Am I Beautiful?

Am I Beautiful?

I gave greater-than-normal consideration to what I wore yesterday. In the evening I was going to the launch of my friend Chine Mbubaegbu’s new book, and it was making me feel unusually conscious about my appearance.

Why?

Because the book is called Am I Beautiful?

I wasn’t blind to the irony, of course – the book is about women’s insecurities about their bodies, and about finding freedom from the paralysing fear that the answer to its title question is ‘No’. And there I was looking for a flattering skirt, a nice top, and heels I could wear all day without killing my feet. I even abandoned my sensible, practical backpack for a glossy red handbag (realising as I dashed out of the door, late for work (looking good just takes too much time!) that it clashed rather painfully with my cerise pink autumn coat!).

Beauty fail!

I felt ridiculously self-conscious about it all day, but was thankful to note that it didn’t actually bother me. I didn’t for a moment consider leaving work early to pop home and change. No-one was going to notice, and if they did it wouldn’t affect my value to the world. We could have a laugh about it and move on.

Feeling thankful

Thankfulness was the overriding emotion I felt while reading Chine’s book (I got a review copy in advance of the release. Thank you, Authentic!).

I’m thankful that I grew up with a mother who wore little make-up and taught me to see it as a bit of sparkle for a special occasion rather than a necessary tool to improve on God’s handiwork before facing the world.

I’m thankful that my parents instilled in me the knowledge that looks aren’t everything, that it’s the heart that matters, and that beauty is something that radiates from inside, rather than being stuck on the outside.

And I’m very thankful that, at some point in the last decade or so, God has drilled that into me and made it real heart-feeling, not just head-knowing knowledge.

Because despite all that good parental input, I still longed to be outwardly beautiful, and knew I never would (at least not by the standards we see around us all the time). I could lose weight, but I was never going to be tall and elegant. My hair was never going to be thick and glossy. I might have a nice personality, but I was always going to be – at best – plain.

I still am short and overweight. My hair is a better style now than it ever has been, but the threads of grey are beginning to show through. I haven’t suddenly become beautiful, but I have become secure in my body and in my value to God and to the world.

So I felt thankful for that as I read this book, and heart-broken too, as I saw the horror-stories of what women put themselves through in an attempt to look ‘right’, heard of the tragic consequences for those who feel they don’t make the grade, and gradually realised that Chine herself, for all her research and thought, still hasn’t found the freedom she writes about.

Signposts on the journey

Chine admitted last night, with reference to a blog post she had written that day, that her book won’t cure you. It isn’t the magic pill or the three-step solution (‘Just pray this prayer and all will be well…’), but I think it is a great companion for the journey.

All the signposts are there: you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’; ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’; “When I really understand that God rejoices over me not because of anything I do, but because I’ve been made right by his grace, then I am free; no longer a slave to beauty” (p. 39).

And much as I wished this was the story of how Chine found freedom, for her sake as much as for her readers’, I suppose in the end a book can only ever offer signposts. For the transformation to be real and permanent, it has to be done by a work of God’s Spirit, not by all the academic assent to ideas in the world. That’s how it was for me, at least.

It was on one of those tearful, fearful nights, when I sat alone in the dark asking why, why wasn’t I beautiful? Why didn’t I measure up?  And that still, small, un-argue-with-able voice told me in no uncertain terms, “I’ve done this billions of times before. I did not suddenly make a mistake when I created you. You are my perfect creation.”

I hear it again from time to time when I find myself slipping. And it’s the only thing that helps. The God of all creation made me like this, and loves me, just like this.

And He feels the same about you.

———–

Book Giveaway

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Thanks to the generosity of Authentic, I’ve got a copy of the book to give away – signed by the author! Just leave a note in the comments if you’d like it, and I’ll draw a name at random on Monday evening and send it to you. For extra chances to win, tweet the link to this article using the hashtag #AIBgiveaway or share the link on Facebook (make sure you tag me in the post so I know you’ve done it).

20 Comments On This Topic
  1. Andy Milligan (@Irish_Andy)
    on Sep 13th at 10:27 am

    Very honest post Jennie. But I can tell you that being tall and overweight is no better 😉

    The book sounds fascinating – could you pop me in the draw please? 🙂

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 13th at 10:48 am

      🙂 Thanks Andy, good to know! Consider yourself entered.

      Reply
  2. Dad
    on Sep 13th at 10:49 am

    Jennie, I’m sorry, there is maybe something I did with your brother that I should have done with you (but I think that Mum probably did the same for you in way way or another). When he ‘reached a certain age’ I took him for a walk and told him a few important things about the facts of life. It wasn’t the sex talk. The things I emphasised were that over the next few years he would get very spotty and gawky; that he would convince himself that he was hopeless in every way; and that he would find many reasons to be angry and argumentative with us.

    I still remember the incredulous look he gave me. With the these pearls of wisdom imparted I them told him not to worry these things. It’s normal. We would always love him. He would get through it.

    I doubt if he remembers that walk and talk but I still thing it was the most important part of fathering a son that I ever did. Perhaps all parents should tell their sons and daughters that they are loved however far they are from being good-looking, no matter how bad they feel about themselves, and no matter how much they rebel.

    Finally let me reassure you. Although I pour scorn on most of what passes a modern art, I’m sure you will find that prize-winning artists achieve their success by screaming from the walls with clashing cerise and reds. It’s not a mistake, it’s a cymbal-shout to shake us out of ingrained stupidity.

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 13th at 10:54 am

      Thanks Dad! I don’t remember a specific ‘walk and talk’, but I’m sure she must have done it one way or another.

      The last question someone asked Chine at the launch last night was ‘I’m the father of 2 girls; what’s your advice to me as I bring them up?’ She said much the same – tell them they’re beautiful, but tell them that’s not the only thing that makes them valuable.

      I think you and mum did a great job of making me feel loved and secure whatever I did or looked like in life. Thank you!!

      Reply
    • Peter P
      on Sep 13th at 7:04 pm

      I have absolutely no recollection of that walk-and-talk whatsoever!

      Do you have another brother, Jennie?

      Reply
  3. R L Horner
    on Sep 13th at 11:12 am

    Yes please!

    Reply
  4. writelightuk
    on Sep 13th at 12:17 pm

    Thanks for writing this post, Jennie, some heartfelt points.

    One thought I have on this topic is that confidence exudes beauty. When a woman is assured of her inherent value, she can stress less over appearance and focus on using her gifts and being the person she was meant to be. A woman who is joyful and confident will reflect some natural beauty.

    Also – not everyone is beautiful, but everyone can be lovely, sweet or attractive, or have beautiful traits. My husband was initially drawn to me by my singing and guitar playing!

    I’m not sure about telling daughters they’re beautiful (I only have sons) but definitely say when they look great (it varies for most of us – bad hair/skin days etc.)

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 15th at 9:09 am

      Thanks Annie, I think ‘lovely’ is a useful word, because it is as affirming as ‘beautiful’ (I think) while covering a wider range, including the inner-beauty stuff.

      A few guys I’ve heard from about this post have agreed that while it’s not such a core issue for them, people do judge guys by their outward appearance, and they can be very conscious of when they don’t measure up.

      Reply
  5. Yes I AM beautiful! | clairemusters
    on Sep 13th at 12:36 pm

    […] some great posts on last night already (see Amy Boucher Pye’s here and Jennie Pollock’s here). And yet the launch of Chine Mbubaegbu’s book Am I Beautiful? meant so much to me that I […]

    Reply
  6. Alisa Russell
    on Sep 13th at 1:30 pm

    Thanks for this post, Jennie! I didn’t have that good parental input as I was growing up. Instead, my parents focused on all my faults. It’s taken most of my adulthood and coming back to my Lord and Savior to get to a place of confidence about myself and who I am in God’s eyes. It feels really good! Please enter me in the drawing.

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 15th at 9:11 am

      Wow, I’m so sorry to hear that. Those negative comments can do such deep damage, can’t they? Glad you’re finding freedom in the truth now. Yes, I’ve entered you twice (once for the RT, too). 🙂

      Reply
  7. Rachel
    on Sep 13th at 2:55 pm

    So true that it only comes through a work of God and that even then we slip back to old thinking sometimes. Thanks.
    Please enter me in the drawing, if location isn’t an issue. 🙂
    Blessings!

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 15th at 9:12 am

      Thanks Rachel. No problem about the distance – you’re in… 🙂

      Reply
  8. Annabel
    on Sep 13th at 6:02 pm

    I’d love to be entered into the draw 🙂

    Reply
  9. Joanne
    on Sep 13th at 9:16 pm

    Good Reminder of truth, love to have a copy of the book, will probably check it out anyway!!!! Interesting timing, just had Esther’s 9th Birthday party, 6 girls aged 8 – 10, and my heart aches over the pressures they face especially when it comes to outward beauty. Prayer and the Word are my weapons in this fight for my beautiful girls, constant reminders of truth, and a regular illumination of the lies of this world. However, every now and then they wobble, “Mummy does my tummy look big,” being the most recent worry. I count it a privilege to shepherd their hearts through this, we talk loads, we paint nails, we pray, we try different outfits, we sing along to Jamie Grace and Barlow Girl, we have fun!!! And we remind each other that God is most interested in the beauty of a gentle and humble spirit.
    Jennie, at college I remember your smile, I remember when you walked in a room I wanted to smile too. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 15th at 9:15 am

      Ah, thanks Jo, what a lovely encouragement!
      How heart-breaking that your girls are going through this at such a young age already. Glad they’ve got your wise and fun direction to help them navigate it.

      Reply
  10. Judith Barnett
    on Sep 14th at 9:05 am

    Women try to hide their faces, hide their bodies behind make up and clothes trying to mask their insecurities but believing the truth of what God says about us really changes us. It is only ever what God says that matters, everything else will not satisfy or fulfil.
    I recommend the best beauty treatment – preaching to yourself. Definitely do not listen to yourself. Find out what God says about you in the Bible and read it out loud regularly. It is the Spirit empowered word of God, it is truth and it changes you. When you believe it, then you will feel beautiful.
    However, I do also like to reflect on the outside what I feel on the inside – a little make-up, a nice haircut, pretty clothes – but not the other way round. Being beautiful comes from the inside.

    (stick me in the draw please, and I’ve “shared” too 🙂 )

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 15th at 9:20 am

      Great advice, Judith – don’t listen to yourself (because the inner voice isn’t really you, or God…), but preach to yourself, love it!
      Good thought, too about reflecting your inner beauty on the outside. It links back to what Annie was saying about confidence being beautiful – when I lost weight I started dressing better, and both the weight loss and the new clothes gave me more confidence, so I looked better and felt better, so dressed better…a positive cycle. 🙂
      Thanks for sharing your wisdom. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Lynette Ager
    on Sep 16th at 6:05 am

    I’m far from “mastering” this. I have all the right answers and know all the scriptures but, WOW, find it truly hard to believe sometimes … a lot of the time, actually. But I am a work in progress and I’m glad for that. Thanks for posting, Jennie. I wish you were closer in my life – geographically! Here’s hoping Canada isn’t too far! 🙂

    Reply
    • Jennie Pollock
      on Sep 16th at 7:48 am

      Thanks Lynette. No, Canada’s not too far – good luck! 🙂

      Reply

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