I remember that day like it was yesterday. Sitting in front of my mirror in my college dorm room my freshman year, tears ran down my cheeks as I called my mom and said “Mom, I’m beautiful.” On the other end of the phone, I could hear the shock in my mother’s voice. “Clare what are you talking about? You have been told your whole life by your family and strangers how beautiful you are.”
I may have been told I was beautiful but up until this day I never felt it. I never saw it, I never embraced it, and most definitely I never accepted it. I felt ugly inside and when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t see my big blue eyes, I saw regret. I didn’t see thick long hair; I felt the weight of shame. I didn’t see a tall strong athletic body …I saw a body that was weak because I didn’t stop the abuse. I saw a body that I hated, and I shamed myself for someone else’s sins against my body and soul.
They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all I beheld was insecurity, fear, anger, bitterness, depression, anxiety and condemnation.
Being a victim of child abuse at the age of five left wounds on my soul that I had hoped my home could heal. Surely home was supposed to be a place of refuge, safety, security and comfort, right? I had a really strong dad and big brothers that would protect me. I told myself they would love me, fight for me and rescue me. Unfortunately, that wasn’t my reality but only a dream I held in my broken heart that never came true.
As a little girl, I wanted the fundamental basic needs of safety, comfort and love. Instead, I lived in a home plagued with anger, rage, abuse, mental illness and dysfunction.
Were there moments of love and happiness my mother tried to create? Sure… but they were far and few between the episodes of domestic violence, outrage and abuse from my father that shattered my identity, self-image and self-worth.
I didn’t speak up much as a child. When you live in a tumultuous environment, you learn to cope and survive. Silence became something I mastered until I hit my teen years. Then it was game over. I began to speak the TRUTH.
I hated the facade, denial and hypocrisy. I was open and honest and vowed to myself that I would not hide the ugly hard truths. The ages of 13-17 were rough years and you can only imagine how my boldness was not delivered with grace or gentleness. I had deep pain and it impacted every area of my life. I refused to even entertain the idea of beauty. Our financial situation never afforded me the opportunity to buy makeup or pretty outfits, except for the occasional gifts from extended family members or hand me downs from friends that I loved.
My mom never wore makeup, and I was the only girl for 10 years with four brothers so my first experiences dressing up or playing with makeup came with my cousins and friends. They had vanities with sweet smelling lotions and shiny lip-glosses, instead of Vaseline. They had pretty outfits and fun accessories. I loved going to their houses and pretending to be beautiful. I can remember the fun and my love for all things beauty growing.
When I started High School, I stayed at my friend’s house a lot so I could put on her makeup and clothes. I remember getting ready at her vanity thinking I’m going to feel so much better after I put on this makeup and outfit- only to feel just as ugly minutes later. In college, my girlfriend showed me how to walk in heels and showed me every shade of lipstick.
A part of me felt new when I put on makeup and a cute outfit but the wounds in my heart made it all disappear within minutes. I attended a Christian college, which is a complete miracle and another story for later. In my 17-year-old mind, I wasn’t happy about the required mandatory chapel twice a week. Frankly, I wasn’t happy with this God I had heard about my whole life from my abusive dad, and I wanted no parts.
Walking into that first chapel I swung my hips and rolled my eyes. As I walked closer to the front seat, my heart began to beat faster as the most beautiful music got louder and louder. My palms were sweaty, and I began to FEEL an environment I had never known. It was as if I had just walked into a cloud of peace. I barely made it to my chair before I fell to the ground in complete brokenness. I felt the love of God and felt so unworthy. I cried because everything I had hoped my childhood home had provided was right in front of me and all around me in the same moment. I felt peace, love, joy, safety, protection, security, stability and refuge. I felt the burning love of Jesus that gave me permission to grieve my pain in his presence and begin my healing process. I felt beauty in JESUS and when he touched my ugly damaged heart, I finally felt and saw beauty in my own mirror.
For me, beauty is so much more than makeup, hair products and skin care. Beauty is about having your heart transformed on the inside so you can portray that beauty on the outside. Jesus promises to give us beauty from the ashes that the fires of trauma bring.
Beauty is about understanding that we are God’s daughters who are deeply loved. That we all possess unique character and traits that our heavenly father personally picked out. Beauty is knowing that makeup, hair care and accessories are meant to be enjoyed- not an escape.
Beauty is about shining your light, not covering up your messy mindsets and hiding behind concealer and lashes.
If you stick around, you will find me sharing all things beauty inside and out. My hope is that you embrace, accept and experience the beauty that you already own, and my motivation is to help you find it.