What To Do When We Feel Ugly

April 26, 2010 | 32 comments

By the third grade, I didn’t feel pretty anymore.

The perfectly-lined baby teeth had begun to fall out, replaced by crooked, oversized outcroppings that I hid behind clenched lips. I so envied the girls’ long locks that lay thick and blonde on their shoulders. I saw her olive skin, or her blue eyes, or her long legs — and then my ugliness.

I refused to trade my school pictures that year. I looked at the face of the girl I was becoming and saw only the unlovely.

I grew into a woman, and dared to step into an acceptance of who I was and who I wasn’t. I heard the words of the man who took my hand and pledged forever.

If he found me beautiful, then maybe I could, too?

***

And then I became a mama who worked hard to shield two little girls from the pain of insecurity and the emptiness of vanity.

You’re beautiful, I’d tell them every day, but the most beautiful part about you will always be your heart.

You are simply radiant with God’s beauty! I’d whisper as I combed her hair.

God made you just the way you are, I’d remind her as I pulled the covers to her chin and kissed her forehead.

But sometimes a girl has to hear it from her own mouth to believe the truth of her own beauty.

***

She came to me that day with sadness threatening to spill over the rims of her eyes. She curled up on my lap, and her voice cracked with the I’m-uglies.

Hadn’t she heard what I’d told her a million times? Hadn’t she heard the Words and believed them in her heart — that yes, oh, yes, He really is spellbound by her radiance? Hadn’t I worked so hard to shield her from this?

My heart cracked open wide with hers, and I stroked her hair and wondered how this beautiful girl of mine could ever, ever, ever find herself as anything but?

So we did that thing we do when our hearts break. We prayed to the Creator of All Things Beautiful, the Artist of this God-Gallery.

Heavenly Father, Your Word says that You are enthralled by our beauty, and that You are spellbound by the contents of these hearts You created, I prayed.

And right there in the middle of that prayer, when I was reciting the words of the Psalm to the child on my lap, I paused and turned the mirror to the child living in me — the one who still saw the unlovely.

Had I ever really believed it? Had I ever been truly convinced that He found me — even me — to be beautiful?

In that moment, I knew this truth: A mama’s words ring hollow if they aren’t believed in her own heart, too. How could I parent a girl toward security in who she is, when I so often whispered the “I’m-uglies” to myself?

“Father,” I prayed. “Remind me that you find me beautiful, too. Even me…”

***

This morning — two years later — I combed her hair and smoothed the static, and cupped pure beauty in my hands.

“Child,” I whispered in words that were really meant for both of us, “You. Are. Beautiful.”

And she smiled, and cupped this mama’s face in her own hands. This face that is growing older with the wrinkles and the crow’s feet. And she spoke the words of truth back to the mama: “I know I am, Mommy. And you are, too.”

And this morning, we both believed it.

The king is enthralled by your beauty. — Psalm 45:11

***

This is submitted as a part of the High Calling Blogs network writing project leading up to Mother’s Day. In my own journey of motherhood, I’m finding that as I teach, I’m also ever-learning.

If I want to teach my girls about God’s love for them,
I must believe it’s meant for even me.
If I want them to know He finds them beautiful,
I must be convinced of it even in my own reflection.
And if I want them to believe these words I say,
they must see it also in these things I do.


Photo: Angels in the mirror.

by | April 26, 2010 | 32 comments

32 Comments

  1. Tabitha@ichoosebliss

    Jennifer, you lifted my heart and soul today. Your beauty pours out within your posts and I'm grateful for that!

    Reply
  2. Missie

    Wow! This is a super powerful entry. Thank you so much! I hope that all moms can speak these truths to thier children!

    Reply
  3. Stephani

    You are beautiful in your profile picture, but what's amazing is I don't need to see you to know you're beautiful. I see it in what you say.

    Reply
  4. Shirl

    Oh, this is good!!! Touching!

    Reply
  5. Warren Baldwin

    What we perceive about our appearance at that young age has so much to do with how we accept ourselves. Wise are the parents, such as you are doing, of stressing the inner beauty, character, and spirit. Ironically, even beautiful young women and handsome young men who think they are ugly and worthless accept that false view of themselves. The outer man/woman is fading away, but our inner person is renewed day by day. Good post.

    Reply
  6. jasonS

    I tell my daughter she's beautiful and I also ask her often "who's beautiful?" to which I wait for her to say "I am" and her face beams.

    We need this constantly for sure, but it's never more important than we feel despair and 'ugliness.' Our Father is always speaking truth, life, and blessings but it means so much more when we feel that pain and unworthiness. It's in those times we can cling to it and fully own it… Thanks Jennifer.

    Reply
  7. A Simple Country Girl

    Jennifer,

    This is so good. So good. And these words ring such clarity:

    "In that moment, I knew this truth: A mama's words ring hollow if they aren't believed in her own heart, too."

    Wow.

    Blessings.

    Reply
  8. Andrea

    May GOD bless you as you continue to speak GODS will into the hearts and lives of your children.
    Blessings,
    andrea

    Reply
  9. alicia

    Jennifer,
    I love this post. How true that we can't expect our daughters to know all they are, when they hear us, whom they believe to be beautiful simply because we are their mama's, knock ourselves down. Beth Moore's simulcast was a great inspiration for me this past weekend and I touched on it today too. As women, its hard to run away from insecurity, but God just doesn't mess up.
    Thanks for sharing this touching story!

    Reply
  10. Mc Allen

    wow, this is so beautiful. What a wonderful reminder and testament to out Heavely Fathers Love. Loved this!!! xoxo LA

    Reply
  11. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    Jennifer,

    This was just what I needed today. It is something that my oldest daughter and I were talking about in relation to her oldest daughter, Mikaela who is 7. This just reiterated what my feelings were and I am so thankful for your powerful message!

    Thank you so much!

    Reply
  12. S. Etole

    "your face is lovely and your voice is sweet" … how difficult to believe those words He whispers in SofS

    Reply
  13. Beth E.

    This is wonderful, Jennifer. I sit here with tears threatening to spill over. A message that women of all ages need to hear!

    We have such a difficult time seeing beauty in ourselves. Time and again, I've heard the uncertainty in my own voice as I asked my parents (and later my husband), "How do I look? Do I look okay? Are you sure?" I, too, have struggled with my appearance for many years.

    What a powerful lesson you have taught your daughters! A lesson we all should learn. 🙂

    Blessings to you…

    Reply
  14. Graceful

    This post is beautiful (as are you, Jennifer)!

    Sometimes I'm grateful I have two young boys — they come with their own issues, but the I'm-uglies isn't usually one of them. I still have to be careful though — I do the "I'm fat" refrain often enough, and my oldest has picked up on it: "Why do you call yourself fat, Mommy?" Even boys need to hear the right messages about loving your body and respecting others' bodies, too.

    Thanks for reminding me of that!

    And you should hop over to Jumping Tandem today — Deidra is writing on a similar topic today.

    Reply
  15. Lynda Young

    This is an awesome post that is so important for all women to hear and believe. Thank you.

    Reply
  16. Sara

    It's been a bit since I had the time to stop by and sip in your words. Thank you for your honesty and reflection that sparkles His love into all of our lives.

    Hugs for your day,
    Sara

    Reply
  17. annkroeker

    "A mama's words ring hollow if they aren't believed in her own heart, too."

    What a truth. My kids can always sniff out whether or not I really believe something; whether I really "own" it.

    And when I'm touched down in the core, clinging to Truth, completely convinced, they know that, too.

    I'm so glad you know so intimately and personally that You. Are. Beautiful.

    Not only do you help your daughters know that truth–you remind us, as well.

    Can't wait to share this on HighCallingBlogs.com on Wednesday!

    Reply
  18. Runner Mom

    Oh, Jennifer! How beautiful! Thank you sweet friend for this. I think we all can use a reminder that God is enthralled by our beauty. You brought tears to my eyes tonight. You are a wonderful mama!!
    Hugs!
    Susan

    Reply
  19. Sara

    You continue to encourage me in this blog adventure!

    Jennifer, I wanted to thank you for being a part of my first year of blogging! What a wonderful year it has been. I'm throwing a little party and as an honored guest, I would love for you to stop by and share a highlight of your year with all of us.

    http://justsarahdawn.blogspot.com/2010/04/cactus-happy.html

    Cactus Happy,
    Sara

    Reply
  20. Kathy S.

    Beautiful and heartwarming!

    Reply
  21. Wendy Paine Miller

    As a mama to three girls who are becoming so aware of how culture defines beautiful, I loved this piece.

    It spoke to some very specific conversations I've been having with my girls.

    Ah, that he is enthralled with our beauty and most of the time I feel covered in guck. What a God!!!!!!

    ~ Wendy

    Reply
  22. Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife

    I so know those feelings! I hope and pray that my daughters will always feel beautiful on the inside and the outside. I am so grateful to my husband who says every day to my oldest daughter that she is the most beautiful girl in the world. He is going to have to change that when Lily gets older!

    I still remember the kid that came up to me, laughed at me and said I was ugly in Junior High. I wanted to crawl in a hole and disappear. I couldn't get away from him and dreaded going to that class. It still hurts after all these years. I have used that example several times to teach my kids the power of words.

    You are beautiful on the inside and out, Jennifer! Especially on the inside. It pours out in your writings and inspires us all to be more godly. Thank you!

    Reply
  23. Red Letter Believers

    I noticed most of the comments were by women..so leta man weigh in here too. We feel ugly too! As the age creeps on us, we too are faced with media images, inadeqacies and a sense that time has slingshot us past our primes. Even as we men need to affirm our wives, wives need to the same to their man. We have beauty because we are God's!!
    David

    Reply
  24. Solveig

    Lovely–and powerful because it rings true. Only God brings our beauty home and gives us deep confidence.

    Reply
  25. Candi

    Thank you for this post, Jennifer. It's a Word from the Lord for me on this day. Thanks for pushing us towards Jesus and Truth.

    Reply
  26. Holly

    Your words make me cry. You're right. How can I teach my own daughter of how the King delights in her, if I cannot see this same reflection by Him, in myself?

    I've been so hypersensative in this area. She is a beautiful biracial girl, and as her adoptive mom, I know she sighs when we look in the mirror together and she stares at my blue eyes, while I admire her gorgeous olive skin and melted chocolate eyes. I see the wistfulness on her face, and I wish I could believe it for her – for both of us, but I realize that we each must walk this path on our own and embrace the Truth, instead of turning away from Him and His waiting arms.

    Reply
  27. Kathleen

    "Captivating" ~ finally.

    Reply
  28. Sam Van Eman

    Beautiful story here, Jennifer. I have two girls – 9 and 6 – and I pray that they believe it, too.

    P.S. Glad you liked the Sabbath piece at The High Calling. 🙂

    Reply
  29. Missy

    Jennifer, such a lovely post and one that I feel you wrote at just the right time for me. I am currently working through Beth Moore's book So Long Insecurities: You've been a bad friend to me.

    This post just emphasis what I am learning. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  30. Modesty is Pretty

    Oh my God,I just found your amazing blog and reading this post I started to cry, I've been struggling with this issue because I just never even thought about all of these things you are writing, God bless you so much! You are awesome.

    Reply
  31. Carol

    Just heard the words of Beth Moore tonight. We all want to be beautiful. We all want to be princesses. We are so beautiful in His eyes. Thank you for your words tonight to remind me of this. When I am feeling especially ugly, God still wants me. God still loves me. God thinks I am beautiful!

    Reply
  32. Rene

    Thank you for your post
    I feel ugly at times when people compare me with others
    or when they make comments about my appearance
    I may not be beautiful to the majority of the world

    but i remember I am made in the image of Christ
    and that is something I will always remember
    When I am weak, He is my strength.
    When I am lost, He pursues me
    We are made in the image of God.
    yet we only see the brokenness in us
    But God sees the beauty in us.
    You are all amazing and unique!!

    Reply

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