Growing up in the world today is hard. There is some kind of constant pressure to reach impossible standards. Take a look at any magazine cover or advertisement, the world is constantly teaching us better ways to "the best version of ourselves." Teaching young girls that skinny is better, and that you should wear makeup, but not too much, and that you should fit in, but still be yourself. Teaching young boys that they need to be big and strong, that they need to not be so sensitive, lets be honest, what boy hasn't been told to "get over it" and to "be a man." So many stereotypes we are supposed to fit into, so many standards we are expected to reach, no excuses.
Speaking as a girl who grew up in the twenty-first century, the highest form of compliment is being "pretty." Do not misunderstand, it is wonderful to be told you are pretty, that your hair looks nice, that the way your genes lined up makes you nice to look at. Being pretty is a wonderful compliment, but given the choice, there are a thousand things I would rather be than "pretty."
Anyone can notice your outward beauty, but the true compliment is when people notice and appreciate your heart, the pieces that live inside of you, the gifts that you, and only you, can offer.
For me the biggest compliment that I can be given is that I have a loving heart. Frankly, looks will fade over time, and a pretty face does not mean a beautiful soul. While yes, I am a person who likes to look nice (lets be honest, who doesn't?) my outward appearance means much less to me than the content of my character and the quality of my soul. When the day comes when I leave this Earth and join my Heavenly Father, I want to know I left the world a better place than the way I entered it. God did not give me the heart that I have to simply be reduced to "pretty."
My parents raised me the way that I hope to raise my own kids one day. My parents raised me to know that I can do anything boys can do. I can be tough, but I can be sensitive. I can be intellectual and I can be a total goofball. I can be compassionate, but I can also stand up for myself. I think we need to allow the new generation to be themselves without reservation, and without apology. The world is not simply black and white, there is not simply "ugly" and "pretty."
It took me a lot of time to realize that my appearance did not define me, not unless I let it. I spent a lot of my life paralyzed by my insecurities. I spent time obsessing over my skin which made me scared to look at people in the eye. I spent time thinking I wasn't pretty enough, that boys wouldn't like me. I thought that because I was interested in spending Friday nights writing and reading instead of going to parties that people would think I was boring. Turns out people still liked me despite my skin (because imagine this- EVERYONE gets acne). I also have realized that while boys are lovely, I am not too worried about the opinions of them; I am loved by the creator of the universe, and that is a little more than I can ask for. As for the Friday nights, I like my version of a fun night better anyway.
I have seen too many of my friends and family be reduced to words like "pretty." While our appearance is a part of us, it is not all of us. More often than not, if our outward appearance doesn't measure up, we are made to believe the other remarkable things we have to offer this world mean less. How unfortunate it would be if the world missed out on the gifts hiding inside of someone just because "pretty" wasn't the first word to come to mind when describing them. "Pretty" is nice, but I'd rather be a force of nature, brilliant, selfless, or brave before pretty.
Back in November I got to hear Korie Robertson speak at a conference in Chicago. She talked about how our confidence should be in "whose we are, not in who we are." I have confidence because I know that God gave me the gift to feel at peace when I have a pen in my hand, and when I am able to write, I feel powerful, unstoppable. I am confident in my words because God put them in my heart. I refuse to be reduced to "pretty" when God gave me more to offer.
I am a lot of things. I am a writer. I am a friend, a sister, a daughter. I am a barista. I am a traveler. I am a follower of Christ. I am a person who has a story unique to me. I am intelligent. I am brave. I am a fighter. I am cat lover. I am a homeless person hugger. I am an imperfect soul in an imperfect body. I am beautifully and wonderfully made. I am a lot of things, but I am certainly not just "pretty."