Mustering the Courage to Believe in Beauty

“Don’t you know how beautiful you are?”

“You always say that to me when you tuck me in!” sweet little seven-year-old Vivi squealed as I pulled the covers over her.

“Well, do you know that it’s true?”

“Of course I do, silly!”

The overwhelming joy I feel when I hear her unhesitant response is quickly followed by a sense of panic.

When will the inevitable happen?

When will this bright-eyed beauty begin denying the truth in exchange for the insidious chatter of society?

You’re not beautiful. You’re not pretty. You’re not good enough.

You are not allowed to be unique. You must change.

I remember sitting in music class as a kindergartener. It was recorder day, everyone’s favorite. As the children around me laughed joyously while playing made up tunes on their plastic flutes, I sat staring down at my thighs, wondering why mine were so much bigger than all the other girls’.

I remember running around during fifth grade recess and wondering why my hair wasn’t as shiny and my teeth weren’t as straight as my friends.

By the time I was a freshman in high school, self-loathing was a social norm among my friends and I. We’d spend hours scrolling through Facebook and Instagram feeds, each perfectly filtered photo serving as a glaring reflection of our own hideous flaws.

“Look at her body! She’s perfect. That’s enough to make me consider starvation.”

“Hey, if it would mean looking that good, I’d gladly starve myself. Her pictures look airbrushed. I basically look like a disgusting pig next to her.”

Oh darling…don’t you know how beautiful you are?

The truth is, her photos look airbrushed because they are. Everyone’s are.

We have entered a season in society where it has become socially acceptable for young women to spend hours editing social network profiles, carefully choosing photos, and untagging unflattering pictures, in the hopes of portraying an “ideal image.”

Sometimes I slip into a sweet daydream of a world where Valencia and X-Pro don’t exist…

I pray that I am not the first to tell you that the ideal version of yourself is not to be hidden behind the screen of an iPhone. Surely your worth comes from more than the amount of people who precariously double-tap that shot you just spent so much time choosing a filter for.

Believe me, whoever you are reading this right now… whether you’re a Vivi or a high school me… I can assure you that you are beautiful. You are a splendid soul, perfectly made, carefully crafted. You are brave and cherished. You hold immense potential and you have a father in Heaven who is incredibly impressed with your messy morning hair.

Believe it in your heart. Carry it in your soul. Sing it in your sleep. Dream it.

Because it’s true.

Don’t you know how beautiful you are?

 

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Vivi, age 7

Finding Hope

Numb. Lifeless. Hopeless.

These words have etched themselves into my soul the past seven months.

I never thought I would deal with depression. My alcoholic mother has cited depression as the reason for self-medicating with vodka for years. I refused to be anything like her. I didn’t understand how someone could be so selfish.

Then, seven months ago, a tsunami hit my life.

I moved in to college…a new home, new roommate, new schedule, new classes.

I broke up with my boyfriend of 4 years… no one to lean on for stability and support anymore, no one to tell me I was good enough.

I changed my major…the assurance of stability and financial support that would have come from a nursing degree dissipated in the blink of an eye.

I thought I had built my castle so strategically. There were strong, high walls for protection and a moat to keep out the water, but my castle was flawed…it was made out of sand, ready to crumble as soon as any hint of change threatened to enter in. A treacherous, icy wave crashed down on my life with ease, destroying everything, leaving nothing but a thin layer of foam outstretched over scattered particles of sand.

For once in my life, I didn’t know how to fix my castle and I had no motivation to try. No temporary relief or quick-fix could mend the damage that had been done.

At first, I felt pain. It was deep and it ached, yet still hopeful.

But as time went on, the pain turned into torment as I became numb. Hope leaked out of my heart. Distress and affliction sucked the life out of me.

For seven months, I have been seeking out new foundations to build a new castle on. I have looked for something to breathe life back into me.

I have focused on getting stellar grades. I have tried obsessing over exercise and counting calories. I tried a new guy. I have filled every minute of my schedule so I wouldn’t have time to think about the melancholy that has a choke-hold on my life. I have contemplated death.

The melancholy is here. It has penetrated the depths of my being, but I find comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my sorrow. The Bible is filled with stories of those who suffer from feeling hopeless.

In Psalm 102, David prays desperately to God,

“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you! Do not hide your face from me in the day of my distress! Incline your ear to me; answer me speedily in the day when I call! For my days pass away like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is struck down like grass and has withered; I forget to eat my bread. Because of my loud groaning my bones cling to my flesh. I am like a desert owl of the wilderness, like an owl of the waste places; I lie awake; I am like a lonely sparrow in the housetop.”

In 1 Kings 19:4 it says that Elijah,

“asked that he might die, saying, ‘It is enough now, Oh Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.'”

And the real zinger…even Jesus, King of all, Son of God, a holy, precious prince… understands sadness.

In John 11:35, it says, “Jesus wept” after hearing that Lazarus has passed away.

Healing is going to take time. Feeling again is going to take time. Until then, I put my hope in knowing that my Savior understands how I feel. My foundation will be in Him whose heart aches along with mine. He feels my emotions deep in His own soul.

I am not alone.