Beauty is in the Eye of Our Beholder presents, “Magnetic Beauty Doesn’t Depend on Your Good Jeans” by guest writer Deidre Braley. Scroll down and pick up Deidre’s “10 Step Anti-Anxiety-To-Do List.”
Magnetic Beauty Doesn’t Depend on Your Good Jeans
I used to think that beauty was dependent on one thing, and one thing only: the degree to which someone else noticed and admired it. To be seen as pretty—especially in middle school—was the ultimate compliment, the one true thing that mattered. Sure, it was nice to be congratulated for spelling all of the words on the list right or for being called kind or intelligent or hard-working, but more than anything in the world I longed for a boy to look at me and think, “That girl is beautiful.”
That’s probably why I still remember sitting on the school bus in seventh grade and Stephen Jones asking me why I had glitter on my lips, “‘cuz it looked stupid.”
Or the way it still stings when I think of Alex Davis pointing out my buck teeth and telling everyone they made me look like a beaver.
I remember a friend telling me that my breasts were too low, that my eyebrows were too bushy, and that my backside looked huge in those jeans. She laughed and forgot; I did not.
Now, as a thirties-something wife and mother, I am older and wiser than my younger self. My brain knows that my value doesn’t come from the size of my backside, and that my worth doesn’t come from whether someone’s eyes are ogling me. But I would be lying if I said that I didn’t look in the mirror sometimes and lament the lines coming alive on my forehead, or mourn the way my hips have widened and my stomach has softened and my clothes serve more as a covering than a compliment these days.
There are times when we’re in public and I lean over and whisper to my husband, “I need you to tell me I look beautiful right now. I don’t even care that I’m telling you to say it; heck, I don’t care if you’re thinking it. Just lie to me and tell me I’m gorgeous anyway.”
The truth is, I don’t want to write something trite about the way we’re all beautiful in God’s eyes because we’re made in his image. I do believe it to be true, and yet—I also believe that we have an innate longing to be noticed, to be set apart, and to be admired. What then can we do about our post-baby bodies, our less-than-supple skin, and the tension between our desire to be seen as attractive…and our feelings that we are not? It’s a true and painful thing to grapple with; not acknowledging this won’t do us any favors. Actually, it will probably just make us want to retreat further into our sweatpants.
This week I stood in the shower and contemplated this very thing; watching the water flow over my third-trimester belly and noticing the way my thighs dimpled, I began to wonder if there comes a time when beauty is lost, when we as women must just learn to content ourselves with other qualities. But no; I thought of the most radiant women I’ve known in my life, and as I turned them over in my mind, I realized that many of them had gray hair, lined faces, and soft bodies. It is true that they weren’t cover models, or that they may not have had men falling at their feet, but their type of beauty was somehow more powerful and true: their very presence was magnetic, and the response it evoked was not lust, but rather intrigue. They were women that people desired to be around, to know more about, and to befriend. People wanted to know what it was like to love—and be loved by—them.
What produces this kind of magnetic beauty? If not taut skin and a sweeping mane of glossy hair, where can we find this stuff? How can we begin, like these women, to not just look pretty, but to actually exude the essence of beauty so strongly that, as Roald Dahl once said, “it will shine out of [our] face[s] like sunbeams and [we] will always look lovely?”
What produces this kind of magnetic beauty? If not taut skin and a sweeping mane of glossy hair, where can we find this stuff? How can we begin, like these women, to not just look pretty, but to actually exude the essence of beauty so strongly that, as Roald Dahl once said, “it will shine out of [our] face[s] like sunbeams and [we] will always look lovely?” – Deidre Braley #beauty #encouragement #innerbeautyTweet
I began thinking of the times when I, too, have felt magnetic. Not because I was having a fantastic hair day or because I was wearing my good jeans, but because something else—something deeper—was flowing through and out of me. Here are some specific times that came to mind:
- Earlier this summer when I went swimming in the ocean
When I plunged my head beneath the water and came up baptized in salt, hair clinging to my face and neck, I was buoyant beneath the sun. There, my body existed not to be seen but to be felt, to be appreciated for the way it could respond to the elements of cold and hot and mineral wetness. It was alive. I was alive. A laugh erupted from my abdomen, and I felt as though God and I exchanged some holy knowingness, right there.
- The token time I had a speaking engagement—and cried on stage
I had been asked to talk about the theme of renewal at our women’s gathering at church. I stood before the room in the outfit I’d obsessed over and told a wobbly joke. And as I began to say what I had rehearsed, I realized that I wasn’t as renewed as I thought I was. I realized I was speaking for dear life—the words I said had to be true, because my life depended on them. I stood alone on that stage and cried. It’s the stuff nightmares are made of. And yet, yet—women nodded and urged me on. They cried too. And afterwards, they came to me and said, That’s just what I needed. When we held hands and eye met teary eye, I felt that flow of energy, far more substantial and real than photoshop and lust.
- At our local French bakery, people watching and eating a chocolate croissant
The croissant was so flaky that whenever I took a bite, bits of pastry fell into my lap, my hair, my bosom. I felt entirely unself-conscious, though; I was consumed by the way the daffodils were such a pale yellow that they looked almost white. I delighted in the bulldog, tethered to a table and greeting all passersby with an optimistic lean of his head toward their outstretched fingers. On the back of my brown paper pastry bag, I jotted a poem. It spilled out of me and I could hardly keep up with the words. I walked back to my car, jubilant. When I got home I tucked the greasy poem into my journal, to return to that feeling another day.
What was the common denominator in all of these moments?
A feeling of being seen and known, at the soul level.
When I swam in the ocean, I felt that divine exchange with God. I was delighted by his creation, delighted to be part of his creation, and I felt so connected to him in that moment that I couldn’t help but feel that all the world had taken on a certain splendor—myself included. I was an extension of his artistry, and to be touched with even a drop of his glory made me feel glorious, too.
I was seen and known by God.
At the speaking engagement, I was connected with other women by our shared humanity. The brushing of our hands, the understanding in our glances, and the voices saying, I know how that feels and, Me too—we weren’t seeing with our eyes at that point, but with our souls. I felt radiant to be a part of such holy union.
I was seen and known by others.
And the time at the bakery? It was nothing short of revelatory. It was as though I could suddenly see my place in the world and—while I was certainly not the center of it—I had a place there, too. The poetry that poured forth was an expression of the individual me-ness that God had planted. Though my contribution may have been just words on the back of a croissant wrapper, I was offering to God and to the world that which he had given me. And it felt incredible.
I was seen and known by myself.
So it came to me, while I reached the loofah to my feet and considered how badly I needed a pedicure: The kind of magnetic beauty that those women had—and that I have felt on occasion, too—it’s created when we are seen and known at the soul level: by God, by others, and by ourselves. This is something that happens deep beneath the skin and signs of time that hang upon our bodies.
The kind of magnetic beauty that those women had—and that I have felt on occasion, too—it’s created when we are seen and known at the soul level: by God, by others, and by ourselves. – Deidre Braley #beauty #Godsees #encouragementTweet
But then—and this next step is positively essential: that magnetic beauty starts to become exuded when we not only experience being seen and known, but accept it. When we grab hold of the freedom that it offers us to be wildly and unashamedly love-filled and poetic and quirky and enchanted, and then we revel in it.
That is the type of beauty that endures well past our youth. It is the type of beauty that develops as we begin to understand that being seen and known is far more satisfying than being ogled and admired. Whereas our desire to be desired leaves us feeling enslaved to standards that often feel impossible and inhospitable, our willingness to be seen and known at the soul level—first by our Maker, then by ourselves and those we prayerfully share ourselves with—leads to a total liberation that the world can’t help but notice and say, “What is it about that woman? Man, she’s beautiful.”
1 Names of all boys changed to protect their foolish, middle school identities
ABOUT THE AUTHOR –
Deidre Braley is a freelance writer and editor. She lives in Maine with her husband and two (soon to be three!) children, and most days can be found savoring an overly cheesy bagel or drinking a second cup of coffee while working on her weekly newsletter, The Second Cup. She is a strong believer in the power of poetry, picking roadside flowers, and blowing past small talk at all costs. Follow her on Instagram @deidresecondcup or on Facebook — she loves welcoming new friends to her Second Cup community.
Pick up Deidre Braley’s list of helpful strategies to walk through to help regulate your mind, spirit, and body when anxiety threatens to send you into a spiral.
Remember, you are Beautiful!
Beauty Is in the Eye of Our Beholder seeks to help women see themselves as God’s beautiful daughters. Some describe a faithful Christian as glowing. This spiritual glow from the Holy Spirit comes from the inside out, radiating our body, character, conversation, and conduct – our whole being.
I would love to connect more with you and give you my FREE gift – BEAUTY IS IN THE EYES OF OUR BEHOLDER MANIFESTO: 10 Affirmations to cultivate your glow. You can also sign up HERE for my newsletter and receive the FREE Manifesto, recent blog posts, book reviews, giveaways, and personal details only delivered to my lovely email tribe.
Follow Also on Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest – Thank you!
This site is ad-supported. Learn more here. Please check out my affiliate partners! Doing so helps you and supports my blog – WPengine, Sephora, Ulta, Barnes and Noble, Koh Gen Do, Dr. Perricone, and The Virtual Savvy.