And I know that I deserve your love
There’s nothing I’m not worthy of
—“This is Me,” The Greatest Showman
“I’m so sorry. I know I look hideous today. I was rushing, and I had to go pick up the grandkids. And I’d forgotten to set the alarm for earlier, so I did not have time to do my makeup. I’m so sorry—just don’t look at me,” said the fifty-nine-year-old grandma.
I wanted to reply, “Shame on you. How dare you come before us without makeup?” But did I actually say this? Of course not. I knew she wouldn’t appreciate my highly sarcastic comment or understand where it came from, yet how many of us feel the exact same way as her—our self-worth is based solely on what we look like or by what we’ve accomplished that day?
Have you ever gone to a gym class or watched a fitness video online? Usually the instructor will say something like, “Don’t you feel amazing? Isn’t this so much better than sitting on the couch, munching on those carbs? Isn’t this worthwhile?” Well, isn’t it? Yes. But does worthwhile equate self-worth?
In college, my friend and I sat around my apartment’s living room, her on our faded floor and I on the plush, blue couch, discussing makeup.
“I’ve never really understood the need for it,” she said. “I just don’t like that I have to wear it to be beautiful or feminine, so I don’t.”
“I think that makeup is just a tool to bring out the beauty that’s already there,” I said. “Makeup can’t make you beautiful, maybe just accentuate the prettiness of your eyes or something.”
“Make”up doesn’t make a person. Neither does physical fitness. Self-worth is, ironically, worthless if it’s based on such fluctuating circumstances as whether or not someone wore makeup, worked out, went to work, attained a degree, cleaned the house, accomplished the life-long goal of eating thirty chili dogs in one sitting, or whatever new seemingly worthwhile task came along. Don’t get me wrong, goals and plans are important. Maintaining or obtaining a healthy body is important, but it’s not defining.
“I think in our contemporary world, beauty is equated with physical attractiveness, and that is a very limited and shallow definition because young people grow up and turn into wrinkly people like us,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve, indicating himself and his wife. Talking to a group of youth during a Face to Face conference, Elder Bednar defined beauty by using his wife as an example:
There is a beauty in Sister Bednar’s countenance that’s not physical. In her eyes. In the light in her countenance. Sister Bednar was gorgeous as a young woman. …that beauty is not in her physical attractiveness. She is very physically attractive. She’s beautiful, but it’s not restrictive to just physical attractiveness. …we have things in the church that we talk about that are rather abstract. So we talk about faith as a principle, but what does faith look like? What is it? … If you want to know what virtue looks like, it’s sitting right here [Sister Bednar]. And that’s beauty. So at her age, there’s not another women on this planet that I think is as beautiful as Sister Bednar because of what’s in her—not what’s on the outside.1
Now, I think most of us have heard something like this before—beauty is on the inside. Then why do we look at our past-selves—the person before the forty-pound weight loss or before the regular excursions to the gym—and hate that person or feel ashamed toward that person? Why does our daily self-evaluation consist of the words ugly, unimportant, or inadequate? Before we know it, we’ve defined ourselves: I’m lazy, unattractive, and incapable.
What We’re Made Of
Quote Investigator quoted Carl Sagan, who said,
Our Sun is a second- or third-generation star. All of the rocky and metallic material we stand on, the iron in our blood, the calcium in our teeth, the carbon in our genes were produced billions of years ago in the interior of a red giant star. We are made of star-stuff.2
The material it took to make our bodies was born in stars. Quote Investigator also refers to Dr. William E. Barton, who said,
Astronomers know how to tell what sort of stuff those stars are made of—and how one bright speck up there in the sky lacks something other stars have.
Odd, though, that human beings have in their makeup about ALL the different elements
of ALL those stars. 2
Stars give light and warmth. Because of our sun, life was able to evolve on Earth. Human bodies generate their own warmth and are capable of creating life. As social creatures, we can bring light to others. We are the product of billions of years of creation and transformation. How sad—how unacceptable—that all of that is forgotten because of one bad hair day or even a few years of bad hair days.
So What about Worth? What about the Inside?
I’ve made the mistake on more than one occasion of classifying someone as unattractive, but when I got to know them, I had to reevaluate my assessment. The happiness, kindness, shyness, humorous overbearingness, or even oddness of a friend improved my opinion of their physical attractiveness. How and why does this happen?
Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, said,
The question I think that drives my work is really what is the struggle—what is our struggle with believing that we’re enough? … It’s about waking up in the morning and saying (you know) no matter what gets done and how much is done and…how it’s done, I’m enough. And I’m worthy of love and belonging and joy.3
Brown gets rid of all of the usual qualifiers we give ourselves for what merits worth. She claims that we all inherently have it. So there must be something about us. Something even greater than this star-stuff were made of.
I wish I could make a list of all the ways to improve your self-esteem, and I wish I could promise that your feelings of inadequacy and sometime self-loathing will immediately vanish if you simply follow the following formula (for $79.99 of course). The truth is I don’t know all the steps you need. How you remember your worth is up to you, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look your best or dressing up for a job interview or even working out to get that six-pack, but these things are not you. They do not make you a pretty face or pair of abs. I just want to point out that you do have worth, and if you’re still skeptical just remember professors, scientists, God, and your own skin prove you wrong.
1 https://www.lds.org/youth/activities/spiritual-strength/scriptures-and-prophets/face-to-face-with- elder-and-sister-bednar?lang=eng