If I’ve learned anything about myself in sixty-one years it’s that I do my best thinking outside. Perhaps that’s why I had so many problems when I lived in the city. Perhaps that’s why I often felt confused and conflicted- not enough time spent outside. Or perhaps I’ve just needed sixty-one years to even care about how I think. I spent, or I might say wasted, most of the first thirty something years of my life caring about how I looked. It wasn’t until I turned forty, moved to Oklahoma, went back to college, and changed careers that my thoughts about my appearance began to change. I suppose some of that is just the “natural order of things”. Any woman over thirty begins to think about how her body is changing and how she needs to respond.
I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that I don’t care how I look. I do comb my hair and try to dress discreetly. Once in a while I even polish my nails! But I don’t wear makeup or whiten my teeth or color my hair. I know I’m wrinkled and fat and imperfect in a dozen ways. I suppose the only imperfection I will admit to consciously concealing is my ugly feet. And I predict that at some time in the near future comfort will win out and I won’t even care about them anymore.
What has changed in the past thirty years is that I no longer strive for some unattainable level of “perfection” or compare myself to other people or let my concerns about my appearance keep me from living my life to the fullest. I recall so many occasions when I didn’t go somewhere or didn’t do something because I didn’t have the right clothes or didn’t think I looked as good as the other people who would be participating. Or I went anyway and then spent most of the time comparing myself unfavorably to everyone else. What a waste of time and energy!
I’ve gained more confidence in my natural self and my true purpose by being outside in the garden and carefully observing nature. Flowers aren’t perfect and they aren’t exact copies of each other. When I’m photographing them I often find the most interesting are the ones that have imperfect petals or unusual coloring. Animals go about their daily lives despite imperfections and injured bodies. One of the rabbits that visits our yard has a split ear. One of the butterflies I admire has a torn wing. There are daily reminders all around me that life is about the things we do, not how we look doing them.
I’ve also gained more confidence by improving my mind and expanding my understanding of people. People might make quick assumptions about you because of your appearance. But first impressions quickly fall by the wayside if you aren’t worth knowing. What ultimately binds us to people is their character, personality, and passion for life.
Gary often asks me where I get my ideas for my posts. I suppose I have been thinking about this topic for a week because I have been at home and paying more attention to television ads. So many of them are about “looking good”: You can have whiter teeth! You can have firmer abs! You can have shinier hair! You can have tanned skin! And then more people will love you! That’s the underlying message we are giving our young people. If you use these products and change your appearance and look good enough, people will love you and you will be happy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist, or even Dr. Phil, to tell you how that works out! Some individuals just don’t know when to quit; once they start down the path to perfection they embrace anything that promises improvement- from starvation diets to bizarre injections to plastic surgery. After a few procedures even their own mother doesn’t recognize them!
Yes, I know that right about now you are making a mental list of all the things you do to improve and enhance your appearance. None of those things are wrong. I have no deep-seated aversion to people who wear makeup or color their hair or dress in the latest styles. I don’t shun people who have had gastric bypass or cosmetic surgery. I simply think we have to examine our motives from time to time and understand why we do those things. We have to be sure we are doing them because we enjoy doing them, not because we feel compelled by societal expectations to do them. We have to understand where the line is drawn between who we are as a loving, caring, thinking creation of God and a pretty product of our genetics. My mother was intelligent, witty, and compassionate, but she was also insecure and often consumed by worry about her appearance. She habitually rose early in the morning to put on her makeup and style her hair before anyone else could see her in her “natural state”. For some reason she couldn’t accept that people loved her for her heart and her mind.
So I leave you this morning with a Bible passage before I head out to the garden.
I Peter 3:3-5
3. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.
The verses here do not say it is wrong to adorn your body, although I’ve heard that argued. I believe what God says is that adornment is simply NOT the source of our beauty. We might like it, but we don’t need it. Huge, huge difference in perspective.
Off the soapbox and outside to think.
Be imperfectly beautiful today!