I’m 42 years old but I still remember that my least favorite picture of myself is my 7th grade school picture. I absolutely hated that picture (and still don’t really care for it, LOL). I remember the horror of walking into my grandmother’s house and seeing it displayed on a shelf in her living room and her exclamation about her “pretty little grandbaby.” I thought something was seriously wrong with my grandmother. Was she seeing the same picture I was seeing?
Fast-forward to present day, and my life is different. I am now a middle school teacher and have to deal with girls who often feel the same way that I did all those years ago. While I see beautiful young ladies who will become beautiful women, they see that ugly duckling who wants to hide from the world. I know it’s even harder for them now in the age of social media, followers, influencers, selfies, and the endless filters. I’ve seen girls take 20 plus pictures of themselves trying to get just the right look just to be able to post that one “perfect” picture. Then they sit back and wait to see how many ‘likes’ they will get. Those ‘likes’ ultimately tell them how beautiful and worthy they are in the world. It completely breaks my heart.
I’ve even had girls deflect my compliments, telling me I couldn’t possibly understand how they feel, and then often commenting on how pretty I am, how confident I am. I have to look behind me at times, trying to figure out who they’re talking to. Who, me? So pretty? So confident? They just don’t know…
I’m not saying that I think that I am ugly or not worthy of compliments. That’s far from the truth. The truth is I am very happy with the me I see in the mirror nowadays, but as you know, it hasn’t always been that way. But I’m also not the conceited one who spends hours in the mirror perfecting my look. I rarely wear any makeup (too much work to do), I keep my natural hair in dreadlocks (natural hair is A LOT of work otherwise), and I can usually be found in a pair of jeans, a cute top, and either some cute sandals or slip-on sneakers (I can’t stand heels nor fussy clothing). My “beauty” routine is pretty simple, and it works for me.
So what is it that these young ladies are seeing in me that I didn’t have when I was their age? They see that I now see myself not through my own eyes, but through the eyes of God. It took me years to get to here, but now that I realize that God took time to 1) make me in His own image and 2) make me unique and just the way He envisioned, I HAD to learn to love the woman staring back at me as well. Otherwise, I would be telling God that I don’t appreciate the work and the love that He put into creating me.
For a long time I did not understand Psalm 139: 14 that says ” I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” I would quote it but have no idea what it really meant until I finally decided to research it a bit. Fearfully doesn’t mean something negative and scary in this scenario. This fearfully deals with the fact that the creation of a human is a miraculous, awe-inspiring feat that should not be taken lightly. The entire process is mesmerizing yet meticulous while week after week and month after month, what started off as nothing is formed into a human being, a living, breathing, unique human being. No two are just alike, even if they look alike. Isn’t that fascinating? Knowing that even though I went through the same process as every other human, yet I am still uniquely me, makes my heart swell with pride. There is no one just like me. God did that.
Wonderfully says it all, as well. Although we all could probably explain the scientific idea of conception, the process itself is full of wonder. While we could explain the many ways that our bodies function, our bodies themselves are still a thing full of wonder. The fact that I am alive and breathing is full of wonder. The fact that I have a purpose here on earth is full of wonder. The fact that I can impact other people’s lives and ultimately play a role in building God’s Kingdom is full of wonder.
When I think about the thought and care that was put into creating me (fearfully and wonderfully) and the fact that I was created in His image (Genesis 1:27), I choose to carry myself differently. What my students see as “so pretty” has taken years to develop: a love for myself beyond what the world says I should be looking for and accepting of myself. If my full value was only what I saw in the mirror, what would I really have? Nothing!
Instead I’ve learned to value all aspects of myself, my style, my hopes, dreams and fears, my likes and dislikes, my looks, my heart, my soul, my abilities, my strengths, and my weaknesses. All of these things (and many more) make me who I am and neither a selfie nor an “ugly” school picture can summarize or take away from all of that. Remembering that God has a plan and purpose for creating me keeps me going and helps me to love the woman in the mirror. Remembering that God has a plan and a purpose for me gets me excited in the morning and gives me the energy to want to conquer the day. Remembering that God has a plan and a purpose for me and that He created me just the way He wanted me also gives me the confidence that others may interpret to be “so pretty”.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I wear that that truth as my crown every day; it flows down into my soul and my spirit, and shines brightly for all to see.