A couple of days ago, I let you all know I would be participating in the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest, sponsored by August McLaughlin, and inspired by the Sam Levinson poem (click the link to go to her site and check out all the entries, which will be posted Friday. I promise it will totally be worth your reading time). Here is mine:
Most of you have heard the term, “Beauty is only skin deep”. Probably someone used this statement to console you at one point or other in your life, when you felt intimidated or inferior to someone who used their physical beauty to belittle you. At the very least, you heard it in passing. But is it? Is beauty only skin deep?
Like many women, I have struggled with body image since I was a little girl, and first heard someone tell me I was fat. I have dieted, exercised, cried, lamented, criticized, rationalized, judged, and binged my way thru the last 45 years. I once described myself as a “Big, Beautiful Dutch Woman”, as a tongue in cheek way of trying to accept myself for who I was. It was mostly a bravado filled, fake it till you make it statement. But I think I am finally ready to own it.
And it’s about time, I guess. I am one year away from my 50th birthday, and I don’t think I want to waste any more of my precious time or energy worrying about measuring up to someone else’s idea of beauty. I have better things to do, and frankly Society, I just don’t give a damn anymore.
I’m tired of worrying if someone will notice my size 11 feet, my man hands, or my jiggly belly. Tired of wondering if someone disapproves of my loud laugh or inappropriately placed comment. Tired of feeling exposed and vulnerable just because I am a size 16 and not a 10.
At the top of my blog, I reference a scripture about our bodies being the temple of the Holy Spirit. I originally chose that as a way to remind myself to feed my body and spirit with healthy things, to keep it prepared to be God’s servant. But now – now I see it as the defining start to beauty. It begins with God’s accepting and loving Spirit entwined with mine. Fearfully and wonderfully made. Oh hell yes. Because He is the Author of this piece of work I have held in judgement and loathing for so long, and He sees His creation as beautiful. Who am I to argue?
So I will embrace the goofy German woman – unconventional and glorious – who hams it up for the camera, loves the spotlight and relishes the laughter from her audience. Who giggles at off-color jokes and makes funny faces. Who sings “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz” loud and joyously in the bathroom and whistles her way thru life.
But I will also embrace and accept the judgmental side of this woman, who can be quick to criticize and use shame as misguided motivation, and I won’t beat myself up anymore for having these traits. I will continue to ask God to help me channel them into constructive behaviors, to use them to problem solve and organize, love and accept. To use them to fuel my determination and spirit, to reach my goals and God’s.
I will embrace the Belgian woman, who loves puns and word play, and really, really dumb jokes. Who loves a good fluffy book and a bag of chips with her butt plopped on a sandy beach and nothing but blue sky above. Who is nurturing and gentle, kind and encouraging. Who comes thru the door at the end of the day, and can’t wait to see her family.
But I will also embrace and accept the lost, passive side of this woman, who can spend too much time as a wallflower and go unnoticed in a crowded room. Who is uncomfortable with people she thinks may be above her and not assertive enough to claim what is hers. I will ask God to give me strength to believe in myself, to step forward and accept a compliment, and to recognize my worth in any situation, among any group of people.
And finally. The big, beautiful Dutch woman. I will embrace this woman most of all, as she is the one I have had the biggest love/hate relationship with. Her big hands, breasts and feet have been the prime source of contention and ridicule in my life. She is the one I see in the mirror when I get out of the shower, that I cover as much as possible to avoid having her be seen. She is the one I have been ashamed of.
But this woman is also the one who has brought me the greatest joys. She gave me the strong legs that pedaled 100 miles and ran 13.2…twice! The strong arms that carried my babies and helped my husband with chores. A body that at 49 can keep up with the 20 year olds in the gym (well, maybe the 30 year olds). A body that nurtured, grew, and birthed the two greatest gifts God has ever given me – my kids.
She has cellulite and scars. Saggy skin (not to mention the direction the ‘girls’ are headed) and stretch marks. Age spots, moles and wrinkles. Bunions and cracking knees. Her feet hurt, she can’t remember where she put her car keys much less the name of the person she just met, and she has some old-fashioned values her kids don’t always appreciate. But she is beautiful and lovely and gets up every single day and does what I ask her to. So, from this day forward, I will love, accept and cherish every single square inch of her.
Several years ago, I started trying to see other people – family, friends, enemies and strangers – as God saw them. I tried to picture them thru His eyes, and it truly has helped me grow as a person, to be more loving and accepting of others, to be kinder and more forgiving. But I left someone out of that equation. Me. Today I will begin a new journey, of remembering to see myself as God sees me – fearfully and wonderfully made, a home to His Spirit. I will truly believe I am His temple, that my beauty starts in my core where His Spirit resides and engulfs mine, bubbling joyously to the surface.
Beauty is not skin deep. It is Spirit deep.