I recently received an email notice that someone had tagged me in a Facebook album titled "Digital Pictures from 2000." I didn't have to open the album to know that the photos weren't going to be flattering.
But, open the album I did, and my suspicion was confirmed. They were awful.
It was a bad hair phase. Let me be more precise: It was a really bad hair phase. I had gone to a salon to get highlights and a fresh cut for my college graduation. Hours later when I left the salon I was too stunned to speak, but I do recall crying on my way back to my car. I had never gotten highlights before. I had anticipated a vibrant, sun-kissed look, but it came out frosted and harsh. My once-long hair was cut into a short, unwieldy shag. I looked much older than 22, and not in a good way. A frumpy way.
Looking back through the lens of a decade, I don't know why I didn't revisit the salon and request that they fix my hair. I wasn't happy with the results, but I never said anything. I paid, gave a tip, and exited. End of story. I looked ridiculous for the next few months. And, in the several years that followed, I had a few additional bad hair cuts about which I did nothing.
I hadn't thought about this for years until this fashion gaffe was made available for many to see through Facebook. I was embarrassed. I untagged myself from the photos. I sent a tongue-in-cheek suggestion to the picture-poster: "If those pictures of me disappeared, trust me, I wouldn't mind!"
My thoughts festered. I pulled out my old photo albums and critiqued my own unflattering pictures from this stage, feeling worse with each photo.
It was very unhealthy.
When I realized what I was doing, I made a point to sort though my emotions. I hashed it out with God. What I look like is not who I am. My worth does not come from my appearance. Somehow, in the abrupt reintroduction to this intensely awkward phase of life that I had forgotten about, I temporarily had lost sight of this obvious truth.
As a mom of three girls, I can't do that. I am the woman they look to when they learn how women perceive themselves. The comments I make about my hair, my skin, and my body are comments that will forge the backdrop of their understanding of womanhood and self-worth.
Years ago I vowed that I would not speak ill of myself in front of the girls -- or in general. When I talk about exercise with the girls, I discuss being strong and healthy, not losing or maintaining weight. I don't critique my hair or appearance. When the girls look beautiful (which is a frequent occurrence because, gosh, they're cuties), I tell them that they're lovely -- and I tell them that they're funny, and smart, and interesting, and artistic, and kind.
When they grow up, I don't want them to stare into the mirror and not like who's looking back at them. And ironically, what's on the outside will have less to do with this than what's on the inside.
There are plenty of physically beautiful women who are striving, ill-at-ease, and insecure.
What I want to demonstrate is the type of beauty that transcends looks. The beauty of a gentle spirit. The beauty of a kind word. The beauty of encouragement.
Pictures don't catch that type of beauty. Looks are fleeting, but real beauty endures. That's what I want my girls to know.
And one more thing I'll eventually want them to know: If they ever get a really bad hair cut, one that makes them cry and consider wearing a hat for the next few months, one that will someday be posted on Facebook by some unassuming friend, they still should go back and fix that thing. They'll thank me for that, too.