Hannah is the Diocesan Youth Officer for the Diocese of Leeds
For me, I think it’s really important that women in the 21st century know their worth and beauty. Growing up, I was subject to a lot of ‘attacks’ on my dignity as a woman, be it through inaccurate media portrayals of ‘beauty’, pressure from my peers, unhealthy interaction with men - all of it contributed to a low self-esteem and a poor self-image.
Despite being a Christian, I believed that my faith was something that was purely ‘spiritual’ and I didn’t think it bore any relevance to my physical appearance at all. In fact, the thought of my physical appearance just made me cringe and, in many ways, my faith had acted as an escape route from it; ie. “God loves my personality so it doesn’t matter what I look like.” Faith was a handy way of rejecting my body.
But I think God wants more for us than that. As I have matured in my faith and understanding of God, I have come to know that He created me to look like this, and that He is passionately in love with me because He cannot create something that He doesn’t love! I realised that I could not hate something that a) God had Himself created, and b) God Himself did not hate!
Realising that I was physically beautiful by virtue of the fact that I was made by God, was designed by Him, had a soul that desired truth and goodness, and I had a body in order to give glory to God, totally opened up for me what it was to be a woman of God in the 21st century. Now I want my life to be a witness to other women that both the affirmation and the derision we may receive from men (or women!) about our beauty is not the final word on whether or not we are beautiful.
I want other people to see that it is possible to be genuinely happy with ourselves, building our self-esteem on the High Truth of God’s eternal delight in us. Whether we are adored by our peers or not, we are adored by the “expert” on beauty Himself, our Creator God, and if it’s good enough for him, then is should be good enough for us!
Interestingly, once I began to accept God’s nuptial love for me (as St Paul outlines in Ephesians 5:21-32), I think I became a more ‘attractive’ woman. Not because I had bigger breasts, thinner thighs or a change of hair colour (!), but because I was filled with the assurance that I was worth something. I began to experience the cause of Christian joy! I began to embrace my femininity, knowing that it has been affirmed by God as something valuable, and my decision to wear skirts and dresses more often was a free decision of mine to ‘show forth’ this femininity as something that had been revealed to me as ‘good’, rather than an anxiously hiding it away because I didn’t have any confidence in it.
I am far from perfect, and I do still lose this sense of assurance in God’s love. When this happens, it causes me to feel insecure, ashamed, selfish and needy. The difference now is that I have somewhere reliable to go to build my security on; rather than seeking human affirmation, I can be reminded of how unconditionally God loves me and once again I am able to give myself to others because I am confident that God has created me to be a great gift for others!