Hi friends and welcome to the Arise, Beloved blog. We have an amazing team of writers behind this blog and our desire is to speak truth into the lies that cripple us and shine light into the darkness that isolates us because we believe that now, more than ever, the Church desperately needs women to be restored so that the world can be set ablaze. Our hope is that you find comfort, solace, and peace in knowing that you are not alone, you are not too far gone and there is ALWAYS hope to be found.
By Marianna Schmiesing
I have, occasionally (I’m averaging once a year), been made aware that someone from the opposite gender (male) finds me Attractive.
This idea is both welcomed and utterly detested.
Welcomed—because this is what I want, right? To be seen as beautiful and someone to be desired. To be affirmed that all those tens of dollars I spent on mascara were worth it. That I am not too smelly, not too manly, not too tall.
But then it is detested—because who would dare think I’m beautiful? What kind of person looks at me sees anything more than a long-limbed, toe-stubbing, cave-dwelling creature loosely described as a woman?
If they see anything more, they must be completely insane.
Human interaction (and reactions) are interesting. Because whenever you find out what another person thinks about you, whether it is good or bad, you are forced to think, “Why??”
In response to some people, that question has faded to the background. For example, I no longer question why my mother full-heartedly supports whatever new and strange art venture I slap myself into because She Loves The Arts And She Loves Me.
To figure out why she loved me, I viewed myself from my mother’s perspective. Through knowing her, I can understand her point of view. Taking the next step, I tried to view myself from a man’s perspective. It’s a bit more difficult, but when I slice up the facts objectively, I can usually come to the conclusion that Some People Might Think I’m Attractive.
But finally, alone in my own room, looking back at Marianna in the mirror, I have to look at myself from my own point of view.
And this point of view is the most unforgiving and unflattering.
It is difficult for me to believe anyone could love me because I do not love me. It is difficult for me to believe that other people think I beautiful because I do not think I’m beautiful. I don’t think anyone genuinely values me because I do not value myself.
This kind of thinking is more than bad self-esteem. This is more than not believing I am capable of anything.
This is a deep sadness. A deep fear. A constant battle between the moments I am happy with myself and then perceiving that same reality, that same face and body, as ugly and gross.
Being a woman and feeling beautiful are delicately intertwined. In my experience, a woman more easily says, “I feel beautiful,” rather than, “I am beautiful,” and even then, it’s not that often.
As a Catholic woman tapped into All Those Resources For Sad Young Catholic Woman, I have been able to come to the conclusion that I Am Beautiful—however—I believe that that beauty must be confined to my soul or the fact that I exist. I can accept that woman in general was fearfully and wonderfully made. I can accept humanity as something beautiful, life as beautiful—but I cannot accept beauty in something like my body.
I could be beautiful, I think. I could completely stop eating fudge. I could go to the gym six days a week instead of three. I could go to more doctors to figure out why a 23-year-old still has acne. I could smile more. I could flirt more. I could wear more feminine clothes.
I could do a lot of things, and I’ve tried a lot of things, but the feeling doesn’t go away. The little voices never go away. And I don’t think they’ll ever go away. They’re there when I’m physically healthy and when I’m overweight. They’re there when I drop ten pounds, slather my face in makeup, hair up or hair down, soaking wet or gloriously tan.
Because beauty has been skewed, perhaps by society, but more fundamentally by the brokenness of sin.
And most personally, my own gaze has been broken. What I believe is beautiful—what I believe is worthy of love—is an understanding far too constricting. In my humanity, I think I am being cheated out of love if I do possess the beauty I want. I hold up what I believe is beauty and use it to look out on the world like it’s a telescope, ignoring the fact that its lens was broken by forces outside my control.
And the most frustrating thing is that I can’t fix that. I can’t fix sin. I can’t fix a broken gaze.
Beauty itself is not broken. Beauty itself uplifts and enlivens the soul, inspires the mind, and incites joy. But too many young women have cried many tears over their bodies. How can they be beautiful?
We understand that beauty is closely connected to truth and goodness and value, but the feeling of beauty—and thus the feeling of love and value—is very fickle. And so, when beauty goes, or when our understanding of beauty is shaken, we believe that worth must flee as well.
But thankfully for me, the reality of my beauty doesn’t depend on whether or not I see it or believe it. My beauty doesn’t depend on my mother’s view either, or the view of the occasional boy who takes me out for coffee.
I often get overwhelmed by my emotions. When overcome by shifting and blinding forces, the only thing you can do is cling to what is stable. I once heard Fr. Dave Pivonka, TOR, say that when he was unsure what to say in his homily, Fr. Michael Scanlan, TOR, would say, “Preach Jesus.” In a similar way, I wasn’t quite sure how to ground this blog, but I knew I had to focus it on truth.
And that’s the crazy thing about truth. It doesn’t rely on belief.
So believe anything you want. You will always be beautiful.