Hope.....is the name of the little girl that melted my heart today.
For some time I have been thinking about our society's concept of beauty. What is acceptable these days? And how this concept has effected me my whole life and how it is effecting young girls and women today.
Beauty is something that I have struggled with my whole life. Feeling beautiful. Feeling accepted the way I am.
At a young age I became aware that beauty was important. Whatever beauty was...it mattered...so I needed to find out what it was and manifest it in such a way that was acceptable. I won my first beauty pageant when I was 5. From that point on...I knew that my worth was somehow measured by my appearance.
I remember thinking about trying to stay thin when I was 11 or 12. I remember standing in front of the mirror in 8th grade looking at my stomach and crying...dreaming about the day that I could get rid of my love handles. I was 80 pounds. By the time I got to high school my dad was forcing me to drink protein shakes in the morning before I went to school because I was so skinny. I would take the drinks into the bathroom and wash them down the sink. Eating disorders didn't have all the press back then that they have today. I didn't even know I had one. I didn't know it had a name...I just knew that I wasn't going to eat because I wanted to be beautiful and accepted.
Being pretty was my purpose. And if I couldn't be pretty, then what...? I knew the part I had to play. I was reminded of my role constantly. The pressure to measure up was like a million tons on me every day. It's not like guys walked up to me at parties or school and asked me about my favorite book...or what my dreams were. Not that I would have known how to answer them if they did ask. My goal was to be the coolest, prettiest girl around. Too bad there was always someone cooler or prettier. Who would have guessed that the Prom Queen was probably the loneliest, emptiest person at that dance? I sure never looked or acted lonely or empty.
I started wearing makeup when I was 13 and haven't stopped since. Even a few years ago I wouldn't go anywhere without all of my makeup on and my hair done. I dated a guy for 3 years and it took me almost a year for me to show him what I looked like without makeup. I think I actually cried when I walked out of the bathroom with no makeup on. I was traumatized by my thoughts and terrified that he would see something awful in the real me. Because...if someone didn't like me with the makeup and the pretty clothes...that wasn't quite as bad as them seeing the real me and not liking it....it's almost like being an actor in a play....the makeup and clothes are just a prop..I was playing a part. BUT...if someone saw me without my makeup and pretty clothes and didn't like me....then they would truly be disliking who I really was....and at that point in my life.....I just couldn't stand the risk.
The harder that I tried to fit into the everchanging idea of beauty...the less beautiful I felt. Today, dark eyeshadow is cool...done...bought...worn. The next day...short hair is sexy...done...cut. Next week....red lipstick is hot....done....bought....worn. Here's the problem ya'll.....All the makeup in the world can't make jealousy, pain, anger, resentment, and self hatred..pretty. The most beautiful women on Earth are beautiful because they have love in their hearts and joy in their soul. They may still wear makeup...I'm not on some cruisade to stop makeup wearing (you'll have to pry my Great Lash black mascara out of my kung fu ninja grip)...but they are beautiful because of the light they put out. I have known lots of women that have all of the features that our world says is really beautiful...but because of their darkness inside...they never felt like they were enough. And never feeling like you are enough makes people desperate. Desperation makes people do crazy things. Believe me when I say, that until you replace that darkness with the light of God...you will never feel beautiful. It will never be enough. Why do you think people get addicted to plastic surgery or die from eating disorders? It's because they never ever feel like they are enough no matter what they do. These same people tend to surround themselves with people that only prove to them that all they are is what is on the outside. I remember being told by one of my boyfriends that if I gained 20 pounds that he would break up with me because I would be too fat. I was 106 pounds at the time. Well, guess what...he broke up with me anyway...and I had even lost weight. If all that people care about is what is on the outside, then there will always be someone able to offer something better than what you have. And...you know what...I gained those 20 pounds...plus some...but I lost 175 pounds of negativity when he was gone. That is why I no longer have people in my life...not men, not women, not anyone...that only cares about the superficial...about attaining "things" and "beauty" and "great resumes" and blah blah blah...I don't give a #$% about that stuff. Superficial people are BORING....snore.
Things have changed. I am finally totally confident and comfortable in who Katie McNemar is. I know my favorite book. I know what my dreams are. I still struggle with being who I am, but I have realized after years of pain...that I truly am beautiful. So beautiful. I still wear makeup and still worry about my weight....but I am beautiful. And I know it. Deep in my heart. And no one can take it away from me. I'm no longer playing the part of the "pretty blonde" that is wild and crazy. I'm not an actor anymore. The Katie you know now....if you know me....is me. All the time. If you think I'm crazy or too loud or too fat or too thin or too quiet or too short or too happy or too smiley or too forgiving or too loving or too whatever....it doesn't matter...I am me and I love it. If I want a cheeseburger...I am going to eat a damn cheeseburger and not feel guilty. I go out without my makeup. My hair is naturally curly...I love it...love it love it love it. I used to straighten it (or perm it for my sistas out there), but now...I embrace the curls. It's hard working in DC. All of these perfect girls walking around. I swear, I think everyone is 5'4", 102 lbs, with beautiful perfect hair, expensive clothes, and a new car. Well...I'm 5'1" and not even close to 102 lbs, with kinky hair, expensive (looking) clothes (that I bought on sale..holla), and an old Jeep that I am getting ready to jack up WV style. I don't fit into the mold here. Some days its hard, but most days I embrace the fact that I am a little bit different.
So I have been thinking a lot lately about the pressure that young girls feel to be beautiful and accepted. My friend Kumori mentioned a few weeks ago that we should do a video or skit at church based off of Pink's music video for "Stupid Girl". I loved the idea and can't wait to get to it. As a leader in the youth ministry we see so many of our young girls just struggling with this. Women want to be seen as precious and beautiful. Our quest to acheive that takes a lot of us down a long and lonely path in the wrong direction. I want nothing more than for these beautiful young girls to know what I didn't know when I was their age. I wish I could make it easier. I pray that not just our girls, but that girls all over the world would come to know their true beauty in God. It's the only thing that lasts. Love is beauty. Giving is beauty. Forgiving is beauty. Laughing is beauty. Crying is beauty. Standing up for people that can't stand up for themselves is beauty. Knowledge is beauty. Peace is beauty. Joy is beauty. God is beauty. God is in you.
Now to how Hope melted my heart....
This morning in church, Hope came over to where I sit, as she frequently does, and sang and clapped her hands with me. She is the most loving precious little girl on Earth. When I sat down she sat on my lap. She played with my hands. Looking at them. Picking the nail polish off. Then she turned around and took one of her little fingers and traced them over my left cheek, over my nose, and onto my right cheek. Then she lefted up my glasses and looked in my eyes and said, "Why do you wear makeup Katie? You are so....beautiful"
This is in no way bragging, but I have been told that I was beautiful many many times in my life....by men, by family, by friends, etc....but never before have I believed it more than today. When I looked into Hope's honest eyes and saw God's truth, light, and love.....I was truly speechless. It was amazing.
Then she hugged me and buried her head in my neck. And we sang. And we prayed. And I thanked God for Hope. I thanked God for His gift to me. I am going to go to bed tonight feeling more beautiful than I have ever felt.
God is good. God loves you. And you can trust Him - Pastor Jerry Beall (Heart attack surviver and overcomer)
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