Before I ever had the chance to speak with Johanna when we first met last summer, I knew three things: She exuded joy and peace, she was a super real mom, and I wanted to be her friend. As the idea for this series started percolating in my mind, I hoped Johanna would be part of it and was pumped when she agreed.
From the little time I’ve spent around this woman, I admired the passion and drive she displays in every area of her life. Johanna loves her Creator and those around her fiercely and is as passionate as I am to see others realize their beauty and worth. I am inspired by her and excited to bring her words to you, today.
“As I reflect on the topic of beauty in my life, one common theme runs throughout. Other people’s opinions about MY body, MY beauty, and MY appearance have been woven into my life much like like a prominent thread throughout a tapestry. I wish I would have been able to notice it earlier. The seemingly innocuous comments, “you look beautiful today” or “that outfit looks great on you” or my very favorite, “you look so tired.” Whether intended or not, every unwelcome and unsolicited statement about my physical appearance entrenched me deeper into my understanding of my personal beauty and impacted my self-esteem.
I can remember not wanting to wear an outfit again simply because no one gave me a compliment the last time I wore it. Or feeling extremely beautiful on the days that several people said so. This experience was intensified for me during my first pregnancy. Nearly everyone I came into contact with had an opinion about my appearance, and each person clearly felt the freedom to say so. It wasn’t until I entered my thirties that I was consciously able to shed the weight of other people’s ideas, opinions, and statements about my appearance.
If I could go back into time, I would tell my young, impressionable self, not to look to external forces to understand beauty, and certainly not to absorb and own other people’s ideas about MY beauty. I would tell myself that positive self-esteem and a healthy self-image come from the understanding that I was made perfectly in the image of the God and that He simply calls me beloved.
Something I also hope to teach my children is to look for substance in people’s compliments. Superficial statements about what you’re wearing or how your hair looks are fleeting and that kind of beauty fades away. Compliments about your true self, your character, your identity, your gifting, and your contribution to the world are substantial. Today, I try and focus on these qualities in a person and to look for the depth of who they really are and I hope to help others do the same.
A person’s character informs their true beauty.
In this hidden season of motherhood, where I live in activewear and ponytails, the compliments have mostly stopped coming. There’s no one to perform for in this season. No office staff to impress, no classmates to dress like, and no consumption of popular ideas of beauty. I’ve stopped wearing makeup, I’ve stopped wearing high heels, and I have begun to press deeply into the formation and depth of my personal character and soul; which will outlast any external forms of beauty I possess but will inform my true beauty immeasurably. I know today, and I plan to train my children in this truth, that a person’s character informs their true beauty, external opinions aside. As the great Audrey Hepburn said, “the beauty of a woman is not in facial mode but the true beauty of a woman is reflected in her soul.'”
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