I have a hard time finding reconciliation in the pictures above. In each, one of the images is judged by society to be more beautiful, while the other is judged by me to be more beautiful. While society tells me that one is more deserving of love, I tell myself that the other is. It’s a counterproductive cycle of lies, that really only ends in confusion and discontentment...And a heap of self-loathing. Because either way, the woman in each image is being assigned worth by her appearance (whatever that appearance may be).

But here’s the truth: Her appearance has nothing to do with her worth. She is still she. And because of that alone, she is worthy of love.

There was a time in my life when that truth was not very present. I did not treat myself as if I was beautiful. Outwardly, or inwardly. And I didn’t allow myself to be close to anyone who would have treated me with that truth. Instead, I used makeup to try to feel better about myself, or to cover up what I thought was the “ugly” underneath. I wanted to look pretty so that I would be desirable to the people around me, despite the fact that looks only get you so far. Without a shred of self-confidence, I wasn’t going to make friends. And again, I’m not sure that I even believed at the time that I deserved to have good friends (because I was too ashamed of what was going on in my personal life at the time...bad relationships and bulimia). Yet, I still remember one morning while doing laundry when I looked up in a mirror, teary eyed, and said to my boyfriend at the time that, “I deserve to be treated better than this.”

I was saying it in regards to his treatment of me, but I think I was also saying it in regards to my treatment and view of myself. I remember looking at myself in that moment and seeing beauty. Not an outward or performance-based beauty, but rather a beauty that deserved to be treated well, simply because it was there. I have a hard time putting it into words, but I think it was the sort of beauty innate to all us because we were created with it. It’s just there. And it’s not going anywhere.

Which means that we all “deserve to be treated better than this.” We deserve to be loved, not out of the standards that are placed on us by those around us. And not even out of the standards that we place on ourselves (which is where I really get hung up...because I fall short of my own expectations all the time). We deserve to be loved, not by how good of a wife or mother we are, or by the way we dress or primp ourselves up. We deserve to be loved, not based on the color of our skin, the country from which we came from, or the religious beliefs we adhere to. We deserve to be loved. Period.

While I prefer the feeling of being wild, free, and unmasked, wearing makeup or sprucing up for a special occasion (or just for the heck of it) doesn’t make me less of a woman. The woman on the right up there is the same woman as the one on the left. And because of that, they both deserve to be looked on with love.

In each and every moment, whether good or bad, we deserve to be looked on with love. It doesn’t mean that actions don’t have consequences, or that suddenly our hardships will get any easier. But it does mean that in any given moment we have the right, and I believe the responsibility, to respect ourselves because we deserve it.

Can you imagine the sort of changes that would happen in our lives if we could accept the beauty that is already within us? If we could start treating ourselves well, thinking well of ourselves, because beauty is already there? Rather than waiting until we are who we think we should be in order to receive love.

Maybe we would eat better and exercise more because we want to give ourselves health--rather than try to be skinnier and prettier because we hate the way we look now. Maybe we would seek out healthy friendships because we want accountability and support in our challenging lives--rather than isolating ourselves because we don’t want others to see the “real” totally screwed-up us. Maybe I could actually wear makeup and enjoy the pampering--rather than think about how it could be taking away from my natural beauty. Or maybe I could not wear makeup, without thinking about how society tells me I’m prettier with it. Maybe, just maybe, we could altogether treat ourselves and others better simply because, well, we deserve it.

I know that I am in constant need of a perspective change when it comes to loving myself. And maybe you do too. Let me tell you this. You deserve to love yourself too.No matter who you are...you deserve it. End of conversation. Beginning of transformation.

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