“Beauty will save the world.” -Dostoyevsky
Take one look around you—at the magazines, movies, billboards and newspapers that fill our culture and it’s not hard to see… We’re a society that worships beauty. The model, the movie star, the stunning celebrity is held in the most honorable of places (and perhaps this was always so for the most beautiful of women).
It’s clear that there is great power in beauty. And great pain.
I have never known a woman (including myself)—no matter what her background, what she looks like, no matter what her weight, or how many men have pursued her—who has not known the pain, and the shame, of not feeling beautiful enough.
My best friends and I talk about this topic frequently.
We get dressed to go out, spending (ok, I’ll admit it… sometimes hours getting ready) only to arrive at a restaurant, bar or party to take one look at all the other gorgeous girls around us, and say: “Ugh! I feel disgusting!” (Anyone relate?)
The shame of not feeling beautiful enough is rampant and frequent. We feel like there’s something wrong with us, and we want to go and hide.
Yet, recently I was getting ready once again to go out with my friends. I put on my makeup, put on a beautiful dress, and when I went out, several people said to me, “You look so beautiful!”
To my shock, I STILL felt shame. I felt like something was wrong with me and wanted to go and hide.
I think many of we women are scared of not being beautiful enough; and equally, I think we are afraid to be too beautiful, to actually be seen and noticed.
What if other girls are jealous? What if they think we’re conceited and vain? What if we’re condemned and criticized for our beauty? Even worse, what if we’re taken advantage of? What if we’re misused or abused?
And in addition, what if we can’t keep up that beautiful image we’re trying so hard to create for ourselves for very long?
There have a been a few points in my life where I have been “model” thin (underweight in fact). But whenever I got to this place I would get so scared because I knew it wasn’t sustainable. What was I going to do when I could no longer keep up that beautiful “model-like” image? It was bound to break eventually… and then what?
The same can go for our internal beauty, our virtues and attributes.
Not long ago in confession a priest asked me: “Are you afraid to be holy?”
It caught me by surprise because my immediate internal response was, “Yes! I am! I’m afraid that if I’m too holy and too good, it will threaten others, make others feel bad, make them uncomfortable. And likewise, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to ever measure up to my own image of what holiness is.”
I’m afraid of being too holy, and I’m afraid of never being holy enough.
Yet I’m reminded again and again that God does not desire our performance. And our lovability does not rest on our achievement.
The size of our body and the look of our face will certainly change as time goes on, and our own virtues will most likely fail us sooner or later. But the Lord’s gaze never changes.
Even the pope is not too holy, and even the prostitute on the street is beautiful enough. Because as our Holy Father keeps telling us, “God’s Name is Mercy.” He sees us with the eyes of love.
I wonder how different the world would be if we could truly see, truly know and experience this: the beauty of His love. His love is the beauty that saves the world, and when we remember His love, we are not afraid of being too much, and we know that we are more than enough.