Role models who have achieved self acceptance protect, inoculate, and immunize us against low self-esteem. Oprah made a comment on her show featuring R & B artist, Mary J. Blige, that women who have been molested no longer “feel worthy.” How do we get this worthiness back? Must we depend upon our Mother’s? For those of us who did not get “the vaccination” but instead became infected with low self esteem, how do we root it out of our hearts, our bloodstream, thus becoming healthy, vibrant, and confident women?
Brave female crusaders in the media are trying to turn things around for women suffering from a malady of symptoms from low self esteem. On her CD, Breakthrough, Mary J. expresses her journey through drugs, pain, and self-loathing which ultimately led to her breakthrough into sober living and a strong faith in God. She speaks openly on the Oprah show about forgiving her own Mother, “I blame my Mother for nothing; I forgive her for everything.” Somewhere along in our journey into our own breakthroughs, we must begin with forgiveness, and usually that will be towards our own Mothers who for one reason or another were not able to give us that vaccination so needed to protect us against unworthiness.
My own Mother struggled to find her value, worth, and place in the world as a young child. At the tender age of four she was sent off to Boarding School, a custom not uncommon for British children of her era. My Mother came to America when she was a toddler after the sudden death of her father, making her Mother a young widow left with two baby daughters to raise. Fighting back poverty and aloneness in a new strange country her Mother worked particularly hard to make herself as attractive as possible. To secure a good future for herself and her children, she graduated from Beauty School and having had some experience in show business back in England, she elevated beauty, fitness, and self-confidence to the highest level. At a very young age, my Mother watched her Mom meticulously care for her complexion, count her calories, wear smart clothes, and most profoundly, attract the attention of admiring men. But this was not the vaccination she needed to rise above the wiles of looming self doubt. Even with all the best training in beauty and appearance, she was not secure inside. Helen Keller, a woman with no eyesight, or hearing, overcame to find beauty in her world which sustained her: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” She hit the nail on the head! It’s within our hearts that true and genuine beauty is reflected. It is what makes our complexions glow and our eyes radiate a light from within.
Having none herself, my Mother was not able to vaccinate me against low self esteem. But in God’s goodness and grace, as a Child of God I move forward from “glory to glory,” from strength to strength, progressing past the limitations of physical appearance thus redefining beauty for myself and my daughters.
2 Corinthians 3:18But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” King James
Extremely tall, awkward, shy, and ashamed, I maneuvered through high school with a vulnerability to the plethora of enticements around me. Any high mountain with steep cliffs could have wooed me over the edge with but a tap. I was, as so many young girls are today, simply unvaccinated and ill equipped to fight the mass barrage of subtle but powerful messages: “You don’t have what it takes… otherwise you would be in movies or on magazine covers,” and other similar thoughts as these. Fortunately, my shyness kept me away from popular parties where drugs were passed; my height scared off boys; and my faith kept me in safe places where I slowly became inoculated against low self-esteem and learned a new kind, God-esteem, where His love dominated everything else.
I remember as a wayward teen thinking that a way to end my disenchantment with life was to take my own life. This is what unvaccinated women consider until they have gained access to weapons which fight off thoughts of such illusions and seductions. Just as the snake in the Garden of Eden tempted with lies, every woman at some point will find herself in a place where she either resists those lies, or caves in. My cousin in her early 30’s succeeded in taking her own life, which surprisingly gave me a stronger resolve to stay alive. Ugly duckling teen I may have felt, yet still I had breath, and with that breath I could speak out words as an offense tactic against the lies. In time, I began to transform from the ugly duckling into the beautiful swan. Shedding feathers of awkwardness as God’s love penetrated my heart, I gained a graceful composure, an inner strength, and a remarkable confidence in God and His plan for me.
Daniel 12:3“… And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness (to uprightness and right standing with God) [shall give forth light] like the stars forever and ever.
Yes, the ugly duckling became a beautiful swan in the famous fairy tale. The unworthy teen became a confident, self assured woman. Every decision to see myself, not as my Mother or Grandmother saw themselves, but as God sees me, brings a brilliance from within radiating true beauty. “I blame my Mother for nothing, I forgive her for everything.” My self acceptance comes from God’s acceptance of me.
Today, as I walk along the beach in the mornings, the vaccination of gratitude, forgiveness, and solitude strengthen me. Living close to the shoreline, I observe the many moods of the ocean. Some days I look out and see grey, tumultuous surf; other days look out and see a brilliant blue crest laden with surfers and a seashore scattered with scampering sand pipers. Recently a seaweed strand washed up on the sand and formed a heart shape so I took a picture of it on my cell and mailed it to my daughter. My unspoken message? “You are loved. You are treasured. No matter how far away you are, your heartbeat is next to mine and I believe in you. Because I believe in myself and every breathe is a gift from God.”
Beauty comes from the heart, and as Helen Keller reminds us, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched … but are felt in the heart.” My legacy of beauty and self acceptance started on shaky ground. But because of God’s faithfulness, I was able to go a little farther than those women before me and I have full confidence that my daughters will go farther than me.
All of us will shine and find our place as stars in the sky because God wills it so. Each one’s story, builds a legacy, a tale of arriving at that place Mary J. calls breakthrough. And as we overcome, we leave a bit of hope for other young women, starting out on their journey of forgiveness and redefinition of beauty. And we say, “From our hearts, beauty shines through our eyes, our countenance, our vulnerable beginnings.” It transforms us from inside out and brings a message of hope vs. defeat; a message of life vs. death, of breath vs. suffocation. We breathe free. We breathe bold. We’re alive and that is beautiful all in itself.