Beliefnet
Good Days…Bad Days With Maureen Pratt

Second close-up of pictureDoes your illness make you feel ugly? How about rethinking beauty?

Months before I was diagnosed with lupus, I lost all of my hair. It was difficult to fully understand, yet each time I looked in the mirror, I could see the effects of something at work, changing my appearance and leading me into a completely unknown world of wigs, scarves, and other ways to cover my bald head.

Losing my hair also made me realize that, as medications, symptoms, and aging combine in our lives, we need to be rethinking beauty or, in other words, what’s beautiful to us. As weight comes or goes, hair loss widens, and rashes or other manifestations of illness affect our bodies, our perception of who we are in the mirror of society’s ideas of beauty change, too. We might, at first, be very frustrated or saddened by the changes we see. Sometimes, we might fall into depression as the person we thought we knew changes physically before our eyes.

But more productive and positive is, I think, rethinking our concept of beauty and, thus, adjusting to the changes we’re undergoing without feeling like a victim to something that is “robbing us” of the possibility of being beautiful.

Yes, losing my hair was difficult to cope with at first. But I learned that with wigs there are no bad hair days, and they enabled me to easily style and restyle my “look” without spending hours working at it. Yes, they relieved much of the stress that comes with getting ready to face the world!

Beauty shines through our eyes and smiles, no matter how much our bodies change. So, if we take time to boost and nurture our spirit within, we become more beautiful, not less, through those very windows into our soul. Courage, grace, love, and light – these all come through us when we warmly welcome life wherever we are.

Beauty also comes with wisdom, the confidence we develop as we weather flare after flare and survive, even flourish in spite of these challenges. Think of a seasoned athlete, no trace of anxiety but reflecting strength. That is beauty that others who are not health challenged might struggle to find, but that for us is part of our lives with illness.

Faith brings beauty to our lives no matter where we are emotionally with illness. So, as we approach each pang, each new symptom, if we bring God with us into the journey, we can rely on fortitude that enhances our own and brings us even more faith and, yes, life experiences that foster grace and beauty.

Even if we do not have our illness throughout our lives, we will age. And that process will bring more physical changes, some of which we won’t find all that beautiful. By rethinking beauty, we enable ourselves to have a context for illness, life, and all the years to come, that isn’t reliant upon the changes of our bodies but rather on the strength and grace that we build.

And that, yes, is mighty beautiful!

Peace,

Maureen

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