Growing up, I was no beauty queen. I had a mouthful of braces to realign my Bugs Bunny-esque teeth, and I wore wire rimmed glasses to correct my short sightedness. To complement my already awkward features, I had short—and often frizzy—hair. Best of all, weekend activities spent under the hot, tropical sun had given me an ugly tan.
When my family moved overseas, I was confronted with the western version of the beauty ideal. Photos of smiling blonde-haired, blue-eyed, beautifully tanned models peered at me from the pages of magazines, packaging of shampoo bottles, and clothing brochures, serving to reinforce how distant I looked (and felt) from the perfect beauty standard.
Fortunately for me, I had my braces removed before I went abroad, but I was still shortsighted, and my hair continued to stick out at odd angles. My new school’s winter uniform—with its shapeless wool jersey and knee-length pleated skirt—made me look like a librarian.
With hardly any boys queueing up at my front door to confess their devotion and adoration for me, I was resigned to the fact that none would be dialling my number to ask me out on dates any time soon. I’m sure my parents were relieved, but for the then 15-year-old me, it felt like the end of the world.
Disgruntled with my looks and disappointed with how God made me, I started whining to Him. Among the shortcomings I decided God should know about were: my shortsightedness, bad hair, and athletic body shape with no curves.
We live in a world where looks are prized above personality, and as we crave to be accepted and loved, we find ourselves trying to improve our appearance to fit the world’s beauty standard. Hours are spent in front of the mirror as we examine our faults and imperfections, wishing for bigger eyes, acne-free skin, a nicer, well-shaped nose—the list goes on.
One day, as I was busy telling God how shortchanged I felt, my eyes fell on the verse, “Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ Does your work say, ‘The potter has no hands’?” (Isaiah 45:9).
I ignored the verse, and flipped through the Bible hoping to find a character who told God he was unhappy with the way God had fashioned him.
I had no success finding such a person, but was instead struck by this verse: “But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” (Romans 9:20).
God was speaking, and He meant business. There was no ignoring what He was telling me. I was knitted together in my mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14). My ethnicity and features were no accident of God’s, who had lovingly crafted me in His image. When I complain about my looks, I am telling God I am dissatisfied with how He has created me.
I realized that if I were to be truly happy with who I am, I had to accept the way God has created me. You and I are custom-designed, one-of-a-kind-creation by the Maker of the Universe. No two people have the same fingerprints, and no two individuals have the same iris or retinal pattern—that is the trademark of the Creator who has chosen to create us all different.
It is easy to list all the traits you want changed, but it is also just as effortless to name all the wonderful physical attributes you have—perhaps people are attracted to your bright sunny smile, or your mop of curly hair.
Before you start criticizing yourself, pause and look in the mirror, and remember you are precious in God’s eyes. After all, we are His “prized possession” (James 1:18 NLT).