I’m Loved for Who I Am, Not How I Look.

I turned on my computer to a message from one of my best friends.

“Awwww!” she wrote, sharing a link to a photo of the two of us the morning of her wedding.

I immediately cringed at my appearance.

I look so heavy, I thought. My recent struggle with weight gain has been out of my control due to an illness. I wondered yet again why I couldn’t wear a sign that reads, “Please excuse the weight gain caused by an illness.”

My skin looked pale. And by the way, is that a pimple? My pulled back hair looked cuter in the mirror than it did in the picture.

I sighed and wrote back to my friend. “Such a happy day that was!” not wanting to steal her joy. But I did add, “If only I didn’t look so tired.”

She read right through my message. “It captures the moment!” she exclaimed.

My mind was taken back to that hectic morning. The bride barely slept the night before because of a malfunctioning TV, and the room service breakfast was late. We were tired and hungry. It wasn’t the day we expected, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t beautiful.

It was a fun and joyful morning full of make-up, reminiscing with family and friends, sappy love music playing on the iPhone, and eagerly talking about the emotion we’d be swept up in just a few hours later when she walked down the aisle toward her husband-to-be.

But I was still not over my sadness about my appearance. I texted another friend I know could most relate to my painful frustration about the weight gain because she had struggled through the same illness.

“Ugh, I just looked at a pic of myself at a friend’s wedding and wanted to weep at how much extra weight I saw.” I wrote, “ I know it’s only temporary, but needed to vent to someone who understands.”

“Vent all you need and stay strong, friend” she wrote back immediately.

“Focus on the smile rather than the body. Know how much you are loved for you, not the way you look. These bodies of ours—wonderful and beautiful as they can be—are temporary. Your soul shines… <3”

After I wiped away my tears of gratitude for that thoughtful text and our friendship, I went back to the picture of the bride and me. I focused on our expressions and thought about our friendship.

For more than a decade, I have been friends with the bride. We’ve each moved several states away and still make our nearly weekly chats a priority—even if it means stealing ten minutes on the phone in between errands or one of us staying up unreasonably late to accommodate the East coast/West coast time difference.

We have shared countless hours talking about our dreams for life, work, romance, and family. We’ve shared wishful thinking about who the love of our lives will be, laughed about failed dates, and worked through our occasional feelings of being out of place in a paired-off world. When she met her now husband we waded through the excitement of finding the right man for her and navigated the imperfections love always brings to life.

As I thought about these times and the depth of our friendship, I started to see wisdom and a bit of wonder and awe behind the grogginess in our eyes in the photo. We waited so long to get to where we are, and yet we couldn’t believe that here we were—her wedding day!

I began to see in our smiles the joy we each had for friendship that had turned into a sisterhood, and our sheer happiness to be sharing the beginning of my friend’s next milestone with each other. It was a beautiful moment, even if it wasn’t exactly we expected.

The bride was right—the picture captured the moment. In that hectic, happy morning, we cared less about our appearances and more about the meaning of the day ahead.

My other friend was right too. When we look beyond appearances, we see the more meaningful realities of ourselves and the people we love.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I think that picture from that morning is worth a million words that start with the reminder that each of us is loved for who we are and how we love others, not how we look.

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