Written By Cassandra Yeo, Singapore
All women desire to feel beautiful. Every day, we see hundreds of advertisements for skincare, make-up, clothes and slimming treatments. Even the Bible seems to celebrate a woman’s beauty in passages such as the ones in Songs of Solomon, or when describing female characters such as Rachel (Genesis 29:17).
However, I have never dared to let myself feel beautiful.
I told myself that I didn’t want to go through the trouble of keeping up appearances. Though I kept myself neat and prim, I wore baggy clothes and dark colors. Similarly, shopping trips were only made to oblige friends, or for specific occasions like Chinese New Year where buying clothes was inevitable. It was only recently that I realized the reasons for my reluctance.
In my early teens, I was taunted and verbally bullied for my appearance by several male classmates. They laughed at my overbite, tousled brown hair, and “oversized” ears. Though they called me many different names, what hurt most was being treated as if I were less than other more attractive girls.
There was one time when my male classmates nominated and voted on the ugliest girls in class. They then took a class photograph and used a coin to scratch off the “ugly” girls’ faces in the photo. It came as no surprise to me that I was one of them. I have never felt less than a human than I did in that moment, as I was judged by nothing but my outward appearance.
Ever since then, my self-esteem has suffered, and this manifested in the way I dressed and carried myself. For many years I wore long sleeves, for fear my arms would be called fat. Likewise, I wore dark colors, so that I would not stand out in the crowd. I found a strange and perverse safety in staying invisible.
However, recently God led me to step into the industry of image consulting. My work involves equipping clients with the relevant tools and skill sets to present a stellar corporate image. At first I thought that the change was merely focused on their outward appearance, but I have since learned that the most successful changes occur when there is an inward shift in the individuals’ perception of themselves. Discovering their worth and potential is ultimately what motivates our clients to change their outward appearance.
During my first few weeks at work, my heart was constantly tugged between my personal beliefs and the appearance I was meant to keep up as a professional in the industry. While the world of image consulting celebrated beautiful patterns, shades and colors, my own wardrobe was a sea of black, grey, and blue. It felt ironic to plan courses and programs for clients when I struggled with the same issues myself.
But as I continued to grapple with these conflicting feelings, I realized being put in this industry at this time was an essential part of God’s plan in my life. He brought me into the field of image consulting, not just to provide me with a job, but rather, to heal a part of me that had been dead all these years. God was working to bless and restore the areas where I have experienced hurt. He was working for my personal growth, and opening my eyes to see beauty in a different light.
My daily work has given me opportunities to speak with industry leaders and experience my very own “image coaching” sessions, where colleagues give tips and one-on-one sessions to advise me on my dressing and posture. These experiences have allowed me to see beauty as a form of care and self-respect. The way I dress and carry myself should not be for the sake of vanity, but should reflect a deeper and more profound understanding that I am fearfully and wonderfully made by God (Psalm 139:14).
Whatever other people may say about me, I have confidence that comes from knowing God Himself made me. The Apostle Paul urges us to do all things for the glory of God, and surely that involves how we dress (1 Corinthians 10:31). In seeking to honor God’s love for me, my wardrobe collection has begun to change.
Greys and blacks are replaced or supplemented with shades of yellow, green, and orange. Sleeveless clothes become more frequent in appearance. Beauty products and accessories are starting to fill the gaps in my bathroom cupboard.
Initially, any time I tried wearing something different, I was afraid to look in the mirror. Yet positive affirmations from family, friends, and colleagues have helped me move from embarrassment to empowerment. This process has served to remind me that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, and thus I should honor it, in appreciation of whom God has made me to be.
As I myself change from the inside out, my work has allowed me to help transform others both inwardly and outwardly as well. My hope is that God will continue to use me in this field to focus on identity building, and in so doing, provide emotional healing to others.
This transformation in the way I view myself and my appearance has reminded me that our God is a God of restoration, and He desires to restore and heal the deadened and hurting parts of our lives. If you’ve also experienced hurts from the past like me, will you allow God to work in your life?