I’ve known some distractingly handsome men. When I got to know their hearts, they became less attractive. The reverse has also been true. I’ve known men who are entirely average externally, but when I got to know the whole of them, they became attractive in a way that nothing external could possibly alter their appeal. Fortunately, our hearts see people differently than do our eyes.
I do understand that physicality plays a part in our world. I, and most women, know this all too well. We are bombarded with images and expectations in our skin-deep culture. From all directions we hear, “you are not enough” and “you’ll never be loveable looking like you do”. The messages of body image and appearance are exhausting. But, real value does not rise or fall with the number on a scale. Real worth does not count wrinkles or number of years.
On the other hand…
Maybe all that, ‘it’s the soul that matters’ business I’m trying to peddle is just plain rubbish. Does my need to write about internal beauty come purely from my own insecurities? My fear of discussing external beauty? Fear of telling the truth of how I feel about my appearance, at times? Fear of never measuring up?
I’m too tall for our women-should-be-small, men-should-be-big world, I weigh much more than I’d need to survive a fairly lengthy famine, have a mole on my chin, wear glasses when I’m too lazy to put in contacts, have eyelashes that are basically invisible without mascara, breasts that are not nearly as perky as they used to be, dimples in places I didn’t use to have them, and freckles…well, everywhere. I also have a strange obsession with lip-gloss and often think that one day the perfect lip-gloss will be the thing that turns my whole life around.
There are days when I look in the mirror in the morning and think, ‘you look nice’, and step out the door without another thought. And, there are other days when I look in the mirror and think, ‘you are disgusting. You should be ashamed of yourself. Nobody wants to be seen with you.’
What is this seismic shift in my perception? How in 24 hours, sometimes 24 seconds, can I see myself in such a conflicting fashion? Obviously it has very little to do with my appearance, and everything to do with my belief about identity, innate worth and value.
I have made much peace with my reflection in the last 10 years, but the self-hatred can rear its vile head quick enough if I am not diligent about remembering who I am. I am more than skin, more than belly, more than my container.
I am not fat or thin. I am not tall or short. I am Tara! Some days I really have a sense of the difference, some days I don’t.
After years of fighting through empty messages and damaging thoughts about my body, the thing I understand better than ever is that my body is amazing. I have hands that knit to make warm blankets, and garden to make nutritious meals. Arms that wrap around another needing comfort. Fingers to palm a basketball or play Beethoven. Eyes that express pain and see joy. A nose that takes in the beauty of lilacs and new born babies. Lips to share blessings and tell the truth. Skin that absorbs nutrients for my body to thrive. Shoulders for helping carry other’s burdens. Hips to transport children and bags of groceries. Feet for walking difficult paths alongside the wounded.
I choose to accept the beauty of my body exactly as it is in this moment. Acceptance does not mean resignation, it means providing love and compassion in ways that allow for lasting change.
I choose to be grateful for the body I have been given. I choose to understand my responsibility to nurture it, and thank it for the ways it has guided, supported and protected me. Because, nothing ever became a more lovely version of itself by being hated or shamed.