I always hid my hands growing up. In my pockets, under my legs, folded together in front of me. Behind closed doors, I’d stare at them, my heart heavy with disappointment. They were small, short, stubby fingers, wide palms, extra cushioning. I never wore jewelry, never put my hands in plain view, and never painted my nails.
There were several other things I would compare of myself to others; tummies, limbs, hair, smile, general personality. But one of the most consistent envies I had was that of slender hands. It didn’t matter if they had long fingers or short fingers, if they were slender, I’d be filled with jealously almost instantly.
I remember being in first grade, and my jealousy of another girl was so intense that I lashed out at her in a moment of disagreement. She was beautiful; dark features, lovely freckles splashed across her nose and cheeks, and had the sweetest personality there ever was. She defended the weaker kids, and anyone could see her moral standards were strong. Her name was even lovely- Sienna. I was furiously envious of her.
My hands were one major insecurity of mine, yet that was just the shallow end of the deep pool of shame, rejection, and self-hatred that had sunk in my heart from a young age. I’d be hiding my hands, but I’d also be thinking of my ugly face, my unruly hair, and the mismatched clothes I purposely dressed in.
Mom was constantly frustrated at how I chose to present myself. Mismatched, stained clothing and tangled, frizzy bangs that hid my eyes were the bane of her existence to hear her speak then. She’d beg me to change, to throw out the old shirts (there was one wolf shirt she particularly loathed that I’d always wear, until one day it mysteriously disappeared), or to fix my hair. But I didn’t want to. I wanted to hide behind my ragged, dirty appearance, because in my heart I felt like that’s what I deserved.
Whenever my mom would have a rare moment of victory and I’d dress nice, I always felt like an imposter. Why would I try to present myself as beautiful, when I would never measure up to the slender, bright, feminine figures around me? I’d be teased for my shoulders, for my stout frame, and inside my heart would be slowly dying. My feminine heart longed to be the beauty, to dress in the frills, to have the soft locks of hair. But I didn’t believe I could be, even though I desperately wanted to. If someone chose to say, “You’re pretty, Candace,” I’d immediately believe, “You’re lying. You’re lying and you’re taking pity on me”.
This has been the majority of my life. Hiding, crying, longing. When, when would it be my turn to be the beautiful one?
Recently I crossed a passage in a book, Present Over Perfect. Shauna Niequist breaks down envy and longings in a way that I’ve never looked at it before.
“It seems to me like most of us were taught that jealously is bad, and so when we feel it, we should push it away from ourselves as quickly as possible, get rid of it fast. But I’m learning that envy can be an extremely useful tool to demonstrate our desires, especially the ones we haven’t yet allowed ourselves to feel…”
I’d feel so violently jealous. Sienna, with her inner and outer beauty. The other girls in my class, with the feminine way they’d carry themselves and just be. When boys would pay attention to them, I’d brush it off and snicker, “That’s just dumb. Who needs that attention anyway?”, yet I longed to be the one desired.
I never let myself feel my desire to be beautiful, to be wanted, to be feminine. I wouldn’t allow these feelings because deep down, I truly felt like it could never be my reality.
This new season that I’m in, these next words from Shauna ring as an anthem for my brave uncovering of my real, authentic femininity:
“This was never about her. This was about me. So I set to work on making my life look more like my longings, and along that path, I found my jealousy dissipating”.
I don’t want to hide my hands. I want to paint my nails with pretty colors that express who I am, and how I feel about myself. I don’t want to wear stained, frumpy clothes. I want to dress in clothes I love and feel beautiful in. I don’t want to hide behind tangled, frizzy hair. I want to feel like a Victorian heroine, with soft locks flowing in the breeze of a cool autumn morning.
As I dig deeper into the heart of God, and His vision of who I am and who I am yet to be, I know that my desires settle on these simple truths: I am known, I am loved, I am beautiful. I don’t have to fight to be any of those things. They were true since before I was even conceived.
I look at the beautiful women around me and feel genuinely happy for them, because I know myself that I am also beautiful. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I have to intentionally align my mind with the truth. But every day I’m getting a little bit farther, a little bit stronger.
I finally feel like I don’t need to hide; so I paint my nails now.
How has your own journey been? What are some things the Lord has spoken/revealed to you? Let me know and leave a comment below!