Image is everything in the world today. All you have to do is pick up a magazine or turn on the TV and you’re surrounded by images of anorexic, computer edited models that the media projects as “beautiful.” I’ve always known that the media’s projection of beauty was wrong, but it took something more than this shallow knowledge for me to actually understand.
It must have been sometime around sixth grade, almost four years ago, that I started to become more self-conscious about my body and the way I looked. This marked the beginning of a gradual, downward spiral that I still don’t think I’ve pulled out of. Throughout middle school, I began to worry more and more about the way I looked. I became more conscious of things such as my clothing choices and my hair. But I didn’t see myself as trying to be somebody I wasn’t; I was just changing my tastes a little.
But this year, ninth grade year, the bottom of my slow spiral dropped out completely. I started my high school career at a private school where I knew no one and no one knew me, a drastic change from the public school that I had gone to previously where I had remained with many of the same people since kindergarten. This year, I was done with being the “unpopular” girl that hardly anybody wanted to hang out with. I began to spend increasing amounts of time in front of the mirror, worrying about my appearance. As I looked at everyone around me, my own reflection began to seem worse and worse.
My complexion is so blotchy; my face is so oily. Look at her hair; why can’t my hair be as beautiful as hers? My legs are so big; are other people’s legs this big? Nothing in my closet looks good. What are all the other girls wearing? Why can’t my body, my clothes, be beautiful like hers?
I wanted to fit in, but at the same time I didn’t. I knew that my body was beautiful in God’s eyes and that should be enough, but I wanted to be accepted so badly. And so my downward spiral continued. Then one day, something that I had always known, deep down inside, rose up a smacked me in the face.
I was sitting on my bed, flipping through my Bible, when I opened it up to a place I had previously bookmarked for a project and began reading a section I had never read before:
“Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT).
Wow. I had it all wrong. And as I thought about it more, it became even clearer: the most important beauty has nothing to do with what’s on the outside, but it has everything to do with what’s on the inside. As I think about all of the people who are the most beautiful to me, I realize that they’re not beautiful because they have perfect bodies or because they wear “stylish” clothes; they’re beautiful because of what they have on the inside: kindness, compassion, faith, love.
I believe that the beauty that matters most to God, and should matter most to me, is not the beauty that depends on my body but rather the beauty that depends on my spirit.
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