There are a million trains of thought on beauty out there. Some of them have run peacefully together in parallel to each other; some gracefully wait for each other to pass by before taking their turn; some have been near misses of accidents; some have been the epitome of train wrecks.
I’ve been thinking about how many of these conversations that many of us are exposed to have cascaded down to personal level, and actually been something we’ve considered – seriously – when we look into the mirror.
Over the past few years of unlearning, learning and relearning many things about my identity, I’ve been struck by how much I took in that was never actually said out loud to me.
Case in point, I’ve had natural hair my entire life so I didn’t get half the fuss that came with the “natural hair movement”. Passionate would be too strong a word to describe how I feel about my hair. I appreciate it but I’m hardly going to spend an entire day solely on it. Yet even within the realms of natural hair exist varying dimensions. When it comes to opinion, all natural hair is not equal. It hit me that growing up beautiful was attached to straightened (blow-dried) hair not the curly kinks African hair naturally comes in. I can’t remember a single conversation I ever had with anyone or even overheard that categorically stated one was better than the other. But because of what was smiled at and frowned upon, I subconsciously made inferences about what was beautiful and what was not. It took years for me to even become aware of my thoughts and start questioning – how can the way my hair naturally grows out of my head be a problem that needs fixing?
This can be cascaded to pretty much every area of beauty and the standards we find ourselves inheriting from the world around us. We’re taking in more than we realize, especially in our younger years. With all these competing voices telling us what is beautiful and what is not, where do we find our truth?
Is it in how we feel in the present moment? Which makes beauty a fleeting affair that blows whichever way the winds of our emotions go. So if I feel beautiful, then I am, and if I don’t feel beautiful, then I’m not.
Is it in how the world responds to us? Which makes beauty subject to approval and validation from others. if I don’t get as many likes as I expected then there goes my self-worth. If someone thinks I’d look better in an outfit if I lost a few kilos, then I need to get on a diet ASAP. If they say I’m beautiful, and they mean a great deal to me, then my beauty stars shoot up. But if they change their mind and say the opposite in a moment of angst, my beauty turns into ashes.
Is it in what God says to us? Fearfully and wonderfully made. Each one of us. Which makes our beauty an immovable constant. Because anything from God takes on His nature. It is not subject to internal or external circumstances – if anything, it commands them and bends them to His will. Whether or not I woke up feeling beautiful today, I am beautiful. Whether or not someone called me beautiful or complimented some aspect of me, I am beautiful. I can look in the mirror and see beauty even as I scoff at the pimple that is trying to make a home on my face.
In one of my conversations with God about beauty, I remember telling Him – I want to be beautiful from the inside out, I want to radiate from within. I didn’t fully comprehend the depths to which I was going then. But hindsight makes me so thankful for those moments.
Beauty bestowed by fellow humans – even if the human is self – is fleeting. Because anything that is human is fleeting. It can only soar as high as our strengths go before it is brought back tumbling down by our limitations.
Beauty bestowed by God is as limitless as its Source. It varies in expression but never wavers in its worth. There’s always more of it waiting to be discovered in every time and season. I don’t have to struggle to freeze time and sustain it in a specific way because I understand that I am the steward not the source. All I need to do is follow how He tells me to take care of what He has bestowed on me. This beauty is a place of rest.
The error we make as believers is to assume that the devil wouldn’t use something as “fickle” as our beliefs about beauty to define our thoughts on identity and worth. It’s considered by some a “worldly” topic that doesn’t need to be had by serious believers who need to be busy casting out devils and healing the sick.
I beg to differ. Not only are we capable of having a conversation about raising the dead in the same breath as make up and fashion, I believe we need to. When we start to create boundaries in life matters concerning what is important to God and what is not, then we inadvertently surrender our freedom and inheritance to the enemy. God wants to restore life to that which is dead in us as much as He wants to awaken the beauty within us. He’s not choosing between the two so why are we forcing a choice where none needs to be made and all can be had?
I don’t know what you have believed about yourself and beauty and how those beliefs came to be. But here’s my challenge to you. Invite God to come in and tell you His truth about you and your beauty. Let that be the anchor that grounds you when the waves of opinion and doubt come crashing into your life.
Choose to be beautiful. Yes, choose because it’s a choice to believe that you are beautiful and a choice to live as one who is beautiful. For all the things the world may have to say about beauty, they can’t make that choice for you. Neither can they take it away from you when you dare to believe that you are everything God has called you to be.
Everything. Even beautiful.