[This is a continuation of the “Brave and Beautiful Beauty Movement” that is going on with me and 120 other bloggers!
Click on the link above to find out what it’s all about and how you can participate in this freeing and inspirational event launched by Megan of Brassy Apple and Cobi of Peace from 6 Pieces. #iambraveandbeautiful #colbieTRY]
Words are powerful catalysts indeed. Especially words about our appearance or beauty. Whether they come from our culture, our friends or inside of our own families, words stay with us and can shape who we are. As a human, words stay with us whether positive or negative and we can let these words affect us for good or bad. For some strange reason, we have been conditioned to sometimes hang on to the more negative ones. So instead of living in our truth and true beauty, we aimlessly dwell somewhere in between our full potential and mediocrity.
I have been told a lot of things about external features and we all know that, not so deep down, we love the validation and attention for the good compliments. Admit it… it makes our worth meter go up. But unfortunately it’s a temporary and artificial boost that wears off when our own voices and worldly reality sets in. On the flip side of the coin, we also tend to hold on even more to the not-so-good.
But the focus on outer appearance didn’t start with me.
It started with my dad.
My dad was kind of an oxymoron when it came to life, bless his resting soul. (Emphasis on oxy please. Lol.) He prided himself on outer appearances and leaving stellar first impressions, while inside he was painstakingly battling with some monstrous demons. (It’s easy for us to forget that men have self-esteem issues and insecurities too, but that’s a story for another day.) We were to be perfectly coiffed at all times. Perfectly ironed, washed, teeth brushed, shoes polished, hair fixed, dressed in the latest fashions, make-up, you name it. We did it. At the same time we were to be polite, we were shushed, never to interrupt, talented, have good posture, be religious, involved, and polished in all we did. Perfect. Perfect perfect perfect! (Said in my best Jan Brady voice). We were to get straight A’s, be class presidents, homecoming queens, star athletes, instrumentalist, performers, volunteers, charmers, liked,… All in the name of the perfect perfectionist and his perfect perfectionism… All in the name of “show”… and the affirming words and glances that come with it. All in the name of keeping up with the Jones’. If we failed, we worried more about failing our dad more than failing ourselves or for that matter, God. Not to mention the fact that we had a twisted view of what the definition of “failure” really was.
Dad was constantly sunbathing, plucking, shaving, flexing, brushing, sunbathing, picking, weight lifting, smoothing, shining, fixing, flexing, sunbathing, examining, exercising, looking in the mirror, sunbathing, charming, impressing, blue-steeling, perfecting, and oh, did I mention sunbathing? (We lived in Cali). He even was the “stage mom” for my older sister who was involved in the pageant world. Yes. This is my story and probably some of yours… I was the little sister of a beauty queen. Living in the shadows anyone? Sounds like a good book. Ha!
He was constantly pulling my shoulders back to get me to stand up straight, all the while having no idea how insecure I was about my chest, or lack thereof, and part of the reason for my slouchy body language. He was in charge of our yearly shopping trips for new school clothes. I guarantee we spent way more money than we had. Looking good took priority over smart financial choices. He made me change my outfit if it had the tiniest of stains or wasn’t quite up to his fashion standards. He was constantly correcting my grammar, or straightening, tucking, and folding in all the “right” places. He often licked his thumb to wipe a smudge off of my face or plaster down a misplaced hair on my head. And don’t even get me started with the plethora of orthodontia I had to endure all in the name of a perfect smile.
On one VERY memorable occasion, Dad lifted my leg and propped it onto a brick planter in the courtyard of our church building and said to my mom, “Novene, it’s time.”
“Time for what,” I thought. The panic on his face made my stomach turn.
Then I sat and listened as, in front of siblings and whoever was doing there after church mingling, he demanded I must start shaving my legs because my long dark hair was visibly sticking out of my white opaque tights. I was in 4th grade people!!! Barely 10 years old and the thought of shaving had yet to even cross my mind!!! You know that thing that someone points out to you that you never would have thought of on your own? The power of suggestion? WORDS??? Yeah, that. Like the boy in 7th grade who told me I had a double chin. Or the first day of my Junior year in high school and the first thing my science partner says to me is, “What’d you do, get a boob job over the summer?” Yes. He. Said. That… to my face. I. Died. And yes! My 16 year old body decided to spontaneously “blossom” amongst summer strawberries and beach days and he made it clear to me and all in ear shot, that it was noticeable. Yeah. Those things. Words. They stay with you. I don’t loathe my hairy legs as much anymore, but I am pretty happy those “bloomers” have deflated since I’ve lost 40 pounds so I don’t need a reduction anymore. These are the kinds of things we remember. But really, what was I so worried about anyway?
My Dad and beauty queen sister had a lot on their plates, so most of my self-esteem and figuring out who I was was left up to me. I remember one day when an adult family friend pulled me aside after church and said to me,
“I always thought you were the prettier sister anyway.”
No, it wasn’t creepy, and yes it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time! And the weird thing was that I knew exactly what was hidden between the lines of his words. He was telling me I was pretty because I always smiled, I was always happy and bubbly, and I was always the “charmer” (I had to get some attention somehow!) I knew he sensed the struggle I must have had with such a beautiful older sister who got all of the attention while I tugged on skirt hems and pant legs or talked extra, extra loud to be noticed. He was telling me I was more than good enough and that my worth was shining from the inside out.
Although there was much fixation on external beauty and maybe my lack thereof when standing next to my “Miss Teen San Diego” sister, I still figured out quickly how to use my personality (read:overcompensation) to my advantage and believe it or not am eternally grateful for it today! I would choose making others happy, being social, smiling, laughing, and serving others over any public accolades. I would choose the knowledge of knowing my heart and who I am over any perfect locks, pageant trophies or size 2 jeans. But man, it’s been dang hard work peeling off all of the layers of “words”, evil eyes, sideways glances and feelings of inadequacy. Still not sure if my over compensation for thinking I have to care too much and not caring at all has met in the middle yet. But I march on with determination and an open heart.
So here we sit today as we all try to heal and work through the words and images that tell us we are not pretty enough, not popular enough, not fashionable enough, not feminine enough, or just plain not living up to what societal “norms” have been set for us… The labels society and others put on us that we allow to hold us back. We need to be brave enough to choose joy that sheds light on the heady voices of darkness. I love this quote that I heard over the weekend from one of my all time favorite speakers:
“Do you suppose it matters to our Heavenly Father whether your makeup, clothes, hair, and nails are perfect? Do you think your value to Him changes based on how many followers you have on Instagram or Pinterest? Do you think He wants you to worry or get depressed if someone ‘unfriends’ or ‘unfollows’ you on Facebook or Twitter? Do you think outward attractiveness, dress size, or popularity make the slightest difference to the one who created the universe? He loves you, not just for who you are this very day, but for the person of glory and light you have the potential and desire to become.” –Dieter F. Uchtdorf
It has all been worth it.
All of the words, the insecurities, and time in the shadows.
All of these things have helped me learn how the kind of words we speak can shape another person’s self-worth for life… To leave them better or leave them bitter. Everything I have experienced or am experiencing now is preparing me for what will happen in my journey ahead. My journey that I know will consist of more learning, more growth, more sharing and more seeking out the true beauty in my life! My journey that hopes to find the “person of glory and light” that I have the potential of becoming!
SPEAK. KIND. WORDS
My name is Dana and I am a healing victim of perfectionist parenting, a recovering perfectionist
and advocate of bright sides!
So, what is your one thing? What words have you held onto all of these years that have caused hurt and insecurity? Leave your confessions in the comments and meet back here for another burning ceremony.
It’s time to let it go.
important P.S. Now I have to make it very clear… My Dad had lots of great qualities too! I loved him dearly. He did not change my heart of those good things I gleaned that were already planted deeply there. My heart is anchored in Christ. In fact, my Dad’s flaws and mistakes made me better. One man’s flaws are not my religion. I love the gospel I was raised in with all of it’s fallible humans and their mistakes and hypocrisy. They did not build my gospel, the Lord did. It is in Him and in my personal relationship with Him that I trust. Always have, always will. I am who I am because of His amazing sacrifice for me. Daily, I stand all amazed. Somehow I came out of my crazy younger life unscathed and my testimony Of Jesus Christ in tact. Stronger to boot. But that’s a confessional for another day. Thanks Dad. Xo