Q: How can I stop feeling so ugly?
A: When I was younger, there was a girl in my dance class, Carrie, who seemed so popular and pretty—everything I felt like I wasn’t. She had a cute haircut, and my long, bushy hair looked so blah whenever I stood next to her, comparing myself to her in the mirror as we learned our routines.
In an effort to improve the way I felt about myself, I got a similar short haircut. A few days later at school, someone told me I looked like a young male television actor on whom I had a little crush. I was mortified. I liked looking at him, but I didn’t want to look like him! Now I would have to go through months of awkwardly growing out my unflattering hairstyle and of feeling uglier than I already did.
I must have complained to my mom, because she gave me one of her little “assignments,” which was supposed to be like a spiritual treasure hunt: “Look at Hymn 109, and then tell me what it is that unveils beauty.”
I probably rolled my eyes at the time, but I also knew from experience that these ideas my mom shared could be really helpful. Here’s what I found when I looked in the Christian Science Hymnal:
Reverent lives unveil Thy beauty,
Faithful witness bear of Thee;
Binding up the brokenhearted,
We reflect Thy radiancy.
So may deeper consecration
Show Thee forth in healing’s sign,
Till through joyful self-surrender
We in Love’s pure likeness shine.
(Maria Louise Baum, © CSBD)
The idea of “joyful self-surrender” sounded a lot more satisfying than trying to make myself look better. And I had a feeling that it would be uplifting to focus on something more substantial than my appearance and what people thought of me.
I began to read each day a section of the Christian Science Bible Lesson, found in the Christian Science Quarterly, where I gained inspiration that helped shift my focus away from myself and toward God. And I actually started to enjoy attending the Christian Science Sunday School, which for a while had felt like a dreaded chore. It turned out that learning more about God was actually more fun than obsessing about what I was seeing in the mirror.
It turned out that learning more about God was actually more fun than obsessing about what I was seeing in the mirror.
At the start of the next school year, someone I knew walked by me in the hall and didn’t recognize me. Maybe it was because my hair had grown out; maybe it was because I had learned a little more about that radiancy that we all reflect from God and it was shining more clearly.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy actually includes a “recipe for beauty.” This passage, along with that verse from the hymn above, hangs on the bulletin board border around my mirror: “The recipe for beauty is to have less illusion and more Soul, to retreat from the belief of pain or pleasure in the body into the unchanging calm and glorious freedom of spiritual harmony” (pp. 247–248).
I like the idea that beauty comes from having more “Soul”—not a certain haircut, perfect skin, or a particular body type. In Christian Science, Soul is a synonym for God. To me, to have more Soul means to strive for a deeper understanding of God and to live more fully with the understanding that, as God’s creation, we reflect everything beautiful, good, and worthy that God is. This true beauty can’t fade or change, and not a single one of us can be without it.
We reflect everything beautiful, good, and worthy that God is. This true beauty can’t fade or change, and not a single one of us can be without it.
Turning away from the pull to constantly focus on what we look like isn’t always easy. But you can start small: Spend a few minutes less each day looking in the mirror. Take those few minutes to think about God, and yourself as His image. “None of our faces are covered with a veil,” says a Bible verse. “All of us can see the Lord’s glory and think deeply about it” (II Corinthians 3:18, New International Reader’s Version). This verse is kind of a metaphor for this new way of seeing ourselves—as God’s own beautiful likeness.
As the image of God, we each have more beauty to discover about ourselves than we can even imagine. Living “reverent lives” full of an understanding of Soul enables us to see more and more of that beauty in ourselves and in others. And when those “ugly moments” come up, we can practice “joyful self-surrender” by looking away from the mirror on the wall to the “mirror” of Spirit that shows us what we are in God’s eyes. Then we find that true beauty is the reality for each of us—and that nothing can hide it.