I have been thinking about this for a while.
I used to pray that I would be beautiful.
I believe that my prayers were answered (in the affirmative).
I am the same height that I used to be. I am, come to think of it, about seven pounds heavier than I used to be. I don't spend a whole lot more time, effort, or worry than I used to. In fact, I spend a LOT less worry on it.
I am thinking about how that happened. Part of it is that I kept my eyes peeled: what do I think is beautiful? (I still do this.) Part of it is that I developed a wonderful friendship with a best friend who was utterly confident of her own fashion sense, and who was willing to share some of her knowledge with me. Part of it was being careful about what I buy: I only get things that I feel really pretty in. I am a pain to shop with, because I am darn picky. But that means that I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm going to wear my "ugly shirt" today, because I don't have any of those, and I feel that it's worth a lot more effort at the store (which I don't go to that often anyway) and a lot less in the morning when I'm getting dressed.
Part of it is that I realized that a certain amount of being beautiful is confidence. Confidence that you are as good as other people, confidence that you are worth talking to, confidence that you have done your best to look your best on a given day. And all this, despite having current pimples, many scars from past pimple wars, a chin I don't like, and a figure that doesn't always fit tidily in to store-bought clothes (which, I keep telling myself, no one has anyway).
But there is also confidence in the fact that most people are so self-absorbed that they aren't going to notice me anyway, and confidence that as I do my best to bring out the best in them, it wouldn't really matter if I looked like Gollum; they would think I was wonderful, and they might even think I was pretty. And despite the fact that I have just insulted the rest of the human race by calling them self-absorbed, the fact of the matter is that self-absorbed is exactly what I am on those days when I am not able to pull myself together enough to get out of my own shell, and I am always deeply grateful to the people around me who are willing and able to help me out.
I realize that not everyone feels this way about beauty. I realize that there will always be biddy-gossips who walk around judging the rest of the world as too fat, too saggy, too wrinkly, too dark or too light. I don't like that fact, but it is a fact. I do feel, however, that the beauty I contribute to the world-- yes, with my physical appearance, but also in every other way I have to contribute it-- is my gift to them, and they can take it or leave it as they please. It was God's gift to me first, and I choose to pass it on, and the ungracious receiver hurts only herself.
I am always looking for God in others. I am looking for the mark of the master's hand, the miracle which is the human being He created. OK, well, maybe I am not ALWAYS looking, but it is one of my major goals in life, a goal which I always have even when I forget it for a brief while. I find human minds to be amazing and spectacular and beautiful, even when their owners think that they are insignificant and not worth being interested in. I think that this is not an uncommon trait in teachers, and even for people who are not teachers, it is not difficult to imagine a person who is intersted in others in this way. Could we not begin doing this with our physical bodies? Not to say: oh, yes, you are perfect, no more work to be done! But to say: Wow! that's an amazing machine you've got there! Even to smile, to walk, to breathe, are spectacular and incredible and not insignificant.
I think we can do this, but it seems, lately, like the cultural pressure to do the opposite (to notice only the disgusting and broken parts of ourselves) is getting more intense. But we can do it-- can't we?