defining beauty

There is a lot of content out there attempting to help women not be so fixated on their external beauty. Especially for us Christian women who have verses like this ingrained in us:

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.
— 1 Peter 3:3 NIV

Yeah, we get it. Toss out the Victoria's Secret catalogue that just showed up in the mailbox, and give the money I was about to spend on a new foundation supporting an Ethiopian child.

For you ladies reading this, do me a favor real quick. Open a new tab in your browser and do a quick Google image search of the word "beauty" and see what pops up (never mind the photos of models with insects crawling on their faces). Now open another tab and do a Google image search of the words "beauty quotes" and compare your results. Interesting, isn't it? Visually speaking, our culture defines beauty as an obviously unattainable goddess-like tanned figure with glowing skin and a luscious pout, makeup perfect and not a hair out of place. But most of the quotes about beauty that come up are about "inner beauty"; embracing imperfections; a couple warm thoughts from Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe (two famously gorgeous women). Our culture is selling us an ideal we should shell out dollars for, and simultaneously comforting us when we can't meet the standards of Photoshop so we don't feel as guilty about eating ice cream past 11 PM (I know nothing about that...).

What am I getting at here? The obvious. You've heard it before. Very few can attain this completely falsified idea of beauty that has been so distorted by the media. Our culture has created an ever-growing list of impossible physical standards, teeter tottering against a bunch of self help books and fad diets. We are being sold a different product and message everywhere we look. The Internet and social media doesn't help. Here's a little-known life nugget by the way: your friend does not look as flawless and ethereal in real life as they do in all their Facebook profile pictures.

I'm not telling you anything new, although perhaps for a few of you it's a good reminder. I want to take this one step further, however. Beauty is not something to shy away from completely.

In the Bible verse I listed above, Peter isn't saying women ought to stray from wearing jewelry and fixing their hair, but that it shouldn't define them. He's saying a woman's beauty is an inner light, one that only grows brighter and stronger with age. I think sometimes in our Christian culture, at least the one I'm accustomed to, caring or talking about physical beauty is almost looked down upon, as superficial or trivial.

Embracing your physical beauty is not equivalent to wanting attention.

Let's stop trying to define beauty and allow it to organically unfold as we pursue other, more exciting things. Let's stop yearning. Women, let's focus on our internal beauty yes, but then let's allow our external beauty to blossom as well! Our beauty is not something to be afraid of — it's a God-given gift, each of ours completely unique and completely exquisite. Sometimes it's a little scandalous, a little daring, and it doesn't have to be provocative and certainly not perfect. I love when a Godly woman is not afraid of her beauty and simultaneously doesn't allow it to define, and ultimately corrupt her. To me, a wildly beautiful woman who radiates confidence in her mind, faith and abilities is the most stunning of all.

And yes, this beauty I'm speaking of still looks quite a bit different from what society would define it to be. 

The big idea is this: I think it's okay to enjoy your beauty as long as it doesn't own you. To get you inspired as you embrace your own uniqueness and boldly post that selfie (because hey, why the hell not?) here are some Pinterest images I've culled that have captivated me as of late.

Here's to beauty, both internal and yes, external.

*Note: For more on beauty, I encourage you to read Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge. It changed my view on a lot of things, including embracing my femininity, and is a book I've returned to time and time again over the years.