I remember the first time someone called the fleck on my cheek a blemish. I was in high school and had visited a Clinique counter at the mall. I remember the clear message she gave me as she attempted to cover it up, “You’re not beautiful.” That store isn’t in our college town anymore, but 25 years later, I can still picture exactly where that counter was located. The feelings still hang in my chest when I think back to that time.
I’m the mother of three girls. My oldest will be 13 this month. I wondered today, as I accomplished only 1 of 3 steps in my skin care kit before running out the door, why that message was so strong so long ago. I wonder how I can lessen the blow to my own child from the world that has an unacceptable, unrealistic and superficial standard of beauty.
I love my mother. I often say that she is an amazing version of her story. A story that is hers to tell, but its effect on me is my own. My daughters are consistently telling me how beautiful I look. Somedays it causes me to literally laugh out loud, but I never correct them because I vividly remember thinking the same thing about my own mom growing up. This iconic figure in my life had the most disenchanting habit of looking in the mirror and calling herself fat. She would pull at the skin around her eyes and comment on how old or how awful she looked. I didn’t understand. We both saw something strikingly different.
So, I resolved early on in parenthood to not say those things out loud, even when I feel them. I respond to the compliments with hugs and thanks yous. And yet, I stand on the precipice of teenager-land and feel completely ill-equipped for the task of basic beauty assurance. I’m not talking lipstick and eyebrow pens here. It’s actually two things, taking good care of yourself and having a heart that supersedes any features God or life has granted you.
Daily habits would seem to be the easier of the two, but only to those who had the routine set for them. For example, my mom had false teeth by the time I came into this world. So, nobody ever taught me how to simply have the habit of brushing my teeth twice a day. Her teeth went in a jar at night and cleaned themselves while she slept! I literally had to learn this on my own. Washing your face morning and night was an idea I had never heard of because by the time I was 13, my parents had divorced and I was living in a house of males. So, self-care is a hamster wheel that I always feel behind on.
The heart is an area I’m way more comfortable with. Partly because I believe only God can change it; so I’m sort of off the hook. Mostly because my own heart has been transformed so many times that I have the confidence in God to do that work. I’m still the mother and a lot of days, the preferred instrument in the hand of the Almighty here. So, what makes up a beautiful heart? My answer may seem simple, but I believe it with all of my own heart; love. The results are compassion, grace, concern, gratitude, faithfulness, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, and the like.
It’s with a sigh of relief that I acknowledge my own lack in the area of beauty. I am my story and that may not have equipped me well for this area of teenage-land, but I aspire to teach my girls healthy habits and will always encourage them to live a life characterized by love.