This week, women in our country are celebrating natural beauty.
And, right now, you are three. When I ask you, “What makes you beautiful?”, you smile coyly, and gaze at me with your doey brown eyes and reply, “My heart does, mama!”
We live in a world where mothers must teach such truths from the very beginning. Your impressionable ears and mind and eyes are bombarded with falsehoods. With billboards and Disney princesses and photoshopped magazines and well-meaning strangers who compliment you on your beautiful smile, a pretty dress and curling locks. From the beginning women are admired for what others see on the surface. And my love, it is in our nature to cling to this. To believe that what they say and see is true. And that only what can be seen is what is beautiful.
But this is wrong my precious girl.
Pretty is not beauty without kindness and gentleness and love. If ugly lives inside you, then no $50 cream or surgeon’s scalpel can cover it up or cut it out. Beauty cannot be bought. You won’t find it in a pair of jeans that hug your hips just so, in a 30-day workout that tones and tightens, or in a diet that cleanses and flattens. It doesn’t matter if your lips shimmer if the words that come from them are dark and angry and hateful. If love doesn’t live in you, you will never be satisfied with others or yourself. You will never feel beautiful.
You will strive and strive but never arrive. You will listen to the chorus that screams you are not enough, thin enough, tall enough, tan enough, pretty enough. But they will promise that you can have these things — if you buy into the hype and the products that sell because of our own self-loathing.
My love, mommy knows because she has done these things. There was a time when I knew that people saw my body first and not my brains, or my compassion or my abilities. And when meeting expectations of others becomes your focus, that’s when the ugly creeps in. It is an easy route to rely on pretty my love. But the cost is steep. And the scars run deep.
You are radiant my daughter, when you love the Lord first. When you showcase your heart and not your body. When you love fully and wholly and care for those who deserve it the least but need it most. When you serve others instead of others’ expectations. When you stand up for good instead of tearing down. When you love.
When you love.
Love yourself as you are because you are fearfully and wonderfully made my beauty-full girl. Love your flaws. Embrace imperfections. But, guard your heart. Your most precious resource. It is where beauty lives and grows, and shines forth.
And when I am old and my pretty has faded. When I am withered and am but a shadow of the girl and mama I was. When my hearing has lessened and my sight is slim, I will ask you what makes you beautiful. Scout, I will ask you then, but I will pray now that I hear, “My heart does, Mama.”
Because it always has.
And you will know it is true.
And you will tell your own beauty-full girl.
And she will have your heart, just as you have mine.
With love and hope,