As a woman who battled with self-worth in the past, this was a regular struggle for me. As a child, I remember watching my mother get dressed for dates with my father and thinking, “Mommy is the most beautiful woman in the world.” She was poised, opinionated, funny, spoke three languages fluently, intelligent, kind, fashionable, had dozens of friends and was the life of the party. Her southern accent, smooth mahogany skin, almond-shaped eyes, and radiant smile made her stand out. My mother was the standard, everything I wanted to be. When she passed away, I was 7 and was left with nothing but my memories and pictures.
I developed very early and was always trying to hide my very mature body. No one else looked like me, so I was convinced that I was not beautiful in a traditional sense and spent a lot of time trying to find alternative ways to be noticed. I decided that I would be funny. Being the class socialite and clown definitely got me noticed and garnered some friends but at dances, while they always liked to hang out and laugh with me, the boys still flocked to the “pretty girls”.
As a teenager, I became aware that others with big breasts and hips were flaunting them and not hiding them and so why should I? The jeans got tighter, skirts shorter, and tops tighter and lower cut. That got everyone’s attention. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling of not quite measuring up.
At this time, I developed an eating disorder that would follow me for the rest of my life.
I went into my twenties like most people, thinking I knew everything and not really having a clue. I still didn’t feel beautiful, but I had gotten really good at faking it. I smiled, painted my face, slipped on my heels and “freak um dresses” and partied like my life depended on it. Not going to lie, the attention was nice. Unfortunately, it had nothing to do with the real me. No one had any idea about the books I’d read, places I’d traveled, goals I accomplished, what kind of a friend I was, nothing. One look at me provided all most wanted to see: there stands a “good time”.
I was 27 and at a crossroads when my I had my revelation. I was unhappy. I became aware of what the world was saying about me and the reviews weren’t good. What I thought was sexy read as desperate and shallow. I turned to God and was lead to Proverbs 31: 10-31, the Virtuous Woman. The reason I felt I never measured up was because I was using the wrong kind of ruler. I’d spent so much time trying to perpetuate worldly beauty that I had missed the mark on what I really wanted to be. The woman I admired most, wanted to emulate, the most beautiful in my eyes: my mother. She was truly a woman of God. She turned to God at every opportunity and was always thankful for her every blessing, even when colon cancer had completely ravaged her body. Her life, her character was beautiful. That’s what lasts, what truly matters.
These days, I still deal with the external and internal pressures of beauty. Being married has eased some of it though, as my husband is a wonderful cheerleader and though he appreciates my, um, assets, he says he finds my heart sexiest is the of all. Getting older has also helped. I recognize that this body is temporary, so I lead with character now. As the mother of a daughter, I am very concerned about her perception of beauty and sexiness.
A study recently stated that girls as young as 6 are concerned with being perceived as sexy. I plan on telling my daughter about my own struggles openly and honestly and talking with her about the images she’s bombarded with. Sexy without substance is not sexy, it’s empty. What’s exciting about revealing when you see nothing’s there. I want the example I set to be her standard of beauty and what’s sexy. Faith, compassion, honesty, intelligence, integrity, honor…that is what’s hot!