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10.17.2012

A Post About Beauty and a Letter to My Daughter(s)


Sometimes when I am in looking in the mirror getting ready for the day and my daughter is at my side watching me rub stuff on my face, she'll sigh an exasperated sigh and say, "Mom, you don't need makeup. You are already beautiful."

I think she says that because she wants me to stop paying attention to my eyelashes and pay attention to her. So I give her my attention and then she says it again, with some urgency, as if trying to convince me that I don't need to put this stuff on my face.

It surprises me a little bit because I am not high maintenance and do not wear a ton of make-up. In fact, I consider myself cosmetologically challenged. I like that she thinks I don't need makeup to be beautiful. I ask her if she thinks I wear too much makeup.

"No," she says. "I just think you are beautiful without it." 

"Thanks, Sarah," I say, then add "I know that I don't need make up. And sometimes I don't even wear it. It's okay to wear makeup, but you don't need to wear makeup to be beautiful. Right?"

"Right," she says.

"Because what is it that makes someone beautiful?" I ask her.

"Their heart," she says.

"Right, and who made us?"

"God."

"And He made us to be just the way we are. True beauty is what God says it is, not what others say it is. People will change and their opinions will change, but God never changes. You are beautiful, Sarah, and so am I because God made us." 

I heard once of someone who never told their daughter that she looked beautiful because they didn't want her to think more highly of herself than she ought. I don't know for certain, but I'm not sure that little girls can think too highly of themselves. I have a theory that people who appear to think too highly of themselves, really don't think highly enough of themselves. They might act like they do, but deep down they don't. I'm generalizing, of course.

I suppose there is a difference between telling a little girl that she looks beautiful and telling her that she is beautiful. Still, when my daughter picks out her own clothes and puts together an outfit that I would never have chosen, she looks just as beautiful to me as when she wears matching clothes.

I think that must be the way God is with me. When I am discouraged and tired, when I don't have it all together and my intentions may be good but are mismatched, when I am completely wrong but think I am right, I wonder if God would pull me close, smile and say, "Anne, I think you are beautiful." I like to think He does. Because when he looks at me He sees Christ in me. I am forgiven. I am in progress. He sees me not as I am but as I will be. (Here's a good resource to see how God views you.)

Maybe God will let me wear my wrong intentions on my sleeve and let me learn from my fashion mistakes. Or, maybe He'll tell me to go change my heart to something more appropriate. But either way, He spreads out His arms for an embrace and whispers in my ear, "You are beautiful and I love you. I love who you are. I love who you are becoming."

I hope that my girls understand that no matter what Hollywood and Madison Avenue tell us, beauty is not about anything external that we can buy to put on. It is not about our height or our weight or our body fat index. Beauty is already in us because we are made in God's image. It is on the inside to be developed. As this internal beauty is developed, it affects the external. For real. I am not exactly sure how this happens, but I know that it does.

It's hard being a girl in our culture. As much as I tell my daughters that they are beautiful, they see images of what others consider beautiful and hear their own friends talking of a beauty and comparing themselves to what is put out there as beautiful. That's the crazy thing about when your view of beauty is rooted in what the world says. Nothing -- not any thing -- is good enough.

Recently I read something that Peter wrote to women about beauty. He said, "don't depend on things like fancy hairdos or gold jewelry or expensive clothes to make you look beautiful. Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last and God considers it very special. (1 Pet. 3:3-4)"

I was struck that Peter didn't prohibit external adornment, he only said we should not depend on it to look beautiful. And why should we depend on it when Peter just gave us the secret to lasting beauty! It's right there: be beautiful in your heart.

Outward beauty fades like the flowers of the fields. To depend on outward beauty is futile. Outward beauty without inward beauty is meaningless. But the inward beauty of the heart, that is what God considers very special and it shines long after the outward beauty is gone.

So while I do my best to take care of my appearance, and I try to teach my daughters to do the same, I want them to know that they are beautiful whatever they look like. We do not need to depend on outward things. We do not need to subscribe to a temporary, shallow definition of beauty. We need to invest our energy into cultivating the true beauty, the lasting beauty, that is in our hearts.

"I am beautiful on the inside and on the outside," Sarah said as she smiled at my reflection in the mirror.

I smiled back. "Yes, you are." 

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Dear Beautiful Daughter(s) of Mine,
I know it's hard right now. When I was young, I felt many of the same things you are feeling. I know that you and I are different, and our situations are different. But there are some themes that are constant, from generation to generation, because we are human beings. I know what it feels like to wish I looked like someone else, and to look in the mirror and not like what I see looking back at me.
I know what it is to think that if only I looked differently - or behaved differently - then maybe someone would love me. I put my sense of self worth in others' opinions of me. That didn't work out too well for me. You know part of that story.
I didn't realize that it was actually very harmful to put too much importance on what other people thought of me. I wanted so badly for people to love me and accept me. I didn't have a very good opinion of myself and my own value. So I tried to be what I thought they wanted me to be. I compared myself to others and tried to be more like them instead of who God made me to be.
I have learned that my value is not found in what others think of me. I never really understood  until recently how much God values me, even though I had heard about it all my life. He values you too. He loves you very much and He thinks that you are beautiful.
I hope that you can be convinced that your value is found in God while you are still young. I hope you don't try to find your value in a certain crowd's acceptance or a boy's attention. People's attention and acceptance often changes and is unsatisfying. If you can know that now, maybe you can avoid some of the hurt that I - and our family - have experienced because of my wrong thinking about my value. But you will probably have your own hurts, and I want you to know that I love you no matter what.
You are a beautiful girl. Inwardly, definitely.  But outwardly too! You can be confident in who you are even if you look different than those around you. You are made by God. You are loved just the way you are and you don't need to be anyone other than who God made you to be. When I look at you, sometimes I am just in awe of you. God has given you so many amazing qualities that I always wished I had. 
Be careful who's opinion you value. Be careful who you listen to for advice. I am always here for you, and Daddy is too. The bible is God's Word for you and a resource for you to know what God thinks of you and what you should do. God loves you so much that He sent his son to die for you! That is crazy love. God is crazy about you. Daddy and I will sometimes fail you, but God will never ever fail you.  
I love being your mamma. I'm excited that I get to guide you in this journey with God's help. 
I love laughing with you and talking with you. I love watching you as you develop into who God is making you to be. 
With so much love,
Mom

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