Body Series

In my body is a safe space to be, A series: From Clare, with love.

I met Clare freshman year of high school and I’ve been stuck on her ever since. It’s her grace, the elegance of her walk, the softness of her voice, and the sparkle in her eyes. It’s her faith, in God, in you and me, and all of humanity. It’s enlightening. Clare—I love you. I read your answers and burst into tears. You’re the most profound and perceptive human. I don’t think I can articulate the amount of beauty and soul you possess. You’re amazing. You’re the most pure being. You’re a whole being. Keep growing, and believing, and loving. Thank you for sharing.

I’ve started this series because through my own self acceptance search/journey I’ve realized that we, as humans, all have problems with our skin suit no matter what it looks like. The point of this series is to confront our flaws AND to highlight our excellence. I hope one day we’ll all be able to wake up and that voice in our mind which lists all our faults on repeat will be much quieter if not silent. The mirror will be less scary. We’ll smile as we pass our gorgeous selves. We’ll have a bounce in our steps. One day we’ll love our bodies exactly as they are right now. We might have bad days . We might have bad weeks. Yet once we unlock that key, that key of self love we’ll know we can get back to a sanctuary within our bodies. Our bodies and our selves are waiting for that love, waiting for that permission to just be. As I said to Clare, (and as I say to all my future spotlights), be gentle with yourself, you are meeting parts of yourself that you have been at war with.

1. What makes you feel beautiful?

I feel beautiful when I am unconditionally loved, and in those moments when I am reminded of how intricately I am made, both body and soul. Jesus makes me feel stunningly beautiful. Any beauty in myself is a glimpse of Him.

2. What makes you feel powerful?

Honestly, anger. But I don’t want to be angry. I really don’t even want to feel powerful. I want to love so profoundly that it becomes my identity, and love gently coaxes you to relinquish your grasp on power. I feel most deeply myself, most at peace, most right with the world and with God when I fall flat on my face and am reminded of my smallness, of my weakness, of how silly I am when I imagine myself to be anything but frail. Western culture tells us this is the worst possible end, but I can’t help but see the incredible beauty in frailty, in vulnerability. I think of violets, and how quiet and small they are and how fragile and exposed their little flower bodies are, but yet what resilience lies in their humility, and what beauty in their simplicity. I want to be like that – simple and unremarkable in and of myself, and because of this able to be full of joy and peace whose source is beyond myself.

3. What would you tell your past self about beauty and bodies?

I’d tell myself so many things… Stop mercilessly comparing yourself to other people and to what you feel like you should be. Your beauty is inherent because you are made in the image and likeness of God, Who is Beauty. You’ve been given love and beauty and dignity by your very creation. It’s not something superficial enough to be destroyed by how you look, what you do, what happens to you, pain inflicted in your life, or any of that, because honestly it has nothing to do with you. Love is the source of beauty, and beauty is love’s radiance. It can be obscured or muddied or even rejected by you, but it can never be truly touched or at all diminished. You are pursued by this Love beyond your wildest understanding, and your dignity cannot be separated from the fact that you exist. Don’t protest it or say it’s not possible given who you are or what you’ve done, because that doesn’t matter. Its source is not in you, you see. Be gentle with yourself.

4. How does your skin color make you feel?

It’s comforting in that it’s familiar and it’s mine. When I was younger I didn’t like it, and I wavered between wishing it were a few shades darker, like the skin of my Lebanese family members, and wishing that I had freckles and a rosier complexion instead of yellow undertones. I used to feel like the paleness of my skin distanced me from my heritage, but I don’t feel that way anymore.

5. How have you struggled with your body?

I have to give my mom credit in that she raised me the right way when it came to body image, never talking about her body, my body, or the bodies of other women, and only talking with me about food and exercise in terms of how to be healthy. I grew up fairly unconscious of my appearance, and once I hit an age where my friends started scrutinizing every part of their bodies, I still remained fairly secure in how I looked, even if I wished certain things were different about my body. So initially, I was fine. The summer after my sophomore year of high school, I was diagnosed with Alopecia, which is an autoimmune disease that attacks the hair follicles. Over the course of a few months, all of my hair fell out, and I was absolutely devastated. I had just turned fifteen, and at such a vulnerable age, I was not only watching myself become what felt profoundly ugly, but I felt like my whole identity as a woman had been destroyed. I was barren, useless, forever unappealing, and no matter what I did or how good my body looked I could not make myself beautiful, especially for men. I honestly felt like I was no longer a human being, like I was some sort of monster that would never be desirable or lovable. Coming back to school made things worse, since I tried to hide my baldness under a scarf and was too embarrassed and in pain to tell anyone what had happened, which resulted in certain friends distancing themselves and certain rumors being spread. For all of that though, the experience ended up being a (painful) blessing. It cut me down just enough to allow me to grow from it exponentially. In certain minor ways I do struggle with my body now. When I stop to look at myself, I tend to see an awkward body and a weirdly angular face, but for some reason, thinking I’m not beautiful doesn’t really bother me, as crazy as that sounds. I think when my hair was gone, I got used to never looking in a mirror and detaching my worth from my appearance. It does lead to some lack of confidence though when I get dressed up to go out or for some nice occasion, and I feel like the beautiful clothes and makeup don’t match the girl. It’s something I’m working on.

6. Complete this sentence… “In my body is a safe place to be because….”

“In my body is a safe place to be because….” it belongs to God, and everything He holds is safe.

From Clare, with love.

Thank you.

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