself in the mirror, and come intimately face-to-face with a person who loves himself/herself for all that he/she is. The recognition and acceptance of who you are is a mark of true beauty.
As I reflected on my own yearning for this freedom, God took me on a journey of discovering more about beauty, and deposited a few thoughts about it:
Beauty is not just a physical thing, it is a God thing.
The world tells you otherwise, but — believe it or not — your physique, shape, size, and features do not determine how beautiful you are. The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 16:7, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Ladies, society has tricked us into believing that thicker make-up, barely-there apparel and higher heels make us more beautiful. Men, using expensive hair products and having the ideal toned and buff bod are not standards which deem you more macho either. Physical attributes and adornment simply pale in comparison with godly beauty that grows in our heart!
While “charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last” (Proverbs 31:30 NLT), I firmly believe God does not focus on the physical as from the moment He formed us in our mother’s womb, He knew that our bodies are temporary — a makeshift hut before we move into the mansion. Why then should we be caught up in a beauty that lasts for a brief moment, when we can cultivate another form of beauty that transcends time? In 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NLT), it exhorts, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.”
God had always intended for His creation to reflect His beauty, in the same way how majestic mountains invoke awe and wonder. Made in the image of the Most High (Genesis 1:27), we were made to stand tall, comfortable and secure in the skin that God has given us. We have never been made for masquerades, hiding beneath the facades of fake contact lenses or eyelashes and expensive clothing and shoes. It is time we shed the masks that have been hindering true beauty from shining through, because you were God’s idea and He made you someone to behold.
Be kind to yourself.
Personally, this was a difficult lesson as my flesh had grown accustomed to pursuing an ideal that did not exist, which only led me to believe that I could not go easy on nor be kind to myself. I harshly scrutinised my flaws and constantly sought for ways to change myself. (I have even foolishly prayed for pimple scars to disappear!) In complete submission to the standards of worldly beauty, my desperation for physical restoration meant that the failure to meet these standards constantly ate at my soul and spat it out.
Healing only made headway into my broken heart when God pulled the brakes, revealing to me that perfection — although glamorous — is barely attainable. I vividly heard His voice saying, “If you fail to see your beauty, you are failing to see Mine. You might not yet be perfect, but My love for you extends far beyond your imperfections. Let that be enough.” My physical scars will never disappear, and I had to make a choice: to live under the weight of worldly beauty or to live wondrously above it, allowing His beauty to radiate through the cracks of my skin.
I eventually learnt that being kind to myself meant being less critical about my body and caring less about what others thought or said about me; this was only truly possible when I found rest in my identity as God’s beloved and beautiful daughter. The greater attention I paid to what God was saying about me, the faster the voices and opinions of all others began to fade. Soon enough, words could no longer shake me. In fact, I started to feel invincible when I rooted myself securely in my Father’s definition of beauty. I wanted to pursue this transcendent beauty more than revelling in worldly beauty.
At some point in our lives, we will stand at the crossroad — we have to choose which form of beauty we ascribe to. It is not an easy decision to make, as I know full well how mired we can be in the sinking sand of worldly beauty, but it will radically change the way in which you live your life.
Today, I prophetically declare freedom in your life. May every entrenched lie and wrong mentality be broken in Jesus’ name; May God grant you fresh revelations of your true beauty. If you remain convinced that you are not enough and not beautiful, I speak renewed understanding of your identity in Christ.
May you pick yourself up and declare this to your heavenly Father:
“You make me beautiful
You make me stand in awe
You step inside my heart, and I am amazed
I love to hear You say, who I am is quite enough
You make me worthy of love, and beautiful”
Always remember, your inner beauty is so precious to Him.