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I Didn’t Dare to Let Myself Feel Beautiful

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?

3 Truths to Cling to When You’re Hit With Challenges

Written By Cassandra Yeo, Singapore

Whenever we’re hit with challenges in life, we often expect our situation to improve and get better. I know that I often carry this hope into my prayers to God. I expect Him to intervene and provide breakthroughs during the vulnerable moments of my life.

However, when prayers are delayed or seemingly unanswered, I am forced to grapple with uncertainty. Understandably, in such situations my friends who support me in my journey do not know what to say to comfort me. In the face of my own doubt, and the uncomfortable silence from others, I begin to doubt God’s goodness.

However, in spite of my growing disbelief, God shows up in unexpected ways, and He uses difficulties to teach me about His constant character in the midst of changing circumstances.

 

1. Remember that God is still in control

When I grapple with loss or anger, I am reminded of characters in the Bible who also went through crises. Ruth, Joseph and Paul, for example, were people who had lost much. Yet, their responses were vastly different from how I would expect someone to react in a crisis.

When Ruth was a childless widow, she chose to follow her mother-in-law to live in a foreign land, and to follow God (Ruth 1:16). Joseph decided to show hospitality to his brothers despite their earlier ill treatment of him, as he knew the Lord was doing good in the injustice he faced (Genesis 50:19-20). Paul continued his ministry despite facing persecution, knowing that his work would result in many others coming to Christ.

In each of these situations, God worked through the difficult situations to ultimately bring good: Ruth became great-grandmother to the first king of Israel; Joseph preserved the lives of the twelve tribes, and Paul spread the gospel throughout the known world.

Whenever calamity strikes, these examples from the Bible remind me that God is still in control, and He is still good. I need to be thankful for His work in my life, even if I can’t always see the outcome. In times of difficulty, I often go to trusted friends and groups to confide in my struggle to remain thankful, and rely on them to remind me of God’s goodness.

 

2. Remember that we can trust God in the midst of uncertainty

I had planned to find a stable full-time job before I graduated from university, and had begun actively searching long before my peers did. However, what I thought would be a one-month hunt became an eight-month affair. With every passing interview, I prayed that God would open the door to an opportunity, only to realize that every door was shut.

While it was immensely difficult, I saw God’s hand in the midst of my circumstances. I found a contract job quite quickly, which allowed me to earn some money and hone my professional skills while still looking for a full-time job. In the process of seeking, praying and waiting, the job search taught me perseverance, humility and joy in the midst of fruitlessness, allowing me to grow in my relationship with God. Slowly, I began to trust the Giver, rather than long only for the Gift itself.

After a long search, God finally provided an open door—one that I wasn’t seeking or expecting, but one that was in line with what I was looking for. I’m about to begin my career journey there in December. This experience has trained me to trust God to provide in the midst of uncertainty. It was no longer a job search that was based on my own terms, but rather, what God had in mind for me, and it was beyond what I had in mind for myself.

 

3. Remember that our worth is found in Christ alone

In university, I served God actively in fellowship and church. However, throughout my journey, I was met with many roadblocks. I faced the untimely death of a friend and my grandma, lost treasured friendships, and my grades dipped even though I worked doubly hard to keep them up. The fight to keep my hope and self-worth afloat seemed like an endless struggle, even as I saw my friends and peers sail through their university life without much difficulty, and easily obtained the academic success I yearned to have.

When the pillars of my security—grades and friendships—were taken away, I had to examine whether I was basing my worth on how much I have, or in how God Himself sees me.

Despite the odds, God provided a breakthrough in my grades in my final semester. On my graduation day, as I looked back on the journey, I knew that the ultimate milestone was not academic success, but rather, the lesson of where my worth should lie. Moreover, this has also propelled me to share with others my struggles in my walk with God, allowing for encouragement, accountability and prayer to take place.

 

All the experiences that I have listed were the challenges I faced in my life, which were bitter to taste when I was experiencing them. However, I am learning to see that the bitter experiences can be turned into opportunities to walk ever so closely with God, and to understand His purposes and goodness in spite of difficulties. I challenge you today to look at the challenges you have in your life and to learn to see beyond the struggle—God can turn it all into something beautiful in His own time (Ecclesiastes 3:11).