When I was in middle school, I cried myself to sleep every night. I would lie in bed staring up at the ceiling, praying and complaining to God. Why had he made me ugly? I prayed for braces, contact lenses, a tan. I prayed that my mom would buy me clothes instead of giving me Gretchen’s hand-me-downs. I prayed for guys to like me. I cried because I thought that I could never possibly be beautiful. Once I even begged God to show me, just for a moment, what I would look like when I was older. Would I be beautiful? Elegant? Confident?
I was sure that I was the only girl in school who cried about stuff like that. I was convinced that everyone else had a perfect family, friendships, and self-esteem, while I was a pathetic loser. And even though I knew that there were people around the world who were worse off than I was, that didn’t prevent me from feeling the pain of selfish insecurity deep down in the core of my soul. So I would cry every night, which was the next best thing to having a gentle, selfless mother hold me and rock me to sleep. I believed that somehow the God of the universe was holding me, telling me that everything would be OK. In the morning, things never seemed nearly as bad as they did the night before.
From Goodnight to My Thoughts of You, a novel about a Christian teenage girl searching for true love.
Have you ever seen a picture of yourself from a long time ago and thought, “Wow. I didn’t look that bad. I actually looked really good!”
And then “I look way worse now,” or “I need to appreciate how good I look now because I’m just going to get older and older…”
Now, when I look at pictures of myself from middle school and high school, I know I wasn’t ugly. I was cute.
I also have to remind myself that there was this thing from the 80s and 90s called 35 mm film. We didn’t get to edit or erase photos that made us look awkward. Even so, I was not “so ugly” like I thought I was.
I remember showing my mentor at church a picture of me and saying, “This picture is OK but look at the cellulite on my legs!” She looked at me like I was crazy. Now, when I look at the picture, I know why. I didn’t have cellulite on my legs! My legs were tan and cute.
I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I have a few ideas. First of all, I was reading a lot of fashion magazines and comparing myself to beautiful supermodels. I really believed they were perfect, and they had perfectly smooth skin and legs and everything. As a teen, I thought that was how I was supposed to look in order to be considered beautiful.
Second, I lived in a wealthy neighborhood in southern California, pretty close to the beach. I want to say everyone was tan, gorgeous, and perfect. Except for me. But I know that wasn’t true. I know it was a perception that I had, a false idea that we all had. We thought we had to look perfect or we couldn’t leave the house.
Third, I was not the only one that felt this way. My friends would say the same things. Even my friends who were gorgeous and perfect! They were just as insecure as I was.
I have gotten so much more confident as I have gotten older. My values have changed. I stopped reading fashion and beauty magazines. I have learned so much from my husband about what he considers beautiful:
a kind heart
a genuine smile
and a good attitude
So if you are having a day when you feel “so ugly,” I hope you can strive for the qualities that really matter. Don’t believe the lie that you have to look perfect in order to be beautiful.
Goodnight to My Thoughts of You is a full-length novel, and it’s free! Great for your summer reading list! Check it out and share with a friend.
photo credit: marisa vasquez, marisa santiago