A Letter To My Teen Self: Beauty
Dear me (age 13-19)
I know you hate what you see in the mirror. I know how you avoid having your photo taken. On the outside you appear so confident and so strong but when you’re alone in your bedroom, you avoid looking in the mirror because you never feel good enough. I know the harder you try, the more insecure you feel because there is just always someone who is more beautiful. (How can you compete with that?) I know that when people compliment you, you think: they were just being nice. They didn’t really mean it. I know there are days defined by thoughts of anxiety about your weight and appearance. I know how you don’t think you’re worthy enough to enter certain stores, the stores who’s adverts you look at in awe in the magazines and believe, if you could just look like them, you would be complete – that’s when you’d finally be happy, that’s when you’ll finally have it all together. I know how you don’t feel worthy enough to wear trousers because your thighs are just too fat, so you stick to skirts and tell yourself you don’t like trousers anyway. I know how you watch all your friends get compliments and texts by boy after boy while in your whole 16 years you can’t seem to get one to look at you twice. Maybe because your hair just isn’t straight enough or you’re thighs just don’t have that gap in the middle.
There was a night when you went out for dinner with your friends to Frankie and Benny’s and your blonde, blue-eyed best friend had the waiter hand her his number on a napkin as you left and you went home and cried because you knew it wasn’t you because you just weren’t beautiful like her and you never would be. And there will be this time a few years after where you’ll actually go to your GP because you wanted to ask about nose surgery (there was a girl in dance class when you were in year 6 that said you had a big nose and you’d noticed it ever since).
I know and these things I know break my heart. You sweet, little girl have been lied to. You’ve been told that a specific look equals beautiful and that beautiful equals perfect and that perfect equals happy. You’ve been told that the admiration that comes with being considered beautiful is worth it no matter what the cost. You are ready to starve, throw up even.
You’ve been told that if you want to be successful in life you have to be beautiful. You have been told that if you want to be loved you have to beautiful. It seems absolutely crazy. And it is.
I want to tell you something but I need you to hear me out.
I want to tell you that what you believe about beauty will be determined by where you look, like TV shows, movies, music videos and the Internet. I know you’ve heard all about how Barbie does not reflect the appearance of the average woman and airbrushing has led to unrealistic beauty standards. It’s not about Barbie, airbrushing or Photoshop. You know the facts. What will actually save you from being self-conscious and self obsessed with your appearance is understanding what it stems from.
And it’s your pride.
Did you notice in your list of complaints about yourself, the predominant occurrence of the words “I’m” and “my”? True humility does precisely the opposite—it forgets itself. Your Maker formed you, lovingly and tenderly, so that He might be admired. When you worry about your appearance its because YOU crave admiration when you were actually created to reflect the glory and beauty of Christ to those around you, not the glory and beauty of yourself. Be wholly absorbed by Him.
I want to tell you today how those girls on the runway and in the magazines, that seem to have genes from another planet and are everything you’ll never be, are just one perception of beauty and perception of beauty fluctuates.
I want to tell you that your view of body-image cannot merely be given a makeover. It must be revolutionized. Your body is the temple of the holy spirit and Psalm 84:1 says, “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty!” You are God’s dwelling place. His lovely dwelling place.
But this is the part I really need you to trust me on. I want to tell you about a God who with just one word from His mouth made the heavens, with just one breath from His lips made the foundations. This God dreamed you up. He dreamed up every innermost detail of you with fear and wonder (Psalm 139:14). And the same God who holds the stars in His hand and placed them in the sky one by one, looks at your eyes and asks you to turn them away from Him for they overwhelm Him so (Song of Songs 6:5). This God thinks you’re beautiful enough to win your heart by dying for you. This God calls you flawless (Song of Songs 4:7). And here’s what really gets me every time. God does not exaggerate. When he says you make His heart beat faster (Song of Songs 4:9), He means it. What He says, you are. Doesn’t that beat any attention a guy could give you? Will you let that be enough? From your eye color to your hair color to your personality to your genes, God purposely created you this way, and you know what? He is enthralled by your beauty (Psalm 45:11). You are already beautiful enough to hold the King of Kings spellbound. Whatever you think beauty will give you, can you trust God to meet that need? Will you let that be where you find your worth and appreciation?
Oh and about the guy thing, the guy who loves Christ is the one who will love a girl looking to be adorned in Christ each day, containing the most valuable fruits of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). There is a beauty that is much more precious than the number on a scale and that isn’t here today and gone tomorrow but rather gets better by time (Proverbs31:30).
Finally, I want to tell you; we were made for beauty and beauty is so incredibly important. But please understand; we weren’t made to be beauty graspers. We were made to be beauty gazers because, Victoria Secret models and Beyoncé aside, there is someone who is so much more infinite in beauty than all of them put together. Just spend time with Your Lord and Maker alone and I promise you’ll see. Isolation won’t help you heal. This is an idol so you need to read the truth in His word when it’s too dark to see beyond the lies you’ve come to believe; you don’t need more self esteem and you don’t need more beauty. You need to esteem Him first. Some days are still harder than others; run. Run to Him with hope and faith even if that faith seems too small to be enough. I’ve been where you are and He has boundless grace enough for you.
“One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”