pushing hair backMy name is Nicolette and I come from Zimbabwe, commonly referred to as Africa’s paradise. If you look at a map of the world, look for Africa and near the bottom, you will see a country shaped like a teapot. That is the beautiful country of Zimbabwe.

A little about myself: I’m crazy, spontaneous, and I’m not afraid of talking about anything and everything. Quite a lot of the things I say are just outrageous, but I do make some sense.

When I first started writing this, I thought, this is my story. But it is also the story of every young woman in my generation, a story about wanting to be beautiful.

I have always struggled to have a positive image of myself. It all started in primary school. I was nothing spectacular to look at. I was skinny, scruffy and suffered from a bad case of eczema. I remember being called skinny and rashy by my friends, “rashy, rashy, rashy,” someone once taunted me in class and I burst into tears, not really understanding why the world was such a mean place. The ointments which I applied for my eczema also didn’t have a pleasant smell so as a result I didn’t smell that great. The other kids didn’t hang around me much, and for any child that sucks! A year later I was the favorite target of a bully who used to call me “hamburger lips.”

Soon it was time for high school and “HEY!” the hormones kicked in and I had “HIPS! WOW!- not so skinny and unattractive anymore- the ugly duckling was becoming a swan. But with the curvy hormones came the acne hormones. SPOTS that just wouldn’t go away. My hair was even crazier than my attitude, and people used to call me Scary Spice. To add to my frustration I had scoliosis. My treatment meant wearing a back brace, a hard plastic cast that wrapped itself around me from just under my bust to my waist. It had no ventilation, and let me tell you, Africa can get hot! I could literally feel beads of sweat rolling down my back…and sweat doesn’t smell all that great at the end of the day. I also had a big gap in my front teeth, a present from my father’s side of the family, and I had to wear braces. I remember once smiling with my mouth closed and my step mother said, “that’s not a real smile- give us a real one” and I would, but inside I would be thinking, “this lady is trying to ruin me!” Basically, I didn’t have much going for me.

Later on, the back brace and the braces were vanquished, and my eczema went into remission. At this time beauty was something that I just didn’t focus on. I had a general impression of myself, which was – “I am okay.” I was one of those people that looked at myself in the mirror, and forgot what I looked like as soon as I walked away. Iz would make sure that I fulfilled society’s obligations to look acceptable, but no more. Beauty was something that I considered to be at the bottom of my priorities. But the truth of the matter was, like most girls, I had very little self-esteem. My insecurites were lurking nearby, and they would jump out at me from time to time.

During my school holiday one year, I went to stay with my aunt and uncle in Harare, which is the capital city of Zimbabwe. I love to explore and go window shopping, and it gave me a great opportunty to explore the city of my birth. One particular morning I looked at myself and thought, “You look terrible. Look at the pimples, look at your hair, you look terrible,” but I just shoved the thought aside, and went out to see the city. As I was walking and looking at the ground, I heard someone say “Hi,” and there was Paul, tall, smiling and very handsome. Paul was the hottest, smartest, nicest guy in my high school. To me he was the perfect man, but he dated my worst enemy. I said, “Oh hi, Paul, I can’t believe it’s you!” inside I was thinking, “Why him? Why today? I look terrible!” I put my hand to my face as though shielding it “from the sun,” but really to hide it from Paul. We ended up spending the afternoon walking around, catching up on the past three years, and talking about everyone and everything. At one point I started to voice my insecurities about my physical appearance. Paul said, “BUT YOU’RE NOT THAT UGLY.” Now before you all get up and form an angry mob and hunt Paul down—I truly believe that it was a slip of the tongue. He apologized immediately and said it hadn’t come out the way he intended it to. He meant to say that “with a few changes I could be a bombshell.” But it didn’t do much for my self-esteem.

When school opened for the last term of the year I was supposed to go on a discipleship camp. It was a weekend organized by the school at a beautiful campsite to focus on God and get closer to Him, without the distractions of technology.

Just before going, I was thinking about technology and marveling at the genius of mankind, when it came to me that humans, in all their genius and knowledge, could not originally create a single hair. They may be able to clone one, but that’s not creating. It’s copying. And if they couldn’t originally create a single hair on my head, then what right did they have to judge me? What right did I have to judge myself? That’s when the light bulb went on. I thought: if they can’t create me, and they can’t judge me, then who can judge what is beautiful? And the answer to that question was—God! And I realized that I was beautiful, not by man’s standard, but by God’s!

It was a complete turn-around. From that moment my motto was, “I am beautiful!” I was obsessed with the thought. The more I thought about it the more I realized that God’s opinion was the only one that counted, and I knew that God thought I was beautiful.

I imagined that early in the morning when my hair was all in a mess, one leg hanging off my bed, and my mouth wide open and drool dripping onto my pillow and my snores shaking the house, He was looking down on me and saying to the angels, “look Michael, look! Isn’t she just beautiful!” The Devil looks at you and says, “that is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen,” but the Lord is looking at you and thinking, “She’s the cutest thing ever,” just like the way I feel when I see a baby, “Awww… that is so cute,”

So I went to the camp completely consumed with the idea that I was beautiful. I was outrageous. As everyone was listening to a reading, I would stand by the pulpit and just look at people. Everyone would say, “Nicolette, why are you standing there?” and I would say, “because I’m beautiful” They would say, “Yes, we know you are beautiful, now get off the stage.” And I would say, “No I want you to look at me, and every time you see how beautiful I am, you’ll be reminded how great God is.” It was righteous vanity at it’s best.

I stopped defining beauty as something that I could see or compare physically with something else. I stopped looking for beauty ON me. I started looking at me through God’s eyes. I started to love myself. I figured that there had to be something IN me that would make God obsessed with me.

You might be thinking, “Whoa, what do you mean obsessed?” I mean that God is so crazy about me that he takes time to know everything about me. As it says in Psalm 139,

“Lord you have examined me and know everything about me
You know everything I do, From far away you understand all my thoughts
You see me whether I am working or resting, you know all my actions
Even before I speak you already know what I am going to say
You are all around me, on every side, you protect me with your power
Your thoughts of me are too deep, it is beyond my understanding.”

Now if that doesn’t sound like a guy who is crazy about you, then I don’t know what is. Another verse from this Psalm, that my step mother used to quote whenever I said anything bad about myself, was verse 14 which says, “I will praise you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made”

Very few artists can look at their work and say it’s exactly the way they had imagined it. But God can. The way you look is no mistake. Even if you’re involved in an accident and you get scarred, you have to realize that everything that happens to you is part of God’s will, under his control. So the way you look is no mistake — I repeat — the way you look is no mistake. How did I know that? Because God doesn’t create junk. God cannot make something ugly, because there is no ugliness in him, only perfect beauty.

God has a destiny for each and every young woman and girl. Before you were born, he had plans for you. Fulfilling God’s destiny is our purpose on earth and for you to be able to achieve it, you need to be confident in yourself.

The Devil knows that God has great plans for you, and the last thing he wants is to see you fulfill those plans. So he has created an identity crisis in the world, because he knows that if you know who you are, nothing will stop you from doing the great things that God has called you to. He tries to form your identity in the world, based on how you look outside, the make-up and clothing and body image.

One year slender is in fashion, then next curves are in. And there is so much pressure to look right, to be in, not out. Just switch on your TV and someone is telling you that your skin has to be improved so that your boyfriend will caress your face and fall more in love with you. We fall into these traps, trying to look good, and we end up with a lot of pressure and anxiety when we fail to meet the standard.

Jesus in John 10 vs. 10 said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and to destroy, but I have come that they might have life and have it abundantly.” The thief is the Devil and he wants to steal your confidence in yourself and completely destroy your peace of heart and happiness that comes from your God-given identity.

The Devil works in four stages that I’ve identified from my own experience.

Stage one: He waits for you realize that you are different.
Stage two: He makes you uncomfortable with your differences.
Stage three: He makes you hate your differences.
Stage four: He offers you a solution.

Stage One—“He waits for you realize that you are different.” For me it was my weight and my eczema. Maybe you’re thin or fat, shorter, taller, maybe you have big ears or a tiny nose. Whatever the case, most of us at some stage have realized that we are different in some way. The Devil won’t sit by and watch you say, “I’m different and that makes me special.” Instead he wants you to say, “I’m different and that makes me ugly!”

Stage Two. Maybe you had parents who said, “We know you are different and we love you for it and you must learn to like yourself too.” As a kid I was okay with me, but other kids weren’t. I began to be hard on myself too. Maybe you also want to change the way you look, if only you were a little taller, a little shorter, a little prettier, if only you had a little more here and a little less there… if only, if only, if only….

For me, Stage Three began when I started getting teased. There’s something about kids hurting each other with words—it’s amazing how mean they can be! I remember the taunts clearly, and I even remember which room I was in, and where I was sitting. “rashy, rashy, rashy, skinny, skinny, skinny” And then we begin to turn those hurtful words against ourselves. We stare at ourselves in the mirror and begin to say, “You’re ugly,” or “you’re fat,” or, “you’re a loser, a nerd, a freak” and we begin to destroy the beauty that is within us.

Stage Four. In this stage the devil offers you a so-called solution: diet pills, cosmetics, supplements, bulimia, anorexia, plastic surgery, you name it. The products rolling off his assembly line offer no guarantee except to ruin your health, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. But we are so hooked on trying to find beauty that we don’t realize that we are hurting ourselves,

There are two major forces in your life and no, they are not MTV and your boyfriend. There is God- the ever lasting loving father, the alpha and the omega, Jehovah jireh, God your provider, Jehovah rapha, the God who heals, Jehovah el shaddai, the God who is more than enough. Then there is Satan- the Devil, the father of deception, the definition of hate itself, that serpent of old. These two forces are constantly fighting for you, while you sleep, while you work, while you are taking a bath. There is a battle going on in the spiritual world and you are the grand prize! Both of these two factors are trying to give you an identity, to mark you as their own. The Lord says, “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29 vs.11)

Now let’s see what the devil has to offer: “I know the plans I have for you, plans to destroy and to hurt you, to keep you in your past pain and to destroy any hope for a better life. I will take the beauty that you have, burn it, and rub your face in its ashes. I will steal your praise and crush you under the weight of deceit and lies. I will take your joy and make your life one of mourning and inner pain!”

Ladies it is time to rise up, open our eyes and break the bonds that have bound us. Jesus once raised a little girl back to life, and these are the words he said to her: “Talitha koum” meaning, “Little girl, wake up!” We are all God’s little girls. My dad refers to me as his little girl. It doesn’t make a difference that I’m 18 . Even when I’m 40 and married with my own kids, I will always be daddy’s little girl. And it’s the same with you. So Jesus is calling your beauty back from the dead. Your confidence, your self-worth—Jesus is calling it back from the dead. It may have been murdered by cruel words, you might have been violated, physically, emotionally and spiritually, but it is coming back to you now. You need to get a makeover from the Designer of roses and lilies. Forget Gucci, forget Armani, forget Ralph Lauren—they have nothing on God. Who do you think gave them their talent?

These are the four practical things to do to wake up your beauty.

First, realize that your differences are what make you who you are. It’s okay to want to look great and feel great, but only change things that can be changed. For example acne problems, medical conditions, things that are practical to change. We all wish we could have fab bikini bodies, but if God didn’t design you to have bikini body, there isn’t much you can do about it. Instead, aim to get rid of your excess weight, and enjoy the feeling of a slimmer, healthier you.. Anything that can’t be changed, like big ears or your height, you must learn to like. Like my teeth—I thought my smile was terrible until I would have done anything to get rid of the gap. But now, I smile so much that my friend Gloria said to someone else, the other day, “I like Nicolette’s smile” and then I realized that I liked my smile too, gap and all.

Second, tell yourself that you are beautiful and that as long as God thinks so, no one else’s opinion matters. Look at yourself in the mirror and say to the girl staring at you, “You are gorgeous, you are beautiful, God says so,”

Third, if there are any people in your life who make you feel anything but beautiful, maybe a friend or a family member, someone that teases you perhaps, you have to confront them. Sometimes they may not know how much their words have been hurting you. Just say something like, “ I don’t like the things you say to me, they really hurt my feelings and I would like you to please stop saying them.” Do it in a peaceful, calm way, and not when you are hurt and angry, but later, when you are calm. They could start teasing you again. Then maybe it’s time to send someone else to talk to them, someone they’ll respect, especially if they are bullies. If they are friends and they continue teasing you, walk away.

Fourth, try to avoid exposing yourself to things that can make you feel anything but beautiful, like watching diet ads. Everyone out there is trying to make a quick buck and advertisers can make you think you have a big problem, just so that you’ll buy their products.

Once you have wakened your inner beauty, you have to care for it, like a seed growing inside you. Proverbs 4 vs.23-25 says “Guard your heart, because out of it flow the springs of life,” The last thing the devil wants is for you to give birth to that beauty. Think about a pregnant woman. She has to eat right, take vitamins, and go for check-ups. She shouldn’t be drinking or smoking or doing drugs or she will put her child at risk. It’s the same thing with you beauty. You need to feed your beauty, while it still growing in you, with good thoughts about yourself. You have to be confident. You have to be positive. You constantly need to go to God to get a check up.

I challenge you to change your thoughts, open your eyes, and set your heart on God’s heart, if you want to appreciate exactly who you are. Then you will know how beautiful you are, and you can overcome this carefully-knit identity crisis that the enemy has made in our lives.

So, please, beautiful gorgeous daughters of the Almighty, remember that beauty in the world is a passing trend, but beauty in the Lord lasts for eternity. It won’t be taken from you. Be blessed and be beautiful.