What is beauty? What is true beauty in this world of manufactured messages about flawlessness and youth and the skinny ideal? Our Western culture constantly bombards us and berates us with messages of how we should be and how short we fall. So we don our masks because we can never measure up. We hide in our dark bedrooms or medicate our anxiety or both. We know we’re a hot mess and suspect we always will be. We lose our courage. We become numb.
The more I thought about this, the more I sensed that bravery is at the root of true beauty, the kind that is attractive regardless of one’s physical appearance. I began to suspect that the words brave and beautiful are sisters, maybe even conjoined twins. For the one who chooses to do it, stepping into bravery might be like stepping into a terrible fear. But for those of us watching we stand in awe, soaking in the magnificent splendor of courage. We know without being told this is the kind of beauty no magazine can portray and no advertisement can promise to deliver.
So how do we not hide from our fear and shame? How do we not get sucked into comparing ourselves with one another and measuring our worth by our own ruler? How do we toss the measuring stick aside and act out in bravery every day?
In an effort to find out, I searched for brave women who could answer my questions.
I don’t know why I thought they would be hard to find. On the contrary, I couldn’t have dodged them if I had tried. But the real surprise was that so many of these women didn’t see themselves as either brave or beautiful. This is how powerful our external pressures and inward thoughts can be. Even when we are brave, we deny it. We gloss over the beauty of our own courage by deflecting attention or demurring or… wait for it… comparing. Well, I don’t have it as bad as Jane. I’m not as amazing as Jessica. Lots of women have walked in my shoes. I haven’t done anything special.
I beg to differ. Because along the sidelines of the headline news are inspiring tales of bravery hidden in the mundane details of women’s everyday lives—women who make the decision to get up every morning and keep putting one foot in front of the other, doing what is good and right despite the crises and turmoil and dilemmas life tosses at them. These are women steadily making the decisions to step out of the boat to walk on the water. Women choosing to take off their masks and live their most authentic life.
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
1 Peter 3:3-4
Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.