For better, for worse.

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I’ve begun learning something deep and irrevocably profound: there is great, timeless beauty in accepting yourself fully. Good days, bad days, okay days. Put together or falling apart. We are at our best when we are at rest within ourselves: confident in, and at peace with, our unique beauty.

My whole life I have battled with the reflection in the mirror and I’ve tried hard to hide my ugly and unacceptable. I’ve never believed that I could be beautiful, and though I have tried to change my appearance, it never felt like enough. Slowly but surely, however, I am realizing that nothing I do on the outside will ever lead me to a place where I can love myself enough to be at rest with the person in the mirror.

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In the past, I would have looked at these pictures and cried over how ugly I am. I would have seen only flaws, and nothing worth loving at all. I would have thought about all my gorgeous friends and all the stunning women in movies and magazines and all the exotic beauties across the world. And I would have looked at myself and hated every single inch. Because in comparison, I simply can’t even begin to measure up. That’s the truth. But, the thing is, it’s all relative. Who can measure up? There is no “#1 most beautiful woman in the world” or “sexiest man alive”. There is no perfect standard to strive to reach. There is only you. And me. And him. And her.

The truth is, there is no measuring up because we weren’t meant to be measured at all. We were just meant to be. We were meant to be our unique, diverse selves. We were meant to be valued in and of ourselves, despite ourselves even. The problem with wearing masks is that only the mask receives love. The you behind the façade grows weaker and the wounds gets deeper. You can’t be loved and known if you can’t be seen. And you won’t be beautiful if it’s not from within. The thing is, you can’t hide from your ugly, or your beauty.

And when age is the great equalizer, what will you look like when time peels away your mask? Will you desperately try to keep gluing it back on? Will you plaster on fake youthfulness, or will you age gracefully and wonderfully? Will you search endlessly for the waters that will restore your beauty, or will you realize that your realest beauty can never die or fade away. The truth is, our beauty should grow and expand evermore, until our last breath, past our last breath.

Beauty extends the grave.

The nose you have, the lines you develop, the marks on your heart. They don’t determine beauty. The world does not determine beauty. Beauty is so much deeper and more personal and more lasting. Truest beauty comes from God alone, the author of all things beautiful. It rests on the shoulders of those who have weathered the storm and walked out with a brave testimony: it comes from above. It shines out of the woman who reached her end, chose surrender, and bears the marks of love’s pain and grace’s humility. Beauty transfixes a person from the inside out, from the ashes up. Beauty happens when we shift from living to be loved, to living already loved by Love Himself.

I look at these pictures, and for the first time, I see! I see my very own beauty. I see my flaws and the beauty of those very flaws. I see the quirks of my face that make me, me. I see the features that I have never loved, and likely never will, but I accept them, and I’m okay with them. Because I also see the joy in my heart on my face. I see the fire in my spirit through my eyes. I see the trials and the perseverance and the story of victory written across my chest, woven into my posture. I see myself and I see the beauty and the dignity that is mine and mine alone. And I love it.

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