Tuesday, March 20, 2012


There is a problem within the western world that seems to plague a majority of women. That problem is feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and low self esteem based on our appearance. Associated problems all played a huge role in my life from my early teens until around 2007.

Throughout my teenage years I saw myself as being too tall, too fat, too broad, too much of everything that I despised.

I had grown up with an elderly relative regularly putting me down because of my size (I had been ‘big’ from an early age and was 184cm tall by the age of 14) and I was plagued with negative self-talk, low self esteem and a feeling of physical inferiority to others.

In my teens I was continually counting calories, exercising out of fear of gaining weight, and desperately trying to be what I felt I wasn’t – physically attractive. But to me being physically attractive was very strongly linked with liking myself and I believed that only when I was physically attractive would I be able to do this. But what I felt was that I couldn’t possibly be attractive unless I looked like and basically was someone else.

Every morning I would go to the mirror and list to myself everything that I saw that I didn’t like and these imperfections were what I would dwell on all day, every day. This negative self-talk was all-possessing and all- consuming. Aside from my study and music, those thoughts, along with calorie counting, were really all I thought.

I knew the scriptures, such as in Psalm 139 verse 14, which says “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” And verse 15 “my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place” and I felt great disappointment in God that He had seen my frame since before I was born and still allowed me to be born the build I am.

I also knew well the scripture (in 1 Samuel 6 verse 7) that says “The Lord does not look at look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart” and thought that was all well and good. But somehow it never comforted me and only accentuated to me that man does look at the outward appearance and I interpreted that as meaning that that was what I needed to be concerned about.

The real problem with all of this was that I based my feelings of self worth, and my view of how I felt everyone else saw me, on the wrong thing. I based it on my physical appearance, which is essentially just the ‘shell’ of who I am.

I bought into the lie that what I looked like was who I actually was. That how other people viewed my appearance was what mattered most. That what other people thought of me was the most important thing in my life. But as I have said, it was a lie.

From personal experience I know that your external body can change and warp out of all recognition without the inner beauty of a person being affected. I now believe with all my being that the most important thing that a person should be concerned with is the condition of their heart.

It is not only God that sees the heart when He looks at us. Your inner beauty is something that can not only be seen but can also be felt by others. I believe that in the presence of a truly beautiful person you are not even completely aware of their physical appearance, you can feel their beauty without seeing it. That is what I believe true beauty is.

Saturday, March 10, 2012


In late 2005 I got to know a woman who I can honestly say was the most beautiful woman I have ever known. She was a Great Aunt living in Taranaki and I had only met her a few times in my childhood because of the distance between us (5 hours drive away).

In 2005 Aunty Dorothy rang to speak to my mother but because Mum was out we started talking, and this was the beginning of one of my most treasured friendships. Loving to talk and laugh was something we both had in common and our phone calls became frequent and the highlight of my week.

Aunty Dorothy was an absolute darling and a hard case of a woman, who had had a very hard life. In her final years she blossomed into the most beautiful flower and I was so privileged to know her during this time.

Aunty Dot’s beauty was different to what the world defines as beauty though. She was in her late 70s and it was her joy, laughter and how she saw the world that made her so beautiful.

Our phone calls were extremely honest and open and usually started with us telling each other how our days went. I was in a very difficult part of my journey, When I had ‘met’ Dot I was recovering from my surgery in late 2004 and was gaining a huge amount of weight on steroids. Dot would always relate to what I was saying and she would share what she had been through in her life. We both learnt a lot from each other.

Whenever I went down to see Dot she would be so over the moon to see me and she shared in my excitement as I began to lose my steroid weight. She would squeal with delight when I walked into a room, she was just gorgeous!

The thread that stitched our conversations together was laughter. Things were really hard for me at that time but we would be laughing for most of our conversations.

I had great admiration for Dot. She had overcome a lot in her life and it inspired me the way she took delight in everything.

We shared our faith with each other and she began to tell me how she had once believed. Our faith began to grow as we journeyed together and it became a beautiful thing that we shared. It was really exciting for both of us to share what we believed and how we saw God working in our lives.

Aunty Dot didn’t rely on others to bring her joy and laughter - she created it! As she aged, Dot loved to wear her make up, along with going to the hair salon to get her hair set each week. One instance that clearly showed her zany, naughty sense of humour was at one of those/these salon visits. She would always go with a friend and on this occasion, while the hair stylists were out of the room, she said to her friend that she was sure she’d seen her on the front of the paper. She was referring to the photo of the topless women on motorbikes in the ‘Boobs on Bikes’ parade! She and her friend were in fits of laughter for the rest of their time there and the hair stylists had no idea what it was that had left them so inebriated on laughter that they couldn’t talk. As Dot and her friend were leaving the salon she shared with the workers what they had been laughing about. Dot and her friend then left the salon leaving behind a salon full of laughter. Dot’s ability to induce laughing ‘attacks’ was a true gift.

Dorothy’s beauty emanated from her – it was there for all to see. But at the same time, her beauty wasn’t one that you just saw, you felt it. It was her inner beauty that was so compelling. In spite of difficulties during her life Dot had chosen joy and laughter to be her companion in the years that I knew her.  What a way to live!

Dot found joy, humour and lightness in the years I knew her, which were the last few years of her life. She showed me what beauty really was and inspired me to live similarly.

The legacy of beauty that Dot left behind was one that came from choosing forgiveness instead of bitterness. One of choosing to find joy instead of dwelling on her past pain. One of not being afraid to share her story and what she had learnt through her life. And one of not having any hesitation in letting her joy and beauty show for all the world to see. This is the kind of beauty that I aspire to.