If you are looking for an article about crunches, the Whole 30, or eyelash lengtheners, this is not the piece for you.
This is about being Brave.
I bet you’re rolling your eyes. Is this going to be about “beauty on the inside”? Probably written by woman who could benefit from some airbrushing? Is she going to talk about our “good personalities” or how much “Jesus made us and loves us”? No thanks.
I really am just going to talk about 6 Brave things I’ve done that make me feel more Beautiful, whole, and strong. I’ve been walking toward this kind of beauty for a long time, with lots of counseling, prayer, and reflection.
I was flabbergasted to find my story written out by someone else.
Lee Wolf Blum’s new book, Brave is the New Beautiful, is compelling, encouraging, and relatable. I read it cover to cover in one very long bath. I smiled and cried reading stories so similar to mine (and similar to yours, I guarantee it).
There were 6 things I learned about being Brave, that must be universal, because Blum and the women she writes about discovered them, too. Here you go:
1. Toss aside the measuring stick.
There will always be someone smarter, skinnier, richer, and prettier than me (and you). There will always be a better mother, daughter, sister, friend, and co-worker out there. I’ve tried to prove this wrong, but in my years of effort, I rarely held on to that top spot for more than a day or two.
Eleanor Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Isn’t that the truth? I’ve had so many great dates, family gatherings, parties, and girls nights out ruined by comparing myself to everyone else in the room.
Blum starts her book by asking, “how do we toss aside the measuring stick?” (p. 26)
Close your eyes for a moment and imagine walking on the beach this summer and NOT CARING what you looked like. And not caring what they looked like. And not caring what they might think you look like.
What about walking into church? Or Christmas with the extended family? Or the big presentation in the board room? What if who you were, just as you are, was enough?
That’s the kind of Brave, the kind of Beautiful, Blum wants us to find in ourselves.
2. Disconnect the U-Haul of Shame
We remember all those times we’ve been compared and fallen short, and carry them with us in heavy backpacks, steamer trunks, or long U-Hauls. We can categorize these failings by time (5th grade, Freshman Year, 30th Birthday), place (school bus, gym class, locker room, bridal shower), type (too fat, too loud, too mousy, too emotional), person (that teacher, parent, frenemy, boss, famous icon). But it’s all the same thing, that vicious bully, Shame.
Blum writes, “disconnect that U-Haul of shame from [your] lives and take steps to move on.” (p. 59)
I imagined flicking on my turn signal, rumbling into the gravel on the shoulder of the highway, getting out of the car, slamming the door, putting my hair up, and standing over the tow bar between my little car and the overstuffed U-Haul of Shame. The tow bar had been soldered, rusted, and locked to my car. I imagined bashing it with a sledgehammer, over and over, until it cracked and crumbled. I wiped my brow with my forearm, shoved the U-Haul with a big kick, and watched it roll backward into the ravine. I cheered. Then ran back to the driver’s seat, peeled out, and sped away, light and free.
That’s how I want to live. No more U-Haul of Shame. Blum’s book shows us how to be this kind of Brave and Beautiful.
3. Get Your Story Out
When we come up short in comparisons and are shamed by it, we are conditioned to hide. Definintely don’t call attention to it. Definitely don’t expand on it. The risk of being misunderstood is scary–Are you trying to defend what makes you gross and inadequate? Are you trying to play the game without following the rules? Are you trying to change my mind? Who do you think you are?
Blum tells us we’ve got to talk.
“The stories burning a hole inside you are the stories you need to get out of your body, where they are no longer hold any power over you.” (p. 61)
I’m a verbal processor, so I have tell my stories to a trusted friend. But I also needed to tell my stories to a trained professional. When I unspooled my secrets so many of them withered and died in the light of day. I got less headaches and stomachaches after telling my stories. My posture changed and I became physically stronger.
If we want to be Brave, and truly Beautiful, we’ve got to get our stories out. Journal them, talk about them in session, teach them, publish them, but take control of your story and get it out from the dark, musty, creepy corners and into the bright light.
4. Make friends with your needs
We all know being needy and clingy is gross. We don’t want needy people hanging all over us either. At the peak of my self-loathing I thought of my needs as ugly street dogs, whining, howling, and following me everywhere I went. I hated them.
Blum quotes Cloud and Townsend’s book Safe People, “Make friends with your needs. Welcome them. They are a gift from God, designed to draw you into a relationship with him and with his safe people. Your needs are the cure to the sin of self-sufficiency.” (p. 49-50)
Make friends with my needs? My needs are from God?
I turned around and looked those street dogs in the eyes. I pet them. I bought them jangly name tags. One puppy was called “Being Understood,” another was “Being Important,” and the other was “Being Needed.” They were slobbery and yippy. I could have used all those papers from the boxes in the Shame U-Haul to potty train them.
Blum later quotes Nadia Bolz-Weber, “Our brokenness and imperfections are the spaces where we stand in need of God in a way that we don’t in our excellence.” (p. 97)
So I can’t be Brave or Beautiful without the puppies?
When I stop comparing, disconnect from shame, and get my story out, I can then accept my needs. Instead of shooing away those ugly street dogs, I see that God is showing me how to properly train them, because he sent them to help me. They are becoming excellent guard dogs, service dogs, and companions.
When my needs keep me connected to God, they don’t make me weak or ugly, they make me Brave and Beautiful.
5. Set limits
A lot of our journey to be Brave and Beautiful is private. We quietly re-order our thoughts and habits as our pain is redeemed. We begin to thrive. We begin to act and relate differently.
And some people don’t like it. They want everything the old way.
But we can’t go back to the old way. We can’t be in loving relationships with someone who always pulls a measuring stick out, re-attaches the U-Haul, mocks our stories, or kicks our puppies.
Sometimes we have to set limits with people we desperately want to love, and leave places we thought were forever homes.
Blum tells a really hard story in Chapter 8 about strong woman who has to separate from a very bad relationship. The grief and loss this brings the Brave and Beautiful woman in the story is palpable. Blum reflects on the bravery it takes to set those limits:
“God didn’t make me quiet and demure, and he didn’t make me to conform. He made me uniquely me….I know it and believe it. I no longer try to be someone I’m not, and I can tell you for sure that not everyone likes the authentic me.” (p. 124)
I cried when I read this paragraph, because not everyone likes the authentic me either. I remember cherished relationships that died when I began to heal. God has provided rich friendships in their place, but sometimes I still grieve the loss.
Standing firm in loving boundaries is one of the Bravest and most Beautiful things God has taught me to do. It changed my life.
Even though I’ve done a lot of inner work and I’m more whole than ever, I still sometimes struggle to believe God loves someone who is *so much work.* I got lost in recent months, and forgot a lot. After reading Brave is the New Beautiful, I realized that I needed to go back to counseling.
Blum shares that she was stuck, too, and paves the way for women like me to continue on our healing journeys. She admits to her counselor, “I’m afraid to believe something new.” (p. 143). That new thing is “to believe God adores me despite me is a deeper and richer kind of love than I’ve ever known.” (p. 146)
Even though she’s been so Brave, and so bolstered by the stories of dozens of Beautiful women, it’s still hard. I don’t just need to surrender to another season of soul-searching, confession, radical acceptance, and counsel. I need to surrender to God. I can let go of self-help, gimmicks, and pep talks when instead I grasp tightly to the believe that the Master of the Universe tenderly and relentlessly loves me no matter what.
By the end of Brave is the New Beautiful I felt deeply understood, far from alone, and loved. I felt hopeful that God was never going to stop loving me, and all the women I know searching for love. I felt Beautiful. Because I was going to be Brave.
* * * *
I hope you will read Brave is the New Beautiful. I know you will find your own story in it’s pages.
- This would be great for your small group. Read the book and gather together to share your own Brave stories.
- Maybe you’ll order it today for your mom, daughter, sister, or friend in time for Mother’s Day. Perhaps include a note stating one Brave thing you love about her.
- If all I’ve shared seems foreign and crazy, yet somehow appealing, order it for yourself and ask God, “I want to be the woman you made me to be, Brave and Beautiful. Will you show me how?”
To buy Brave is the New Beautiful: Amazon
For a free 4 day Bible Study to accompany Brave is the New Beautiful: YouVersion
To visit the author’s website: Lee Wolf Blum
- My struggle to stop comparing myself to everyone else all the time. The Comparison Game.
- When I fought Shame. Bullies
- When I realized Surrender didn’t mean death. My Surrender Begins
©Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2017.