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Why I Didn’t Think I Was Beautiful (Until I Did)

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“Are you headed back to school?”


If only I could count on one hand how many times I’ve been asked that question in airport terminals. No. I am no longer a freshman in high school. I am in fact now a twenty something. I have a full time job. I have an apartment. I own a car. I am an adult. With a major case of the classic baby face.

Growing up I always felt slightly awkward. Tall. Gangly. Braces. Even, ahem, head gear at one point. The typical spout of acne. I never knew what to do with my hair. And make-up? I couldn’t even tell you where to start.

Once I hit my freshman year of college I felt like I finally started growing into myself. Maybe I’m what you’d classify as a late bloomer. But I struggled with an extreme underbite and needed surgery to correct the bone structure of my jaws. Due to bone development, I wasn’t able to have the surgery until I was officially done growing. So, when my freshman year of college arrived and I was rolled into the operating room, I couldn’t help but be excited—I was about to have one of my more visible insecurities corrected.

The surgery ended up being a little more complicated than anticipated and I ended up going through a series of smaller surgeries to finish what was started. When it was all said and done, my smile was fixed. I would no longer suffer from the jaw problems I had been experiencing and would be able to flash my pearly whites with confidence. This was my moment. I would now be beautiful.

But you know what? I was still the same me. The same Emily still resided in my skin. And restructuring my face didn’t change that. While I thought I’d conquered insecurity and feeling that I was majorly lacking in the beauty department with a jaw procedure, I vastly underestimated the power my mind had on my beauty all along. Having a new, improved smile didn’t boost my confidence in a way that lasted. It just shifted my focus onto other areas—what about my skin? What about my hair? And why couldn’t I figure out how to use make-up?

Do you ever catch yourself looking in the mirror dissatisfied with what you’re seeing? Hair just not working right. Not the right shade of make-up. A few more pimples than you wanted. Eyebrows not on fleek. Morning routines are a struggle. And the more I cake on, the less confident I feel.

But the underlying pressure is there. The other girls I interact with seem to have it figured out. Their hair looks silky smooth and styled just right. They actually know what to do with beauty supplies. Acne? They don’t have that! And goodness, those eyebrows. They are on point! From the pictures in magazines, the perfectly posed selfies on Instagram, and seemingly perfect models on the latest Bachelorette season, it seems like I just can’t keep up. And then I’m asked if I’m a high school student.

Can I sigh again?

While the struggle and pressure and unspoken demand for perfection is there, I’ve come to discover that whatever I do on the outside can’t really fix the way I see the outside. Just like I control the temperature in my apartment by the thermostat on the wall, I control my beauty by the thermostat of my mind. When I discovered this, I discovered for the first time that I am already beautiful—I don’t have to try so hard. I am made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), He designed me uniquely & wonderfully (Psalm 139), and He says I am a masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

When I’m unsure of my hair, my make-up, and my smile, I share that with those around me. My shoulders slump. The bounce in my step is missing. And there certainly isn’t a glimmer in my eye. But when I push my shoulders back and hold my head high, choosing to smile even if I can’t figure out how to actually apply liquid eyeliner, I exude beauty.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” – Proverbs 31:30

I’ve heard the same cliches you have, but you know what, some of them are actually true. The best make-up a girl can wear is a smile. The girls who choose joy are the prettiest. Don’t believe me? Just look up. Look at the girls around you. Do your own secret investigative work. Observe the girls in your circle. What defines the beauty you see? What catches your eye first? Now look again. Look past the make-up and make-up free faces and into her eyes. Look at how she’s carrying herself. Does she seem content? Full of joy? Satisfied? What we see in the mirror isn’t what defines us. It’s what we see the second time that does. It’s what’s lying directly underneath the surface that matters. We are beautiful because we believe we are, because we were created in beauty, because we are daughters of the King.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person.” – Proverbs 27:19

Friend, you are beautiful.

You are already enough.

You are the definition of drop-dead gorgeous.

You just need to see it first and then choose to share the gift of YOU with the rest of us.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? Take a second look. What do you see just beyond the surface. You. Are. Beautiful.

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