Confessions of a Former Potato

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I’m going to let you in on a secret. It’s a secret that a lot of people share – I used to hate my appearance. Granted, I went through a pretty awkward stage – when you’re a round-faced teenager with braces and frizzy hair, it doesn’t do a lot for your confidence. But once my braces came off and I lost my last excuse to treat my appearance seriously, I went into a kind of spiral. I lost interest in makeup and did nothing more with my hair than stick it in a ponytail. My wardrobe consisted of worn-out jeans and tee shirts. It wasn’t because I was a tomboy and enjoyed it, it was simply because I stopped caring. I would undress before I showered, look at myself in the mirror, and all I would see was a chunky, awkward girl about as attractive as a hippo, and I thought nothing I did would change that. I hate to exercise – anyone can tell you this. I also like to eat. I mean, come on – what’s the fun of eating if you have to make yourself sweat afterwards? On purpose? I tried eating hardly anything, and that lasted about two hours. I tried exercising – that stuck a little more, but I still loathed it. This continued, and it only got worse. I wasn’t taking pride – or even paying attention to – my appearance and as a result, I never felt happy with how I looked and neither did anyone else.

I wasn’t snapped into doing something about it until my brother took me aside and told me the harsh truth – I looked bad. I had let myself go – and I was still a teenager, for Pete’s sake. I shrugged it off and pretended I didn’t care, but suddenly, I was aware of how I looked to everyone else. Dumpy. Unattractive. Chubby. In short, unlovely.

It had to change. I began to wear makeup again, to attempt new styles with my hair. When I went shopping for clothes, I chose things with more shape, more style. I began to pay attention to what flattered my shape, and I began to move more. If I sat down until I felt cramped, then I stood up and ‘took a turn about the room,’ to coin an Austen phrase. This was a massive improvement for me, but I knew I was still lacking the most important ingredient – confidence. I didn’t feel confident. I felt like I was pretending to be someone I wasn’t, and I’ve always been very against pretending. (Much of this pretense-hate stems from my own past; I used to hide how I felt until nobody knew, and they stopped asking. Hiding your feelings will only make you lonely. I promise you that.)

There is no magic recipe for confidence. No amount of pixie dust and wishing can give it to you, and I learned the most surprising thing – confidence is a habit, just like any other. You don’t become confident and happy with yourself overnight – you have to make a conscious effort to work on it. I took baby steps. I would watch those ‘un-photoshop’ Dove campaigns and listen to positive music. I drank a lot of water (I still do. I have water with me at all times) and coffee (coffee is an appetite suppressant. Drinking black coffee between meals is zero-calorie and helps keep you from snacking). On Tumblr, I unfollowed blogs that made me feel bad about myself and began to follow blogs of philosophy and poetry and photography. I went through a few fashion blunders before finding out what looks good on me (I still flail there a bit when experimenting, but that’s why it’s called ‘experimenting’ in the first place).

I came across a phrase that has stuck with me since.

You are more than your negative space.

That simple sentence meant volumes to me. I was worth more than my appearance, or a few extra pounds, or a lot of extra pounds. If I was working on my appearance, if I cared,  that was the most important thing. Caring.  Doing my best with the body and face I’d been given, and not attempting to squeeze myself into a plastic mold. You are more than your negative space.

I read about a photographer who photographs nude subjects. He said something to the effect of, “I can’t count how many people have sat in this bed while I took pictures of them, and they’ve all had fat rolls. All of them, from size twelves to size zeroes. And they’re all beautiful.” (Also, guess what? Skinny people have just as much body-hate as everyone else.)

I began to see people for more than their size, because how idiotic is it that we judge people’s worth by how much space they do or don’t take up? How small-minded is it, that we look at the space under a person’s chin or the size of their thighs and use them as witnesses in their private trial?  I made an effort to see past this, to see the soul of someone. I discovered an amazing thing – in doing this, I began to stop seeing my appearance as the sum of my worth, and to see my own soul as my true value. Ironically, I began to pay more attention than ever to how I looked. It was a subtle shift, but I began to be happy with my appearance, and myself. I began to enjoy people, all shapes and sizes. Everyone has something beautiful about them, though we tend to focus on the ugly. We don’t define what beauty is. God does. And beauty is so much more than fat.

Now, I can say with all honesty that most days, I am one hundred percent happy and confident with my appearance. I even like pictures of myself, where I use to hate them. I wear red lipstick with confidence. I dye my hair pink. I wear hats and jewelry and winged eyeliner. I have people thank me for proving that plus-size people (to quote Meghan Trainor, ‘It’s pretty clear I ain’t no size two’) can look attractive and confident, and this warms my heart so much. I have an awkward build to dress –  legs too long for most jeans (really, why can’t they make skinny jeans with size 12 legs and a size 10 waist? Is that so difficult?) and a bust that makes it a necessity to wear XL shirts most of the time (ladies, let me tell you – don’t judge yourself by the size of your clothes. If you have to wear XL, then great! Buy that cute shirt in the size that fits you, and you’ll look great. Don’t try to force yourself into something too small). I have broad shoulders and my hips are connected oddly with my legs so I can’t wear heels for very long. Do I have bad days? Sure, yes, probably twice a month I wear yoga pants and a sweatshirt all day (on these days, I recommend a lot of hot beverages and binge-watching your favorite show). I’m not a fashion model – but it’s true that confidence is the most attractive thing you can put on.

You can learn confidence. I did. I’m here for you, rooting for you. You were made to shine. You were made to be God’s ambassador on earth, and God is the epitome of beauty. As I saw on Facebook the other day, you’re ‘God’s 3D selfie.’ It’s a modern way to put it, but there’s some truth there as well.

The next time you look in the mirror and start to think ‘I’m fat,’ rebuke it. You are not fat. You have fat. You also have eyelashes. That does not make you an eyelash.

Take selfies with your best face forward. Read fashion magazines for the fashion, not the envy. Shake your head at the photoshopped models. Ignore yo-yo diets. Eat healthy meals and cheat every once in a while. Breathe deep, look in the mirror. Take that baby step toward confidence. It will change your life. If I can do it then I promise you can, too. You are more than your appearance and once you learn to love your soul, it will begin to reflect through the body you wear.  You are beautiful. Know it.

 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

– Psalm 139: 14

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kiss and tell, a post by request

IMG_1500Lip colors are fun. Sure, many of them don’t exactly look natural, but there’s no denying that lips are an important part of your face – and they’re fun to color up! The right color can make your whole look pop, or give it dramatic elegance, or a subtle sheen. Lips are an important part of your appearance, so it’s a good thing there are a lot of ways to play them up. I’m not talking about anything fancy here – I’m giving you a few of my favorite lipstick colors in pinks, reds, and oranges, basic colors you can mix and match with any outfit.

 

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Left to Right: Burt’s Bees lip crayon in Carolina Coast, Bare Minerals lipstick in Sweet Apricot, Bare minerals lipstick in Berry Glace, Burt’s Bees lip crayon in Napa Vineyard, and Revlon lipstick in Cherries in the Snow.

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Tip: While I didn’t use any lip liners for this post since I was wiping off each color directly after I put it on, I would highly recommend them if you have vague lip lines (like I do). I use Bare Minerals lip liners; find a couple shades to match the basic lipstick colors, and a neutral. It will also help keep your lipstick from bleeding out, and will give you a good area to work in.

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I really love this orange, as it works with my pale skin tone and doesn’t make my teeth look yellow – two wins!

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This is the one cheap lipstick that I’ve kept, because I love the really dramatic, neon pink color. However, once I find a natural lipstick in a hot pink shade, I’ll be chucking this one in the trash.

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I know a lot of women who are afraid to wear red lipstick for fear it’s ‘too much.’ Don’t believe it. Red lipstick is the ultimate confidence boost, and I get compliments on it literally every time I wear red lipstick out of the house. If Peggy Carter can do it, so can you.

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Tip: My lips are shaped so that when I wear lipstick, I generally get lipstick on my teeth. To prevent this, just put your lips around your index finger and pull it out – voila! Problem solved.

Tip: Many lipsticks can be very drying, so I generally put a layer of lip balm underneath my coat of lipstick.

I know I didn’t cover anything fancy – no ombre lips or foiled lips or lip glosses – but hopefully this will be helpful in some way. Remember, having full lips doesn’t mean you can’t wear red lipstick – I’ve become a huge advocate for it. You can do this thing. Stay classy!

The Beauty Perspective

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Did you watch the video? I hope you watched the video, because it’s pertinent. I have a bone to pick with social media, and it’s not what you think. Not necessarily, anyway. Nearly every time I’m on Tumblr, I see a post that says something like, ‘EVERY PERSON IS BEAUTIFUL.’ And while it elicits a smile and an ‘awww, thanks’ feeling, it falls flat. Because the truth is, not everyone is. Not every person has an hourglass figure, or glossy hair, or full lips or exotic cheekbones. Not everyone has long legs and a swan-like neck, or clear skin and stunning eyes. Some people’s appearances are plain. Not everyone we see makes us go, “Oh, wow. They’re beautiful.” You don’t see signs telling you, “EVERY PERSON HAS A LOVELY SINGING VOICE,” or, “EVERY PERSON SMELLS LIKE FRESH MINT.” You know why? Because it isn’t true. Our society has grown so tired of being forced to try and look like every airbrushed, touched-up magazine cover and movie star that we’ve swung in the opposite direction. They’re trying to convince everyone that they are physically appealing – and it’s a lie. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Not everyone reading this is aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

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(But you looked so cute in that picture up there, you might say. Well, this is a totally untouched photo my dad took on his phone, of me taking a picture of a display. That’s for another post. This is what I look like on a normal day, without a filter, when I’m caught unawares, not posing or smiling or worrying. I think I look pretty okay.)

And you know what? It’s not important. Because there are two kinds of beauty – inward beauty and outward beauty. As Christians, while I think we should do our best to look beautiful as sons and daughters of the King, I think we tend to put just as much value in our appearance as the world does. It bothers me. Christ didn’t preach beautification of the body, he preached purification of the soul. He didn’t come to earth with the message, “YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL” – he came with the message, “YOU ARE VALUED. YOU ARE LOVED. YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD.” Never once in the Bible did Jesus walk up to someone and tell them they were physically appealing. In fact, in His human form, Jesus was plain to look upon.

And I think it helped His ministry. People didn’t see him and become dazzled by his outward appearance – they looked beyond that. I think our society has grown to so worship the outward appearance that people take one look and stop there. ‘Oh, wow, she’s gorgeous; she must be worth my time.’ ‘He’s really cute, I bet he’s a great guy.’ We have kicked inward values to the curb, traded them in for hours in front of the mirror.

Now, I try to look nice, on most days (I happen to be writing this on the day I wore cutoffs and a tee shirt because I wasn’t going anywhere and I wanted to be comfortable, but six days out of seven, I try to look nice). I put on makeup, I do my hair, I wear jewelry. I want to look appealing. I want to think of myself as appealing. But after watching the video above, mom turned to my sister and myself and asked, “So, when do you feel the most beautiful?”

My sister’s reply? “I can’t think of any of those times.”

My sister has a Scarlett Johansson figure, big eyes, and flaming red hair, and she can’t think of a single time she’s truly felt beautiful.

My mom, with the wide smile and beautiful white-gold hair (who I know, for a fact, gets checked out by mature gentlemen when we’re out and about) said that she couldn’t single out a particular time, either.

I was astonished. Do you know why? I’m five foot ten; I’m not petite. I have long limbs that are positioned in such a way that I can’t walk gracefully and think at the same time. My hair doesn’t know what color it wants to be, doesn’t know whether to curl or frizz most days, and my eyes aren’t anything special. My skin isn’t particularly clear, and I have extra weight around my middle, my face, and my upper arms.

And I feel beautiful ninety percent of the time. (I’m not going to mention That Time of the Month because I always feel like a beached whale, but I’m blaming that on hormones.) Granted, there are times I feel more beautiful than others. I feel beautiful when a guy flirts with me across the counter. I feel beautiful when I’m sleeping under nothing but the sheets. I feel beautiful when I’m not thinking about how I look.

We’ve put so much stock on how we look that we’ve decided we are only worth as much as our negative space; that if we have thin lips or frizzy hair or a double chin we aren’t beautiful. We buy into it. We forget to realize that outward beauty is false. It’s going to fade. Some people never have it. But inward beauty transforms how we look. If we’re content, if we’re peaceful, if we’re kind inside, it shines out. Some of the most beautiful people I have ever known were nothing special to look at, but I never looked at their appearance – it shone through their eyes and their actions. People were drawn to them like moths to light.

That’s the kind of beauty God is interested in. Society is interested in how we look, but guess what? It doesn’t mean anything.

Take care of yourself. Take pride in your appearance, but don’t obsess over it. Be who God created you to be, and know that you can get better. Care more about the souls of the people around you than whether your hair looks good. Because beauty is a funny thing, and if you can get it on the inside, people won’t care what you look like. They’ll care about who you are.

But you have to care about it first.