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You’re beautiful…believe it!

A naturally beautiful mixed race woman smiles for a portrait, the sun shining from behind. Her clear glasses frames highlight her freckles.From the Family Foundations archives

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When I was in the fourth grade, I was lucky enough to sit in the back of Mrs. Flanagan’s classroom with my very best friend — near enough to whisper, pass notes and raise our eyebrows significantly at each other. Lisa and I had one of those friendship where you live in one another’s pockets.

Although we had a lot in common (as most 10-year-old girls do), there were, of course, areas in which we differed significantly: she was an artist, I liked to write poems; she was Italian and tempestuous, I was Slavic and neurotic; she loved Franco Harris, I was all about Lynn Swann. As we got older, another major difference emerged: I sprouted right up and was tall and skinny; Lisa was several inches shorter and curvy.

It was hard for me to have a friend who, in my opinion, epitomized womanliness at a time when I believed I was lagging far behind. I remember looking through the Sears catalog, desperate to find a pretty bra that came in a size smaller than double A. Such bras didn’t exist.

In sixth grade my mom finally found a bra for me which was little more than a girl’s undershirt cut in half with a bit of elastic sewn along the bottom edge. I wore it proudly, until the afternoon in the girl’s locker room when I saw Lisa wearing the same style. It looked completely different on her. It looked a whole lot better. I was seriously disheartened.

Many of us care way too much about our appearance, and in particular, our bust size, especially when we’re young. I don’t think it’s a matter of wanting boys to leer at us — when I was in the sixth grade, I had no desire to be ogled — but I still wanted some sign that I was maturing into a woman, and I wanted it to be a visible sign, so everyone else saw it, too. It was like an affirmation from the universe that everything was on track.

Mind you, I never wondered if my breasts would be “functional.” I never once, to my recollection, was anxious that I might not be able to nurse my children someday. It was all about appearing pretty and womanly.

Now I’m in my 40s so it’s all over, right? Nope! When I go to the beach I see women even older than I am — thin, deeply tanned women, usually —with breasts far larger and perkier than mine ever were. What I’m seeing is the first generation of women with breast implants reaching their AARP years. (There were others before, but far fewer).

Again, I feel the familiar pinch of inadequacy. Why? Do I really have to keep thinking about this forever? Am I really going to have to deal with this insecurity for the rest of my life?

Well, I might have to, because I’m neurotic (see above), but there’s no reason you should. Now pay attention: You’re beautiful.

Brides: No matter your body shape, know that you’re beautiful. You’re standing before the altar with your new husband, and nothing makes a woman more beautiful than a face reflecting love — love of God and love of family.

Pregnant women: No matter how everything on your body seems to be going whacko and how big and uncomfortable you feel, know that you’re beautiful. Life is beautiful, God is good, and as you walk down the street, your very body is sign and symbol of that.

Nursing moms: No matter how different or even cumbersome your breasts have suddenly become, know that you’re beautiful. Your body has brought forth life; now you’re nurturing it, and to your loving husband and your precious children, there is no one more beautiful on the planet than you are now.

And as for the rest of us, those of us who have children by our sides and no longer in our laps: We’re beautiful, too. My favorite mug is the one I’ve had for years — a few stains, a chip here and there — I use it every day. My good china cup is pretty, but it’s not my favorite. It sits on the shelf. So things aren’t as tight or perky or bouncy as we’d like them to be, perhaps, but there’s something to be said for bodies that have been (and are still being!) used for the glory of God every day.

— Carol Greer

 

 

 

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