In the past few months, I have had a few really good hair days and a handful of mornings where I walk out the door feeling completely confident in my own skin. But if I’m honest, it is much more common for me to leave the house feeling nearly as “blah” as I did when I first woke up that morning – criticizing and highlighting every area that makes me feel unattractive or insecure. I become consumed by my beauty – or lack thereof.
I tend to live life with an overly-critical mindset toward my outward appearance. Personal insecurities play into much of it, along with a completely insane thought that I will ‘let people down’ if I don’t look a certain way. (Cue the vulnerability. Trust me, I know it’s crazy!) Without a second thought, I can become absolutely consumed by expectations that I have set for myself and those that have been created by the world around me. I have learned that I have to immediately take my eyes off of myself and pray for contentment.
The popularity of social media has perpetuated the idea of feigned perfection; and yet, we can seek it for our entire lives, but this pursuit of “perfect” will leave us completely empty. Everything that once was – our wrinkle-free, blemish-free, shiny hair and tightly-toned-everything – will be gone.
Our looks will never be faithful to us, they will never be preserved despite all attempts with expensive skin treatments or plastic surgery; unfortunately, that is one thing that will never be permanent. We have to come to terms and believe that this striving for perfection is like chasing the wind – it is impossible to grasp, and in a moment’s notice, anything that we once cherished will be different than what it was before.
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” 1 Samuel 16:7.
What if we spent more of our time pursuing a beautiful heart rather than a beautiful face or body?
I know that it’s easier said than done. Vanity can simultaneously build us up and tear us down.
Isn’t it true that, for some of us, in moments when we are affirmed for our appearance, it can spark a desire in us to seek out even more praise?
That when we see someone that we deem as ‘better’ or more attractive than us, we give in to our own insecurities and believe lies that we’re not enough?
That when we start to feel confident in our bodies, we want people to notice our hard work and give us further attention?
But can’t these seemingly-innocent desires rapidly become destructive to our relationships and our lives?
We may begin to desire attention from someone other than our spouse, and although it may feel innocent at first, that temptation manifests itself like fuel to a flame.
We may believe that we aren’t good enough for our friends or acquaintances because they’re more attractive than us, so we distance ourselves and damage relationships because we don’t ‘fit in.’
We secretly, or even blatantly, feed off of someone else’s envy of our looks or lifestyle.
We poke and prod at ourselves daily – spending hours to enhance the way that we appear to others.
We don’t feel ‘good enough’ for our spouse so we stop taking care of ourselves and steal from them by refusing intimacy.
We allow self-obsession to reign over a loving heart.
Whatever it may be, a focus on vanity will never resolve to make our hearts kinder or benefit us in setting our minds on the greatness of God. We become self-consumed.
We are either restlessly preoccupied with being more beautiful or we’re discontent in never being enough. We are obsessed with being beautiful or obsessed with our self-consciousness. Do you fall into one of those categories?
In God’s word, He reminds us that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14) and more precious than jewels (Prov. 3:15.) You may not feel that way when you look in the mirror, but He sees you in a way that you will never see yourself. You are His. Who are we to speak so poorly of ourselves and pick apart a creation that He has designed and woven together? In order to wholly and completely cultivate our inward beauty, we need to find our identity and value in Jesus rather than believing that our value is in who others say that we are.
Ask yourself this: how different would your morning and your Pinterest board look if you were more focused on the state of your heart rather than your appearance? What if you believed that you were who Jesus says that you are? We can fight to keep up with the clothing and makeup trends, but as Proverbs 31:30 tells us, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
Graciousness, kindness, gentleness, thoughtfulness and selflessness are a few of the traits that make a woman beautiful. The amazing women in my life that I admire and genuinely look up to are the ones who overflow with love, wisdom, compassion and kindness. If I am going to run this race that is set before me, those are the women that I need in front of, behind and beside me.
A couple of years into our marriage, my husband and I had an inside joke about a little black dress and pajamas. He used to tell me that I got too dressed up sometimes and was just as beautiful with my pajamas and bedhead as I was in my favorite little black dress. I would always roll my eyes and laugh – of course I didn’t believe him – but he swore up and down that he meant it. The more I thought about it, I acknowledged this as a genuine struggle.
I promised him that, one day, I would choose to believe what he said and feel just as beautiful with my messiest hair and most comfortable pajamas (baggy sweatpants and a 10-year-old t-shirt) because I will know that I am who God says I am. I will know that my body and face don’t dictate my value – that the state of my heart toward Him and the love that I have for others far exceeds all of those things.
That I will be a girl who makes a choice to believe that she is worth far more than her outward appearance.
I am grateful for these conversations because they allowed me to realize that it was far too often that I felt my worth revolved solely around how others saw me. I had to challenge myself to read God’s word and choose to believe His promises. I had to be intentional about pursuing a beautiful heart – to choose to love people above myself. And although I am very much a work in progress, and have far from perfected this, my understanding of beauty has changed drastically because of His grace.
A note of encouragement: When you are tempted to obsess over new clothes, new makeup, a new diet plan – the list goes on – find one thing in your heart that you would also like to see changed. Ask God to prune and mold you in your obsession over beauty and how you look. Find scripture that relates to your struggles and memorize it, fighting your sin with Truth. You will likely find that the focus you place on yourself will become less, and your focus on God and others will become so much greater.
When we pursue perfect beauty, it is comparable to digging a hole that only grows deeper and wider – eventually, the end is nowhere to be found. Friends, this “end” that we are seeking is unachievable. Resolve to get rid of whatever criticisms that you have of yourself and live comfortably in both your pajamas and little black dress. Resolve to spend more time thinking about how you can love much instead of impressing much. Resolve to pursue God above all of your other desires.
By all means, we should exercise and take care of the bodies that God has blessed us with. Desiring to feel confident in ourselves is not a bad thing within itself; it becomes destructive when beauty and self-consciousness steal our joy. We have to stop allowing every area that we are either happy or unhappy with to define our worth. At the end of my life, I want to hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” not, “Well done, my good and beautiful servant.” God’s mercies are new every morning, I encourage you, dear friends, to begin today with the pursuit of a faithful, and beautiful, heart.
So Much Love,