I had a major mom fail a few months ago. My family was getting ready for our summer vacation so I took our teen-aged daughter bathing suit shopping with me. She decided to go inside the dressing room to see me in the suits that I had picked out. In an effort to not completely shock her with my post baby body I tried to be as discreet as possible while changing.
She watched me carefully with a concerned look on her face and I was prepared for her to talk to me about stretch marks or baby belly. I mentally recalled the time when she was 7 and I had just given birth to her triplet sister. We were in the dressing room and she told me that she liked my arms because they were soft and “rolly”. Then she asked me if those lines (stretch marks) were the fat rolling down. Needless to say I didn’t buy a single new clothing item that day. Seven years later I was preparing myself for another conversation like the one I had with that little girl in the dressing room but I wasn’t prepared for what came out of her more mature teen-aged mouth.
“Mom are you ashamed of your body or something?” Without even thinking about my answer I said “YES!”
I immediately knew that I had failed her.
I back tracked my statement as quickly as possible and explained to her that I wasn’t ashamed but I was a little self-conscious since I had given birth to her almost 9 lb brother just a few short months before and went through major complications during delivery that have prolonged my recovery.
She smiled at me and said “Mom, I think you’re beautiful.”
That moment has haunted me. I’m embarrassed that I actually told my daughter I was ashamed of the body that created her. I’ve given birth to 5 large, healthy babies. Three of those babies were born only minutes apart.
My body, my slightly stretch tummy and my 6 inch long scar are the most beautiful things about me. All those things are beautiful evidence of the 5 little lives that stayed safe and healthy inside of me until they were ready to meet us face to face. What an amazing thing our bodies can do.
I don’t look like the women on the covers of all those magazines and I never will. My body doesn’t belong on the cover of Shape magazine or Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, or any edition for that matter. My face is not flawless like those I see on TV. My lashes don’t flutter when I blink like the mascara commercials advertise. I won’t lose my baby weight in 3 short weeks and might not ever go back to what I was before I gave birth.
My face often reflects nights spent rocking an infant or staying up a little late to spend one on one time with my husband once the kids have gone to bed.
I have little lines on the side of my eyes, some from squinting in the sun while I watch my kids swim and some from smiling at all their silly jokes. My ears stick out further than most and I tell everyone they’re that way because I need to hear people’s prayers. I have sun spots from spending too much time in the sun with my friends when I was younger, evidence that I played outside instead of glued to the TV.
When I look at my children I see all those wonderful features on them and I fill with pride. My daughter who inherited my ears now knows she is an angel listening to prayers. Nothing makes me happier when people tell me that my oldest is my clone. How can I not think I’m beautiful if people see her when they look at me. If she’s beautiful, I’m beautiful and trust me, she is beautiful.
I want to raise my children to know what true beauty looks like. They are bombarded daily with society’s idea of what beauty should be. It’s splashed on TV, billboards and magazines. Models and actors are primped, airbrushed and photo-shopped so much that they no longer resemble the original. Our sons and daughters are given the “fixed” image to idolize and look up to. It’s scary. It’s unrealistic and it’s impossible to obtain. I never want to fail one of my children again by telling them that I am embarrassed in my skin or ashamed of what others might see when they look at me. I need to remind them daily that their worth and beauty will never be measured by outside appearance and that we were created to be unique. We are made to look like us and no one else. The best part about us is that we are different. The things about us that are not like everyone else are the things that make us most beautiful.
Our beauty is not what the mirror reflects. Our beauty is in our actions and our reactions. Our beauty comes from how we love others, how we forgive each other and how we forgive ourselves. True beauty comes through in how we show grace and compassion to those around us.
I want my daughters, and yours, to see what a real woman looks like, unedited and real. I want my son, and yours, to know what makes a woman truly beautiful. I want my daughters to know what really makes a man is not in the crisp picture displayed in magazines but in how he treats their hearts. I want to raise my son to be an authentic, strong and honest man for his beautiful future wife.
I asked my friends to send me a bare-faced picture of themselves and a few sentence letting me know what they think makes them beautiful, inside or out. I was able to get in touch with some of their friends and family to tell me why they think these people are beautiful. The responses left me in tears.
These people are the examples that I want my children to see and experience. These are the face that I pray my children model themselves after. Each one bravely sent me a bare-faced pic, some needed more coaxing than others (Lisa), but I am forever grateful for their courage.
This is True Beauty
“My hair, I like that it is finally long and wavy, makes me feel like mother earth. I like my big eyes, they match my daughter’s eyes. I have a Gilliam nose and that makes me feel special because they are my sweet, simple, humble, funny wonderful. ” – Lisa
“The thing that makes Lisa Beautiful is her heart–loving and giving. Lisa is Lisa all the time. She is honest and real–doesn’t try to impress people.” – Betty AKA: Maw
“When I look at myself in a mirror, natural as this I think how blessed I am to have sight…for my beauty is in my heart.” – Sylvia
“She is always ready to short herself if it means making someone else happy. Sees the best in people. The most witty personality I have ever come across!” her friend Renee
“I feel beautiful when I’m around the people I love; the people who are my support system. The love they fill my heart with makes me feel more beautiful than any specific clothes or makeup. I’m happy that I have passed this down to my daughter, who isn’t afraid to go in public without any makeup.” – Kimberly
“What makes Kim beautiful…there are so many things it is hard to narrow it down. I think her ability to inspire and encourage you is one of the most beautiful and special things about her. Kim took me at my lowest of lows and taught me what it meant to be at peace with every situation you are placed in. To be able to lead by example and show people how wonderful it is to love yourself is true beauty”. – her friend Sarah
“True beauty comes from one within. You must know you’re complete with your inner beauty and your inner spirit. Knowing that you are being guided by our one and only you have no worries in life. ” – Renee
“The Beauty of a Single Mom, when god gives this job to a women her beauty is always in her heart and soul. The beauty in Renee is how she puts her daughter first and share the love of God with her.” – Sylvia
“The one thing that always makes me feel beautiful is when my husband shows love to me. It could be a compliment, or doing something special for me. It could be buying me something I’ve had my eye on, or just spending time talking to me. As long as it’s genuine, I feel so loved and that makes me feel beautiful!” – Amber
“Amber is beautiful in Spirit because she is dedicated to her family. Planning & making provisions for their education,spiritual growth& well-being. She takes time for her husband-getting away @ times & also supporting him in his work. She also is a good friend by taking time to be with them. She is a very organized. The greatest compliment is she lives her faith.” – her friend Rosemary
“I would say that my family gives me beauty. Especially since we were all together on a tropical Island surrounded by a crystal ocean with stunning coral reefs and a lush mountainous jungle dense with the scent of flowers. Yes, this photo captures all that beauty in me” – Chimene
“What makes me beautiful is my way of finding something positive in every situation. I don’t wear make up, never have and don’t plan to start. I love the natural look, and wish more people did as well. I am a genuine person & always willing to help” – Christin
“It’s a big task – teaching them to look beyond appearance. To look past what they see in the mirror or what they take in with first impressions as they pass someone on the street. How do you mold these little sponges so that they know value lies beneath the skin, past the clothes, nowhere near the style of hair? I can only hope that when I might look in the mirror and want to cringe, they only see me smile. That when I step on the scale and want to groan, they only hear me cheer. That when we pass someone who might look “different” to me, that they see a welcoming smile on my face. Lord, watch my actions, watch my words, watch the impression I make on them and let them only see love, not only for others but also for myself.” – Brooke
” I would say what makes Brooke beautiful, besides her obviously good looks and killer bod, is that she is confident in herself. She isn’t afraid to say what she is thinking or to put herself out there, even if it’s not what everyone wants to hear but what is the right thing to do, which are qualities that truly makes her beauty shine. Brooke’s beauty is also evident in the work she does for others. I’m amazed by the selfless volunteering she does with the Junior League. Oh and the smile Brooke has when she is with her children is simply beautiful. All in all, I can’t imagine a more beautiful person to call my business partner and friend!” – her friend Lindsay
“What makes me beautiful-my heart. My (sometimes overly) empathetic heart. I’m compassionate and love with my whole heart. And I’ve been told I’m pretty witty too ;)” – Kristin
” Kristin is the type of person that always puts other people first before herself. She has a heart of gold and is always loyal. I feel blessed to call her my best friend. What makes her beautiful besides her outside beauty is the love she has for her family and friends.” – her friend Kelly
“I think what makes me beautiful is my attitude towards life. I’m a glass half full girl. But, I always say if your glass is half empty, ask for a refill. I try every day to have an attitude of gratitude. I think I am most beautiful when I am helping others. I’ve learned to accept my psoriasis, which took a long time, and is thankfully in remission. I learned a lot through that diagnosis that occurred later in life and it really forced me to be fully comfortable in my own skin despite how others treated me. At the end if the day, I’m still me. Red patches or not. We are all beautiful, in our own ways, whether we carry our issues inside or they manifest in ways that show on the outside. My beauty lesson: love life and it will love you back.” – Lennie
” This picture is with my daughter Zoey, one of my twins, and my only girl. She asked to take a picture with me first thing in the morning with no makeup or anything for me, and she insisted that we post it to my Facebook. It makes me feel beautiful that at 40, I can teach my daughter to be confident in ourselves and not worry what other people think about us, to let her personality be her strength, and not just her beautiful face!! I have more self-confidence at 40, then I ever did at her age. I don’t want that for her. I want her to have it now and for the rest of her life!” – Penny
“Being a mom, friend, daughter and wife makes me beautiful. I love to share my love and support with so many people. Making others happy makes me feel amazing!!” – Jenn
“.Jennifer DeLeon is a beautiful person because as my daughter’s first grade teacher, she didn’t just educate her. She inspired, encouraged, cared for, & loved my child.” – Cheri (parent of one of Jenn’s students)
“I you don’t feel comfortable in your natural state, that’s one thing. If a person makes you feel bad for feeling or trying to feel comfortable in your natural state, that’s another thing (and I believe that person is called and imbecile).” – Ashley
“I struggled a lot with the no-makeup, fresh-faced thing once I started wearing makeup in 8th grade. I was real tall and awkward growing up (obviously, I had red hair and that is never a fun adolescence to go through). And I still am, I think. I was always well-behaved and smart and nobody ever asked me to slow-dance (wah, wah, cry me a river). And then senior year at Churchill I won Best Looking for our class. And I hated everything about it and was mortified. It was so bizarre. I think I still saw myself as I was the whole time growing up (and who I was when I looked in the mirror before bed each night and before getting ready in the morning) and knew that the teenagers that voted on all that stuff were just voting to either keep girls they didn’t like off the list or didn’t know me well enough to remember me as I looked growing up. By no means was I the Best Looking senior girl (but you know how that stuff works in school). I was embarrassed because I really wanted Best All Around or Most Congenial or Most Likely to Succeed, dammit! And because my looks had never been a part of my schtick, I was really uncomfortable and I felt like a fraud with my self tanner and makeup. Even though I didn’t use those things as tools to put up a false front, I just used them like any other high school girl trying to look tan and a little dressed up in the face. But I knew how truly different I looked with those things as opposed to other girls who looked pretty much the same without makeup and self tanner, just a little more polished. And I felt like a phony. And at that point, I felt like I had to keep up the “facade”, I guess. Of course nobody thinks about you as much as you think about yourself, but in my mind, all I could think about was how nobody remembered poking fun at me in elementary and middle school. And that I was still smart and (mostly) kind and talented in a lot of other ways, regardless of how people saw my outsides.” – Ashley (obviously my fellow blogger girlfriend)
“What makes me beautiful….I was unsure how to answer this, so I asked my boys….their answers: my total devotion, my dedication to give them an awesome life, my big brownish eyes. I guess the fact that I chose to ask them is what I feel makes me beautiful…being a mom and placing my children and their needs before anything for myself.” – Sarah
“My freckles are my favorite physical feature. I used to hate them when I was younger and now I think they make me look young! I think what makes me beautiful is my sense of humor and the love of God shining through me. As I have struggled with my weight due to ongoing thyroid problems my self-esteem has really suffered. I struggle to even really think of myself as pretty anymore. But Chris makes me feel beautiful and I think that’s all that matters.” – Lauren
“In addition to having the most beautiful red hair, Amy is one of the most honest and kind people I know. Her love for her family makes her beautiful. ” – Candice
“My compassion is what makes me beautiful to patients and my family. I feel things for people in my soul and get moved to tears often. My husband says that is his favorite thing about me. Loyalty would be my other best trait. Some would say I might be a little hard to get close to, but I would do just about anything for most people. Both of these can be a burden to some, but I feel they are the value I contribute to those around me. I hope my children find value in these traits and reflect them in their lives.” – Carlen
“When I think of what makes me beautiful I hear One Directions song,”your insecure, don’t know what for” because I know that God created us in His image to do His work, so I have no reason to be insecure. I feel the beauty I see most in myself is my heart, because I hurt for the lost, unreached and those who feel alone. I think my charismatic spirit also spills out beauty. ” – Anastasia
“I love that God gave me a compassion for people. I also love my smile 🙂
Hugs!” – Michelle
“What makes Michelle beautiful She has a beautiful smile and the amazing ability to look beautiful with endless looks. She can be soft and subtle or spikey and red lipstick or preppy or chic or whatever! She looks beautiful, no matter what style mood she is in! What is most beautiful is her heart and her desire to share God’s love with people who need it most.” her sister Brittany
“Hi, my name is Elizabeth. As I am 8 days shy of turning 50, thinking about physical beauty has crossed my mind a little more often. So, as I see more wrinkles, age spots, uh I mean sun spots and gray hair, I remind myself…I am my Father’s Masterpiece!! He has given me a smile that has blessed many because I sure don’t have big beautiful eyes or flawless skin or pouty lips. But, I can smile!! Wha truly makes me beautiful and I can honestly say this in complete assurance, sincerity and confidence…it is Christ in me!! My hope of glory!! He shines in and through me. I wear the joy of The Lord!!” – Elizabeth
” Elizabeth is a rare jewel. She is as beautiful on the outside as a rare gem. And on the inside, that beauty runs even deeper. Elizabeth loves the Lord and others so deeply, it defines who she is and everything she does. To know Elizabeth is to know how good our God is.” – Brittany
“God has blessed me with a loving, caring, and nurturing spirit.” – Carrie
“I think my beauty shows through in my faith, strength, perseverance and my disability. Why would I think my disability might have anything to do with my beauty showing through? I like to think if I didn’t have cerebral palsy my life would’ve turned out so much different. . .” – Lucilla
“Being a single parent there are times I’m faces with difficult situations, and I often wonder “How am I going to get through this?” Somehow I do, and when I do I feel like I can accomplish anything. That feeling of accomplishment makes me feel strong=confident=beautiful! – Anita
“Her kind heart, kind words and her willingness on forgiveness…That’s beauty!” – Sylvia
“I feel my real beauty comes from within as I am always my authentic self….my outside beauty I can only thank my beautiful parents for!” – Terri
“I have only one sentence to describe true beauty, something my dearly departed mother told me countless times: Pretty is, as pretty does. ” – Julie
“I’m beautiful because God made me that way” – Jessica
“Jessica is beautiful, because she has a beautiful heart. She is so loving and caring, always willing to help those in need. Positive attitude=Beautiful”- Jessica’s husband
” What I think makes me beautiful is something that the world sees as ugly. I went through a period in my life of extreme depression. I felt hopeless and worthless. I felt alone and unloved. I was sad to the point of not being able to feel emotions anymore. I needed something to do something to feel again. So I started cutting. The more I did it the deeper they needed to be in order to get the relief I felt I needed. One night I tried and tried to get the relief but no matter how many times I cut or how deep they were, it just wasn’t enough. So I decided maybe instead of getting a temporary relief it was time to end it permanently. I was just about to attempt suicide when I almost heard an audible voice say “You’re not alone.” I grew up in church so immediately I knew it was the Holy Spirit. Although I was afraid to respond and run back to him. I mean look at who I had become? Why would a perfect God want me back? I had been running for so long and ignored Him. Luckily I figured out he’ll meet us where we are. You don’t need to clean up your life before you can go to God. He’s there for you always. From that moment on my life has drastically changed. Not only do I truly know the love of God, but I have surrounded myself with amazing friends who hold me accountable and who love me though anything. I also love people more now then I ever have. I still have the scars, and most people call them ugly and tell me to cover them up, but I want to proudly show them off. I refuse to hide part of my testimony. To me they represent the beauty of Gods grace. They remind me of where I had been, but they are not who I am.” – Raylyn
“I am beautiful because He SHINES through all my broken pieces” – Amber
“Brian sent me his picture in an effort to peer pressure Lisa into sending hers. He didn’t send me why he thought he was beautiful but he didn’t need to, I already know. I won’t ruin his tough guy image by revealing is soft side but I will tell you that he has quietly been extremely generous when it comes to my family raising money to support autism awareness and in my eyes that makes him beautiful.” – Candice
I want to thank everyone who participated in this post. I know it wasn’t easy to take such a raw picture of yourself and I know that it was even harder to write why you thought you are beautiful. The fact that you trusted me to do this and your willingness to dive right in (except Lisa who needed to be pushed) is what makes your beauty immeasurable.
I promised Lisa I would post a bare-faced selfie if she sent me one of her. I found my least favorable one to appease her and ease her pain. This is my true beauty pic while in the hospital getting ready to deliver our son.