Behind the Lens | By the Way, I Don’t Like My Face

About two weeks ago, I finally heard a sentence that has been playing a subtext over in my head for years.

“You’re not beautiful, Kelly.”

Not your name. Not your body. Not your face. Not your personality. Not your words. Not your work. Not even your heart. You. are. not. beautiful.

The words pummeled me like bucket after bucket of freezing cold water thrown into my face until I finally stopped trying to duck the onslaught, until I lifted my face into it and submitted, until I was too numb to feel the shock anymore.

I didn’t know I believed it. I mean, I knew I was more comfortable behind the camera than I was in front of it. But I’ve pretty much tried to dress for my figure, and I fit regular size stuff, and I liked pretty things, and I believed that having Jesus in my heart makes me beautiful.

I’ve never been anorexic or bulemic, never dieted to lose weight, never really spent a lot of time thinking about how I measured up physically to others. I’ve never really compared myself to photoshopped movie stars, or overtly edited my self-portraits to achieve “perfection.”

But I did something else.

I hid.

I hid from myself, from Pete, from God, from everyone. It didn’t look like I was hiding. But I was.

I didn’t look in the mirror. I barely checked my outfits; I overdressed. I tried not to look at pictures of myself. I shut up about my body because my “feeling fat” made others angry with me, because being sick wasn’t a good topic of conversation (or it was the only topic of conversation!), because everybody else was pretty or gorgeous or stunning, and goodness, I wasn’t that.

I was – and have been – ignoring me, and when I woke up two weeks ago and realized that I felt like everyone else in the world was ignoring me, I stopped ignoring me because darn it, SOMEBODY should see me.

And that’s when I felt it. The numbness began to lift, like anesthesia wearing off. I “saw” me all right. I “saw” what must be making everybody else ignore me, what was making me ignore me. Pain took over; numb was easier.

Right now, it is taking everything in me to hold myself together and take the next step, the next step, and the next. I am trying to believe that I don’t have to hide. To breathe past old wounds and be healthy instead of broken and too-needy. To believe that grace is enough for this place too, to let God be God and me be the way He created me, even if I am not what I want to be.

I don’t have an easy answer for this one – I don’t think anybody does. I am not begging you to tell me I am beautiful. I wouldn’t believe you anyway. I’d probably deflect you, let the good words roll off of me the way the bad words should, like water off a duck’s back.

What I do have is the fact that I am dust – and I think dust is beautiful because God does cool things with it. I might not believe I am beautiful, but I do believe beauty can be found where no one expects to find it. It’s just waiting to be noticed. And noticing is what I do.

11 thoughts on “Behind the Lens | By the Way, I Don’t Like My Face

  1. Karenee

    I think you are art just like me. I’m not okay with looking at myself, for the most part…. I look and think, this isn’t “for me” just yet, but I’m learning that there are people out there who see my design and say, “How lovely!” If I were in a museum, that response would be an honor, right? It makes sense, because I wasn’t made for myself.

    I guess that’s one reason why I’d love to do a photo session with you someday. I’m hoping you will show me what I have such a hard time seeing. I wouldn’t mind being the canvas for creative vision, you know? I know how I find beauty when I’m at work … and self-portraits have taught me a lot. (Maybe I should do more of them? I progressed a lot in releasing hatred of my face while I was working on them, oddly enough.)

    I look at you and see your beauty, my friend. You are shaped by God and it shows. Nothing can erase the influence of our Master Sculptor. I don’t “feel” like it’s okay that you don’t see it with me yet, but you know … it is okay. He’s obviously opening your eyes in his own way and time. Love you.

  2. Sharon O

    I have always seen your beauty… when something comes from our past, we can hear it, we can see it and we can heal from it.
    You don’t have to believe a lie.
    You are beautiful… take it in and breath in healing.

  3. HopefulLeigh

    Oh, friend. You absolutely don’t need to hide. I’ve lived through this struggle. I know it’s not easy. I’m really glad I’m going to see you in a few days so we can talk through this face to face.

  4. Erin

    I too am guilty of tying my value and self-worth to what I can do, what I look like, how I act . . . and then when I fail, or don’t get my eyebrows waxed, or act like a jerk to my precious loved ones, well, there goes my value, right? Gone.

    But this is a LIE we tell ourselves, that our value is caught up in who we are, when our value is determined by our Maker– our Redeemer. The value of your camera is how much you paid for it, yes? Think what your Redeemer paid for you. THAT is your value, your worth. You are priceless to the Maker of all the beauty in the universe. He sees value, worth, and beauty, and furthermore, and more importantly, He IMPARTS value, worth, and beauty. To each of us, struggling so hard to prove our value when HE has already proven it.

    (((hugs))) to you, my friend. Stop looking in the mirror, at the brokenness in you, at all the ways you feel you fall short, and look up. Gaze into beauty. Look into the face of the One who paid EVERYTHING for you. <3

  5. Diana Trautwein

    I think this is how most women feel, if we are honest. Learning to see ourselves as beautiful – no matter what we look like, how much we weigh, how sick we may be – this is one of life’s biggest and most important lessons. It takes time, it takes openness, it takes some trust in God – believing that God sees every single one of us as beautiful, unique, and lovely – despite our flaws/brokenness/sinfulness. We are forgiven BEFORE we repent; we are loved BEFORE we love back; we are beautiful BEFORE we recognize and acknowledge that truth. And that means you, too, missy. Yes. IT DOES. You are beginning a wonderful and transformative process with this admission, Kelly. You are being given the gift of seeing yourself as you really are. Embrace it, even when it hurts. Love this post. You, too.

  6. Amy Hunt

    This. Is. Your. Worship.

    Right here. This. Bravo. He will do amazing things in and through you…because of your obedience here.


  7. David Rupert

    We all have these perceptions of our ‘ideal’ person — and we always fall short. Fat people want to be skinny. Skinny people want to have more weight. blondes want to be brunnettes. Redheads want to be blondes.

    It’s the most pervasive lie that Satan tells us — that we are ugly. And yet, we are the crown of all of God’s creation.

    God post and introspection. So smile that pretty smile and c’mon out of hiding!

  8. Danielle

    I agree with Diana that I think most women feel this way about something or other, even if it’s not about her physical self.

    And you’re right, I doubt anyone has the answer. But you post did remind me of a Sara Groves song that’s been rolling around in my head as I’ve been fighting my own “I’m not enough” thoughts:

    I’m not every woman
    It’s not all in me
    I’m proud and guarded
    When it comes to my needs
    Try to keep the whole thing rolling
    Try to keep an on time train
    This frenetic fascination’s
    Really driving me insane
    Anybody feel that?
    Anybody feel that?
    Anybody feel that?

    What God meant by woman
    I’m hard pressed to find
    I’m chasing paper dreams
    And a guilt undefined
    Fighting to stay younger
    Trying to stay thin and in control
    Searching for a magic formula
    A thing to soothe our souls
    Wonderin’ where the peace went
    Wonderin’ where the peace went
    Wonderin’ where the peace went

    I’m finite I come to an end
    I’m finite I come to an end

    Try to keep the whole thing rollin’
    Try to keep an on time train
    This frenetic fascination’s
    Really drivin’ me insane
    Anybody feel that?
    Anybody feel that?
    Anybody feel that?

    I’m finite, I come to an end
    I’m finite, I cannot pretend
    I’m finite, I come to an end
    I’m finite, I cannot pretend