Fostering beauty


I’ve decided to start painting my fingernails. This may sound inconsequential, but it feels significant: it’s a tiny symbol of an effort toward beauty.

I’ve lived in Denver for three years, and while by no means have I “let myself go,” my circumstances during this time have not exactly required me to bring a fashionable A-game. I worked from home for a long time, which allowed for days upon days in my pajamas. When I would venture out of the house, 9 times out of 10 it was to go running – so why would I ever bother with hair and makeup?

Just over a year ago, I started working from an office again – and while it’s required me to actually, oh you know, GET DRESSED every day, I happen to work with all women. There is no pressure to look awesome – so I don’t. T-shirts and jeans every day, whatever’s comfortable, hair in a ponytail. Done.

It’s interesting what the world’s focus on physical appearance has done to me. For a long time, it was a standard I was trying to meet. Then, when I realized that perfection was unattainable, the pendulum swung the other way: I just shouldn’t care at all. Who am I trying to impress, anyway?

But I’m realizing how deeply my lack of personal effort has been sinking into my psyche. Go for months without feeling put together, and one is bound to start falling apart.

The past 6 months of my life have been marked by some significant decisions toward health. I see a counselor on a regular basis. I paid off all of my debt. I am making changes in my calendar and my habits and my thought patterns. These developments feel beautiful.

I just want my outside to match my inside.

I keep thinking of the phrase “fostering beauty.” To foster does not mean to strive, to strain, to struggle, or to contrive. To foster means to cherish, to cultivate, to nurture and uphold. It suggests that the thing one is fostering already exists; it does not need to be fabricated or manipulated. It just needs to be cherished. Cultivated. Nurtured. Upheld.

So today, my hair is curled, and I’m wearing a new shirt. My fingernails are a dark, dusty pink – the color of Ibuprofen, an accidental homage to the trusty pain killer.

And I’m telling you, just like Ibuprofen, it’s making things better.



  1. Michael on February 11, 2013 at 9:43 AM

    Ibuprofen is an old friend of mine. I am sure you wear the color well! I dressed up a bit today, too. My nails are a wreck, though. I like to feel “put together” sometimes. Let that inner beauty continue to shine, and foster the loveliness on the outside, yes! That sounds harmonious, indeed.

  2. Sarah on February 11, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    You’ve inspired me to paint my nails, this morning :). I was looking for this shiny dark purple I like, but wound up going for a bright pearly white, instead. Have a great day!

  3. Beth on February 11, 2013 at 10:44 AM

    Yes, sister, I am a nurse, so most days I sleep in pajamas and feel like I wear them to work in the form of scrubs. On my days off, I find I curl my hair, get a little gussied up, and I think my closest friends wonder why when I’m just coming to their house for coffee, I’m maybe not a little more casual. You hit the nail on the head. I think it’s innate in a woman to express beauty. So when we don’t or can’t, the underlying need is there, and I think when we fully “foster” it as you say- in a pure and not trampy way :) – we are displaying that part of our image of God to the world. Thanks for this post- love it!

  4. carriebeth sherwwod on February 11, 2013 at 11:07 AM

    Beautiful post :) I polished my nails for the first time in FOREVER last night. Being a mom to two babies can make you feel frumpy and unattractive real fast…so I stayed up way later than I should have just so I could feel a little bit pretty again!

  5. Greta on February 11, 2013 at 11:53 AM

    This reminds me of one of my favorite chapters from Anne Lamott’s “Traveling Mercies.” It ends with this:

    My son barged in just as I began to put on a little make-up. He was hungry and wanted to go. But I shook my head, and began to dab on tinted moisturizer.

    “Why do you have to do that?” he whined. “I’m starving to death.”

    “It will just take a minute,” I said. He wouldn’t understand: He looks like a 7-year-old cross between God and Cindy Crawford. And I don’t understand entirely, either.

    But I wasn’t thinking that I looked awful and wanted to look like someone else; that is the point at which you can come dangerously close to female impersonation. I just remembered that sometimes you start with the outside and you get it right. It’s burnishing, honoring the healthy, rosy, young person inside who is temporarily asleep in another room. It says, “Sometimes I look a little pale and wan, and I want to shine a little light on myself.” It’s almost like make-up can be a form of light, like on days when a little cloud cover makes you really notice the rays that come slanting through. Maybe the key is simply a wry fondness for the thing you’re slapping this stuff onto, instead of a desire to disguise; when it’s not a coat of paint you’re wearing, but a mantilla.

    But at any rate, I put on a little make-up that night, and then my starving son, the aunties [Anne’s nickname for her thighs] and I — the four of us looking unusually fine — went to meet our friends for dinner.

    The whole chapter is so good– you can read it here:

    I love you and your perspectives and your wisdom and your face. :) Can’t wait to see you soon!!!

  6. Miranda on February 11, 2013 at 12:09 PM

    Thank you for using the word “foster”. I can often tend to strive and manipulate , so it’s helpful to be reminded there is another, better, way. Love you.

  7. Dani on February 11, 2013 at 2:57 PM

    I’m with you, girl. My default is sweatshirts and jeans, but my heart does much better in nail polish and cute shoes. :)

  8. Christina on February 11, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    “But I’m realizing how deeply my lack of personal effort has been sinking into my psyche. Go for months without feeling put together, and one is bound to start falling apart.”

    Um, yep. This is so me right now and it’s truly affecting my psyche. I am in the “new mom looking like crap most days” rut and its seeping into my pores (literally and emotionally). Once I have power and hot water again, I must put my appearance back on my priority list. For myself, my my mental health, more than anything.

    So, yeah, I FEEL YOU.

  9. Dani from WA on February 11, 2013 at 4:12 PM

    As I sit here just out of the shower thinking “my kids really don’t care if I’ve actually done my hair today or not”…This so completely resonates with where I am at and it reminds me of the truths God has been whispering to me over the past months. Especially the part about fostering beauty. Its not about manufacturing it, but cherishing it. And in that cherishing we honor God and give him glory. Thanks. I needed this today.

  10. Emily on February 11, 2013 at 6:58 PM

    Annie. Thank you. Thank you so much. I have no way to explain how much I needed someone to tell me this. Thank you.

  11. Joey on February 15, 2013 at 1:17 PM

    Wow, I really like the “fostering beauty” idea. It’s kind of like spreading the Gospel. (I’m not being jokey, I really think it is a neat way to show hope and beauty and respect.)

  12. […] physical world, it includes our bodies, our features, our faces. This is why we make attempts to foster our beauty – not to manufacture it, not to attain it, but to release what is already there. We want our […]

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