Probably the most common question I get asked when it comes to Skin Deep Exposures Magazine is, “Why?” Why this idea, why a magazine? The answer is both simple and complicated. Quite simply because it is an issue that I am very passionate about. It is an issue I think a lot of people have become passionate about because it is battle in every girl’s life at one point or another (or a million different points) to figure out where she fits in. The standards that typically define “beauty” really are outrageous, so much so that even the models that we so longingly compare ourselves to can’t even live up. Those photos that we see in magazines and on billboards have been so incredibly doctored it is insane. My heart goes out to the poor models who spend every waking moment (and probably sleeping moment) obsessing over their bodies and their skin in order to continue working. They go into these photo shoots and once the add is run, so much work has gone into thinning their legs and lengthening their necks and airbrushing their skin… even they are being told that they don’t quite meet the mark! More about this in an upcoming post. Anyway, I think it is painfully obvious that this has become an epidemic in our society and it is nothing new to have someone be passionate about the issue. My reasons for such a deep seeded passion on this particular subject are quite a bit more complicated- and personal- than that, however.
When I was sixteen, I went to the doctor for what I believed to be a kidney infection. A few hours and several tests later, I left the hospital with a diagnosis of ovarian ruptures and a malformed uterus. I was told that I would continue to suffer incredible pain every month during my cycle (because every female needs more reason to be miserable during that time of the month, especially an adolescent female). I would be put on a high dose of birth control that would help minimize the pain and the effects of the ruptures but would come with a few side effects like further hormonal imbalance and weight gain. As if I was not already reeling, I was also informed that I would never be able to have children.
Devastating is an understatement.
Five years later, I married an amazing man who loves me for everything that I am and in spite of everything that I am not and the things I could not give him. He was willing to give up his own hope of having any biological children for me. A little while after we said “I Do”, I went to the doctor thinking I had a viral infection, and for the second time in my life, I received life-changing news. Much to everyone’s shock I was told that I was pregnant. It was such an amazing blessing and it was one that God bestowed on my husband and I two more times over the next 5 years, all three producing perfect, healthy babies. Every doctor I have ever seen since continues to be completely baffled at the possibility. God literally gave us three miracles!
Though I would not hesitate to do it all over again, pregnancy was extremely hard on me physically.Now, I realize that pregnancy is tough on most women, for me it was life threatening for both myself and the baby. By the time our third baby arrived, we were strongly advised by my doctors and our family to call three the final number, my body could not be pushed any more, (my OBGYN outright refused to see me through another pregnancy). We took their advice, but my body has not been the same since! Aside from missing whatever magic gene it is that some women have, allowing them to completely bounce back from having children, physically unaltered, (NOT FAIR… at all!) I also developed several serious health conditions. (You can read more about this in the post “My Medical Malfunction”.
It has been a little over 5 years since my last pregnancy and I am now the owner of many scars, physical, emotional and psychological. Among the physical, the most notable are my three C-section scars, two cyst removal scars that had to be “dug” from my body with a spoon shaped knife leaving literal craters, several incisions from an emergency hysterectomy after a tumor was found on my uterus and one very lovely scar across my throat from having my thyroid gland removed. Needless to say, I am a far cry from the person I previously was physically. There have been too many days in the last few years of looking at my reflection in the mirror and asking “who are you?” It is an uncomfortable question and one that I successfully avoided for a long time.
As my kids have gotten older I have begun to realize the fact that, for better or worse, I am the example they are looking to while developing their own self image. Knowing who I am has become a question that I can not longer avoid. Thus, I reluctantly allowed the question to surface and began actively searching for the answer.
I want to be someone my kids can emulate themselves after. I want to be a strong example of integrity, morality, character and beauty. I don’t want them to find themselves buying into the impossible guidelines of what a woman should be according to mainstream media and modern society. But I knew I couldn’t do that for them until I learned to stop buying into those very standards myself. As I began to prayerfully examining my own life, it became very clear that I was an extremely flawed, imperfect and broken person. I was stretched and scarred and God knows I was a long way from super model material! But I also began to realize that in the midst of all of the brokenness and imperfection, there was a lot of pretty amazing potential. That realization has been empowering, regardless of how often I have to remind myself of it!
I still have very real struggles with my health and I continue to have a love- hate relationship with mirrors, but I am learning to see myself as more than my physical reflection. God is teaching me that sometimes the scars and the broken pieces and other “imperfections” are exactly what make a person immeasurably and uniquely beautiful. Beautiful in a way that no swim suit competition or make-up or air brushing could ever replicate. It is a beauty that transcends all of that, a beauty that comes from life, and love, happiness and pain, blessing and loss. That is the legacy I want to leave for my kids. I don’t want them to know me as the most physically attractive person in a room, though I would be lying if I said that wouldn’t be pretty AWESOME! I want them to know me in all of my honest imperfections, mistakes and scars. I want them to see a life that overcomes obstacles a life that perseveres through challenge and adversity and hopefully comes out stronger and wiser on the other side. I want to be a source of hope and love and a testament to a grace that is beyond understanding. I want them to never be able to look at me without being enveloped in a light so radiant as it spills through all of the cracks, and testifies to a beauty that comes from a place far deeper than my skin! I want to learn to be beautiful not because I could be on the cover of a magazine but because I have beautiful inside of me, because my experiences and trials and countless blessings have created in me a beautiful that uniquely my own. That is a beauty that shines from within where no bad hair day or wardrobe malfunction or giant zit or advanced aging can distract from it and the scars that I bear only amplify it. That is what beautiful is, that is the obsession we should all have, the goal we should spend our lives pursuing. That kind of beautiful is my passion for myself, my children and all of those I come in contact with, to expose that kind of beautiful, from the inside, out.
So, that is my story in a sort of nutshell. It took me a long time and a lot of editing and re editing to have the courage to put that out there. Especially in the age of Facebook where I have the ability to pretend to be whoever and whatever I want to be. But I know that I can not ask honesty and vulnerability of others without walking a mile in those shoes. Thank you for taking the time to let me share with you! I hope that as you have read this you have been encouraged to face yourself in all of your own imperfections and scars and really take the time to notice the amazing and stunning person that lives beyond what can been seen in any mirror. There is a potential and a purpose there that is only yours and the lives of those around you will be abundantly blessed because of it. It only awaits for you to recognize it within yourself and embrace it with abandon.
– Naomi xo
(Founder of SDE Magazine)
What is your beautiful? I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below!