By Janet Schwind
My first brush with beautification rituals came in the sixth grade when I finally convinced my mom to let me shave my legs. By this time the hair was so long I had to use a machete to knock down the heavy growth. It did not help that my three brothers called me cavewoman.
Contact lenses, makeup and a fresh, over-wound home perm brought me into modern society as an incoming college freshman. All these years, growing up sheltered in the Catholic church (and school), only to be released into the wild now without any real idea of who I was, how I fit in, or where to locate my missing self-esteem.
It was in college that I noticed for the first time that my clothes were not all that fashionable and I felt the sting of rejection by mean girls of superior income and style. This did not stop me from discovering beer and boys, however. Having never dated in high school, I took the guys’ interest in me as a possible source of self-esteem (plus, my perm had now relaxed to more tolerable levels).
This didn’t work out that well. While I did have my first love, a long term boyfriend through most of college, he wasn’t all that nice to me, and I kept feeling confused by his intense proclamations of forever love vs. his intense pushing me into thorn bushes.
Somehow I found the courage to break free of said BF after graduation, while still searching for the thing that would make me feel beautiful. Every girl longs to be beautiful, it’s just how we’re made. For some reason I could never really believe that I was, even when a man would tell me I was. In my twenties I recall studying my face for a really long time in the mirror from various angles and absolutely HATING how I looked. There was something ugly and wrong with my face. Especially the nose. How could I avoid people looking at my profile?
One day while watching satellite TV I happened upon a documentary about a condition called Body Dysmorphic Disorder and realized it was me. Great, now I’m ugly and I have a mental illness.
But the revelation made me question my perception of my beauty. If it was so far off, then maybe I’m not really ugly? I got a little freer in that moment of truth. It was a start but I would continue to cling to an emphasis on my looks as the core of my self confidence. As I grew into my 30s though, the bonds of my childhood loosed a little more when my faith became real. It was the start of a new thing.
I won’t say this transformation happened over night or that it’s complete—because I am still inching forward today, falling back, then moving ahead again—but I will say that I have discovered something that defines my beauty more than my hairless legs, full-bodied hair and trendy clothes. Knowing who I am, and Who I am with, shapes my view of the world and of myself to a greater degree every day. The more areas I release to God, the more freedom I find. It’s a constant battle for me to choose to live in the spiritual reality versus looking at surface beauty and ideas of the world.
But whatever, I still love Honey Spice #5. I still shave my legs too.
Janet is by trade a professional copywriter, having worked most of her 25-year career in advertising agency settings but most recently, and quite happily, in her living room as a freelancer, which allows her to wear jammie pants to work. She provides business and consumer clients with creative solutions in specialty areas including identity/branding and writing for the web. A brief stint with an Indianapolis publishing company stirred up a passion for helping authors shape their manuscripts for publication, as well as the chance to write a chapter in the book Overtime: the Bonus Years. Janet enjoys being a girl and a follower of Jesus and writing about it with a sense of humor, because how else would you handle such a situation? Contact Janet at email@example.com