For the girls.

This morning, as I drove to work with Lucy sitting in the backseat, Colbie Caillat's song "Try" came on the radio. I remember when the video first came out and everyone was praising Colbie for being "brave" enough to take her makeup off and show what she really looks like. My first thought was "I love Colbie Caillat even more now than I did before!" which was immediately followed by "Brave? This is how we're defining 'brave' now?"

According to the standards women are held to by the media, their peers, their partners, and the culture at large, Colbie was brave. She wasn't being held captive as a prisoner of war, like the young women kidnapped in Nigeria, or trying desperately to maintain some of her dignity as she was forced into sexual slavery, but in a small way Colbie took back something that rightfully belonged to her: her sense of self-worth. And by doing so she sent a the same message to every other woman: "You are beautiful exactly as you are...tall, short, wild hair, wrinkles, acne, big breasts, small hips, and everything in between."

When I watched that video, I saw so much of my own face in hers. Like me, Colbie is tall and blonde. She has high cheekbones and pale eyelashes that disappear without mascara. Her skin is fair. And by the end, she looked like a whisper of the dolled-up version we saw at the beginning...but no less lovely. Now I can't help but wonder: when did putting our best foot forward get translated into such radical expectations of beauty? When did it become brave for us to go without makeup? And why is it still so difficult for us to look at ourselves in the mirror and like what we see?

Who gets to set the standard?

Well, we do.

I am blessed to say that there are many young women in my life. I have a big sister and a little sister. I have friends and acquaintances. I have teenage, pre-teen, and toddler nieces. I have a daughter. I lead a small group of high schools girls at church. And every single one of them is absolutely gorgeous. Maybe I say that because I know them and getting to know a person as SURPRISE! a person means that we start to see evidence on the outside of what's beautiful on the inside. But even if we have varying definitions of what's physically beautiful (and by "if" I mean "despite the fact") we cannot deny that each woman is a living, breathing human being. She started out as a few tiny cells and, now, there is a person standing in front of us. Someone whose body inherently knows how to grow and heal and create more life. Someone with memories and experiences and an imagination. Someone who is valuable because of the simple reason that she exists. And her value is not determined by anything we say or do. It cannot be altered. It cannot be diminished. It cannot be removed. It is. And it always will be.

I often look at the faces of the women in my life and think, "Good Lord, you're pretty!" And then someone will tell a joke or win an award or recommend their favorite book to me and I'll think, "You're the coolest person I've ever known." I wish they could see themselves the way I do. I wish I could see myself the way they do. I imagine that if we all came equipped with that superpower, the world would be a better place. Because then we wouldn't have to wonder if we we worth anything. Now, listen, I still believe our value isn't determined by the opinions of others. But having the ability to see in our friends and co-workers and neighbors and loved ones what God sees would mean that any opinion tossed our way would reflect His opinion. And, ladies, God's opinion is Truth with a capital "T".

So here's my suggestion for the next time we want to get a group together and set a new standard for beauty:

It's already been done. It's you

It's that girl sitting in the back row who always keeps her eyes on the floor. 

It's the woman who shows a lot of skin and it's the woman who shows a little. 

It's the girl who runs around with her hat on backwards. 

It's the girl who plays with dolls. 

It's the woman who adopted and the woman who chose not to have children and the woman who birthed five babies.

It's the girl with scars on her body.

It's the woman with the lines of her own history etched on her face.

As the song came to a close, and Colbie wrapped up the chorus, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw something that brought all of this home for me. It was my 17-month old daughter, hands up in the air, eyes closed, swaying back and forth to the gentle, sweet rhythm of the music.

Don't you like you? Colbie asked.

'Cause I like you. 

1 comment

Shirley West said...

Brought tears to my eyes.