Feeling Less Than Beautiful

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A reader recently sent me an email I knew I had to address on THS

Okay, here’s my question:
What do you do when you don’t feel beautiful?

I’m asking you in particular because of your passion for Operation Beautiful!  And I’ve just been struggling lately. I’m living in a culture VERY obsessed with sex and appearance. And while I’m confident in myself, my personality, who I AM, I’m not at all confident in how I LOOK.

Any words of wisdom?

self 3

I wish I had a magic pill to offer others [and myself!] when these feelings of “unbeautiful” sneak up on us.  I am confident that we all feel this way from time to time.  I’m no self-esteem building expert, but I can offer some suggestions based on my own experiences battling the negative voices that appear every so often.


1. Find something that DOES make you feel beautiful.  Something physical that you can add to your self when you think your beauty is hiding. [Your beauty is always THERE, sometimes you just need to uncover your opinion of it.]   It may be a scarf, a certain mascara or perfume. It could be a particular cardigan or your favorite pair of heels.  These “special” items in my life are the accessories that make me feel MORE THAN beautiful.  I don’t depend on their superpowers every day, but on the days that you REALLY need a “beauty pick me up” – then I put it on to do the rescuing of my self-view. My tall “magic” boots and my favorite mascara are my beauty heroes.


2. Speaking of what you wear…start today by beginning to transition out the pieces of clothing that you often find yourself HATING, and replace them with items are that are more simply “you.”

Consider your favorite “go-to” pieces in your closet.  When you are preparing for an important dinner last minute, what do you grab out of your wardrobe? What style are these items?  What cut of tops, dresses, skirts, and pants do you feel the most comfortable in, the most gorgeous in, and the most yourself in? This is the style I would define as “you.”

Now think about the pieces that you almost never wear.  The ones you try on time and time again, and throw on the floor in heated frustrated 9 times out of 10. It’s time to get rid of these pieces [swap with a friend, bring them to a consignment shop, donate them, or craft it up!] and replace them with some new “you” items! When shopping, don’t be afraid to buy two of one specific top in different colors if you find yourself feeling radiant in them.


3. Look around you.  Every woman around you has thought at one time or another “I am the opposite of beautiful.”  More than half of the women you will see probably thought this today.  Keep looking around you- notice how none of them are ugly?  Notice how you see beauty in EACH of them.  None of the people on your path today are thinking “so ugly” or “not attractive” when they look at you.  NONE.


4. Copy this down: Psalm 139. The end.  When I lived in my first apartment in Texas, my friend Mary came over one weekend.  We took large strips of paper and wrote down the entire Psalm, one word per strip of paper.  We hung it up on the back of my apartment door which led me to constantly see it, and read it, and remembered it, every single day.  Fearfully and wonderfully made.


5. Confession: There are days i avoid the mirror. It’s true.  If I have put on more than 2 outfits, and still feel ridiculous and “not enough” in what I’m wearing, I just have a reasoning talk with myself that goes a little something like this – “Dear self. You are being ridiculous. I will not let you think about this anymore.  You know you are beautiful. You know you are worthy. You are just being fooled by this silly little piece of reflective glass. Therefore, you are no long allowed to look in the mirror. Today is a mirror free day. And a no camera day, too.”


6. Then I do something ridiculously kind for someone else, reminding me of the beauty INSIDE that makes me worth so much more than my beauty outside.


7. No shocker here: Write an Operation Beautiful note to send some beauty out into the world. If that doesn’t make you feel better, write another one. And then another.  Keep going until you feel better. The whole concept of Operation Beautiful started when Caitlin Boyle felt less than what she is worth.


8. Keep a photo (or two or three) of yourself that you absolutely LOVE on hand.  When you are feeling crappy, take out these reinforcements and remind yourself that THIS IS YOU in the photo.  Bonus points if the photo is of such a great memory that you stop thinking about not feeling beautiful and start remember that great day, instead.


9. Read some of these other posts on beauty that may interest you:

What’s in a Picture on Operation Beautiful and the original, Overweight Admission – the comments on these posts, especially, which remind us that we all feel this way from time to time.  We are not alone.

Stop Comparing Yourself from Medicinal Marzipan
Just Bloom from Kelsey
Dear Society from Mackenzie
How Do I Look from Anywhere There’s an Airport
Don’t Say Something to Yourself You Wouldn’t Say to a Friend by Therese
Lessons in Beauty from Mama Pea
What is Beauty by Lauren

panera ob

Let’s rally our tips and tricks together: What do YOU do when you feel less than beautiful?

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37 thoughts on “Feeling Less Than Beautiful

  1. Mama Pea

    Honored to be on this list. #4 is my favorite. My best advice for those insecure moments is seeking His comfort. We all try to fill our holes with the external things: material possessions, popularity, and external beauty–but nothing fills us up like His LOVE!

    You are truly beautiful. Thank you for this post!
    Mama Pea recently posted..Wacky Wednesday- Round Trip

  2. Kaley

    I follow you on Twitter and I added you on Facebook, but I wanted to say that I just love your blog and perspective. Posts like this make you one of the people I really wish were my friends.

    Also, love the Biblical perspective. You are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Kaley recently posted..Cliché Quotes I Hate

  3. Alexa @ Simple Eats

    This is such a sweet and thoughtful post. I absolutely love all of these wonderful tips. That psalm is one of my favorites now that you have shared it. Thank you so much, Heather! I wish there was a magic pill, too. I hate seeing my friends and family, especially, go through self-doubt. If I can try to make someone smile and turn their frown upside down, I hope I can uplift their spirits.
    Alexa @ Simple Eats recently posted..Half Vegan

  4. Katie @ Up Fit Creek

    Great post, Heather! I especially like your tip about getting rid of clothing pieces that you never like wearing or that don’t make you feel beautiful. I definitely have some of these that I hang on to simply because they fit and are in good condition. Still, no point keeping them if I don’t like myself when I’m in them.
    Katie @ Up Fit Creek recently posted..cue the Hallelujah Chorus

    1. Heather

      I’m glad you liked that tip! I suggest trying to trade with some friends – even if they don’t have clothes that you like/fit you well, maybe they have accessories or other items they don’t want anymore that you would like!
      Heather recently posted..Feeling Less Than Beautiful

  5. Corey @ the runners cookie

    Amazing post (once again), Heather. I definitely agree with the concept that when I feel beautiful on the inside, it transfers to feeling confident about my appearance as well. When I’m not feeling beautiful I call someone I love, do something kind for someone else (even a stranger), or even go for a run or do some yoga – for some reason exercise always brings me back to the present moment and makes me forget those crazy negative thoughts.

  6. Michelle

    Love this. 🙂

    This past weekend, I got a new spring jacket that I LOVE. Wore it tonight with jeans, a long-sleeve tee, and my hair in the same ponytail it’s been in since this morning, and still felt SO good. For better or worse, I think apparel’s got power, and we can make it work to our advantage.

  7. Kathy @ newlywedindc

    This was great…thank you. One of my favorite things to think of when I’m feeling less than great about myself is this one I first saw on Operation Beautiful: “Why be a copy of someone else when you can be an original of yourself?” It reminds me that there is no point comparing myself to others!
    Kathy @ newlywedindc recently posted..Got the Bronch

  8. Rebecca

    AHHHHH! Can I please add to #4???

    Song of Songs (Solomon) 2:2 & 4:7
    Psalm 45:11
    1 Peter 3:3-4
    Proverbs 31:30

    I JUST talked about this with my small group girls a couple of weeks ago. These are verses I go to when I feel “unbeautiful” or unloveable or whatever. (I also shared Operation Beautiful. ;)) They seemed to appreciate it. 🙂
    I also shared Jonny Diaz’s “More Beautiful You” with them, which was awesome.

    I think I need to clean out my closet a little bit… There are several things I never wear any more… Maybe this summer before I head off “on my own” I can go through the closet and donate stuff I never wear… 🙂
    Rebecca recently posted..I hate crying…

    1. Heather Post author

      so happy you shared Operation Beautiful with the girls in your small group! I wish it would have existed back when I was a youth pastor!

      (ps – i am SO excited for your adventures ahead of you this fall!!! )

  9. Mary

    LOVE this post! Such a thoughtful response to one of your readers! I have to say that, when I have those days where I just feel blue and nothing fits right or looks good and I’m feeling frumpy, I have to surround my self with genuine, loving friends (or a snuggle date on the couch with the hubs!). Whether it’s at lunch, an e-mail chat, or happy hour. That always makes me feel more beautiful. reminds me of that weekend we copied that Psalm!

    Also, in reference to attire, I’ve recently found a new appreciation for finding inspiration on how to re-vamp old items! Whether that’s on blogs or perusing Gap.com (they put together such great outfits on their online stores!), finding ways to use my favorite pieces in a new way just makes me feel….spunky AND beautiful!

    1. Heather Post author

      I love finding inspiration for outfits! your (umm…our?) friend Viv is SO GOOD at posting photos that leave me feeling inspired for my personal style!


  10. Laura

    Painted nails make me feel beautiful. Not sure why, they just do. And the beautiful ring I was given for valentines day this year.

    AND … Obvi collared shirts. Obvi

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  12. Lauren @ sassy molassy

    I totally agree with having clothes that make you feel pretty and special. I have a few dresses that I can’t wait to pull out when it gets warm because they just make me feel playful and cute.

    Running or doing yoga makes me feel strong and powerful and in touch with my body to the point that you have to believe your body is beautiful for all the amazing things it does for you regularly! I know that when I’m training for a race, if I have a moment of doubt about myself, I remind myself that these legs and butt and hips get me through 20 mile runs and up big hills and beyond. There is something truly beautiful in that. And warrior II pose, that just screams beauty.

    I also find that getting in touch with nature and seeing true beauty helps. Walk around a rose garden, hike to the top of a peak, experience the beauty around you.
    Lauren @ sassy molassy recently posted..The Friday commute and black bean burger believers

  13. Cara

    This is such a great post! I know we all have these days and they can be a real struggle, but we get through them. When I’m dealing with a day like this I generally will put on something I am always comfortable in, and walk away from the mirror, because generally as the day goes on I’ll forget how I felt “unbeautiful” that morning. I also sometimes turn to a time of self reflection and try to focus on my inner beauty and psalm 139 does it for me every time, to know I was created this way by god and for a purpose.

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  15. Jana

    this is so good heather! i love number 3, looking for the beauty in others. amazing how taking the focus off of ourselves is sometimes the cure we were looking for. YOU are beautiful and i love reading your words.

  16. Kathy

    You are so wise beyond your years!! So many of the things that you write about are in my mind and in my heart. I will keep reading 🙂

  17. Rita @ Healthy Mom, Sexy Wife

    I think another tip of feeling beautiful is positive reinforcement. The problem is that we often compare ourselves to others and think we should look like them but remember you are unique and beautiful. Take steps to take care of YOU daily even if it is something small like painting your nails or just going for a walk.
    Rita @ Healthy Mom, Sexy Wife recently posted..The Secret to Being Sexy

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