Have you heard that new song by “One Direction?” I like to belt it out when I’m washing dishes, driving the car, playing with our kids...you get the picture. It’s catchy! The lyrics make a great pop song; however, I am not sure they are completely true:
“You don’t know,
You don’t know you’re beautiful!
Oh, oh, oh,
That’s what makes you beautiful!”
The ignorance of her beauty makes her beautiful? I guess my feelings about “beauty” are deepening lately, thanks to my first-born daughter, Chiara. Her name is Italian (pronounced Kiara) for “light.” She certainly brings rays of sunshine into our life. When I cradle her in my arms and watch her gently fall asleep, I am convinced true beauty originates somewhere powerful and mysterious. I hope Chiara learns to celebrate her gift of beauty every day.
Every woman is beautiful. Woman is the crown of creation, the finishing touch from the Designer of the Universe. One of my favorite authors, Christopher West, talks about how some people have a particular gift of beauty. Chiara is in that category. Yes, as her mother, I am biased. But either way, she is entrusted with beauty simply by being a little woman. “Beauty is an invitation to savor life and dream of the future,” said Blessed John Paul II in his Letter to Artists. Chiara, and every woman, has a unique capacity to offer this invitation to the world. What a glorious mission, if we choose to accept it.
When a woman does not recognize her beauty as a gift from God, she often falls for one of two extremes lies:
1. “I am not beautiful.” This leads to insecurity (like the girl in the One Direction song).
2. “My beauty is my own, to do with as I wish.” Cue arrogance and manipulation.
My natural tendency is to fall for the second lie. It is not a pretty fall, let me tell you. Standing in the truth is an ongoing challenge. I am fighting this battle now not only for myself, but also for my daughter. I know Chiara will need help to stand up against these lies, too. Thankfully, the virtue of modesty is a huge aid in rightly acknowledging the gift of feminine beauty.
I grew up attending religious events where I heard about helping the boys not to lust by dressing modestly. I was unenthused. I wanted boys to notice me, after all! Finally, one youth leader pointed out that women tend to think holistically, while men tend to think about parts. If my clothing drew lots of attention to certain “parts,” it would basically cry out to the guys around me, “Look here, I’m a part!” That seemed to counteract my wish to be noticed. I wanted guys to see me as beautiful, not just a collection of fascinating body parts. I learned that modesty affirms my entire femininity (heart, mind, and body), and that it can lead those around me to do the same.
With this newfound revelation, at age fifteen, I started praying daily for the virtue of modesty. A few years later, I went to Missouri to sing and speak at a Pure Fashion Show for young girls. After my performance, one of the fathers told me this definition of modesty, “Knowing what to share and what to keep hidden.” Although I have fallen short many times, this virtue constantly challenges me to stand with dignity. It guides my decisions about how to dress, and how to interact with other people. I look forward to sharing this journey of discovery with my daughter, when the time is right.
For now, a major highlight of having a baby girl is wearing matching outfits. Some day, she will probably want to stop matching with me. When that day comes, we will simply have to coordinate colors. You know, match with style. (I’m joking, mostly.) But seriously, by the time Chiara learns to take care of her own appearance, I hope she knows her beauty is a gift from God. Today’s catchy pop tunes might be long gone by then. However, these words will never go out of fashion:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord
And my spirit rejoices in God my Savior...
the Almighty has done great things for me.
Holy is his name.” -Luke 1:46-47, 49
Acknowledging the gift of God within herself, while giving all the accolades back to the Giver, the young virgin from Nazareth set the world on fire. I hope my daughter confidently sings that song throughout her life. I hope Chiara, our little ray of light, never stops shining. I hope she knows she’s beautiful.
I originally wrote this article for a new website called "The You Are Loved Campaign." Please check out the blog when you have a moment for inspiring images and words of incouragement.