I knew the way that I viewed my outward appearance, particularly the shape and size of my body was very skewed, but it didn’t seem to matter what anyone said to me or the amount of affirmation that I received: I was afraid of becoming fat and I told myself I would never be beautiful. But for a moment things seemed different; for once I accepted my appearance.
As I stood in my near empty college dorm room preparing for practice, my thoughts shifted to two days earlier when tragedy struck my cross country team. As my teammates and I were driving home from practice on a hot, August day, one of the vehicles transporting several athletes swerved to avoid a shredded tire and crashed into a guardrail. The SUV flipped over the guardrail and caused the death of one of our runners. It was horrible.
“How could this have happened?” I asked myself.
Reality seemed like a nightmare.
After days of mourning, teammates and friends began reminiscing on her life. For weeks, even months, people were constantly recalling memories of our friend. Those who were close to her had so many wonderful things to say. She was goofy, fun, kind, and a very passionate, driven woman. Running cross country for the first time that year, she knew she wasn’t going to be the best runner on the team, but she was willing to try almost anything. Her passion and excitement for life was contagious, and I was really excited to get to know her better.
But as friends shared stories about her, the one thing that struck me the most was that she knew who she was; she was confident and knew her own identity. That’s what made her beautiful.
As someone who struggled with this, I began to look to the memory of her life and prayed that I too would see that my worth wasn’t in physical beauty or athletic achievement. Her life began to inspire me to see things differently. My identity did not come from things that I was good at or passions that I had; I may be able to give names to my talents or hobbies, but that didn’t make me, “me.” I was inspired to live my life in a way that gave love the last word.
While I stood in front of the mirror on that August day many years ago, I saw someone whom God had created for a particular purpose. The struggle to accept my appearance may not have suddenly “fixed itself,” but I definitely had a new perspective on things. The life and death of my teammate had woken me up to reality. I’m starting to see myself for who I am and embracing that.