Cross Rhythms website editor Heather Bellamy is a regular contributor for the local Sentinel newspaper's weekly faith column, Yours Faithfully. Each week a different leader from the local faith communities write the column. Check out what Heather has been saying to the fine people of North Staffordshire.
Growing up I wished I didn't have freckles! I thought a girl in my class with pure white skin looked far more beautiful.
Over the years I've felt insecure over various aspects of my appearance. But what is beauty? Generations have extolled different ideas; women's bodies that are curvaceous or super skinny, fashions from the hippy to the sleek and hair that's curly with a perm or hair that's been straightened. Only a few voices have said that beauty is more than what we see with the eye.
Not liking things about ourselves may be a normal part of life, but what is better is to find those voices who value us the way we are, helping us to become all we can be and to like ourselves. As Natasha Bedingfield sings in her song Freckles, "a face without freckles is like a sky without the stars, why waste a second not loving who you are".
There have been many online newspaper articles in the last few days which have focused on the issue of beauty. Sophie Dahl talked about eating herself fat, then thin, then happy. She now insists that "'moderation and balance' are the keys to happiness - not the drive towards size zero thinness." In another story Carmel Tebutt, the acting premier of New South Wales said, when referring to a 'malnourished' looking Miss Universe pageant; "The main thing is to encourage girls and young women to put health before thinking about trying to fit into a particular type of body image".
When we're not self confident and we haven't had input into ourselves that's said we are beautiful, we are vulnerable to being shaped by the media, fashion, celebrity culture and a host of other outside influences. How many young girls want to be as tiny as Cheryl Cole or Posh Spice, instead of being confident in their body shape? As Natasha sings: "I used to care so much about what others think, I almost didn't have a thought of my own."
When I became a Christian, I embarked on a process of discovering who I was. I had been the epitome of Natasha's lyric, not having a 'thought of my own'. I threw away lots of clothes, as they seemed to represent different identities I'd taken on over the years that weren't me. This identity crisis went beyond clothes, I even submitted myself to other people's opinions. I had lost who I was in all ways. During this process, I realized that there was a 'me' inside that was supposed to come out, unmodified by boyfriends, media or anything else and that God loved who I was.
Each of us is unique; when we were made, the mould was broken. To our Creator we're beautiful. Natasha Bedingfield puts it succinctly: 'those little imperfections make you beautiful, loveable, valuable, they show your personality inside your heart.'
If everyone was the same size, with the same hair type and identical gifts and personalities, life would be colourless and boring.
Whatever we look like, whatever our abilities, it would be awesome, if like the Psalmist David, we could say 'I am fearfully and wonderfully made'. Whatever anyone else has said about us, or whatever we think in comparing ourselves to others, we are beautiful.
Only one person can fulfil all you can be and that person is the One who created you. The world would be less without you. You only get one shot at life; find who you are and be true to yourself.The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.