Dear Lauren,

I look in the mirror and think I’m ugly. Why was God so unfair to me?

I’m sorry you don’t like the reflection you see in the mirror. That must be a tremendously difficult encounter to experience each day.

I will tell you something, though. I’ve seen beauty queens whose character (or lack thereof) made them seem terribly ugly. And I’ve met people who, on first glance, didn’t measure up to some cultural construct of “beauty,” but who, once I got to know them, were gorgeous in my eyes, through the strength of their personality, intellect, creative powers, amazing character, sense of humor, confidence, kindness…you get the picture.

Inner beauty radiates outward, transforming the actual, physical perception of a person.

In my opinion, it’s not so much the placement of someone’s eyes, nose, lips, the way their hair falls, the thickness (or thinness) of their thighs, abdomen, arms, which make them a beautiful being or not. Rather, it’s the beauty they create in the world around them which is the true measure of their loveliness or handsomeness. This may sound trite to you, but in my experience, inner beauty radiates outward, transforming the actual, physical perception of a person. You are way more than the sum of your disparate body parts.

The second part of your question is a really good one, and a completely universal one. Anyone going through any difficulty in life (and, of course, that’s all of us) on some level asks that question: why is God so unfair to me?

The answer is: God is always fair. God loves us. And anything He does, He does for us. For our benefit. To make us grow, to make us better. Our job is to recognize the difficulties, own them, accept them as part of our life, and figure out how to make ourselves into stronger, kinder, better people through those difficulties and because of those difficulties.

I have a severely mentally and physically handicapped sister. Growing up, people made fun of her. But there was one time in particular which stands out in my memory. One time, some kid (I don’t even remember who the kid was—that’s how unoriginal he or she was) said, in a particularly malicious tone, “Your sister is so…WEIRD!” And I remember it being a watershed moment for me, because all of a sudden it struck me, “I’m really sorry you don’t like the way she looks—that’s the way God made her.”

As painful as that kid’s taunt was, I am forever grateful to him or her, because it made me realize that someone’s opinion is just someone’s opinion. It’s not gospel, and it ain’t necessarily so. That difficult situation made me realize: who cares what someone else thinks? If it’s God’s plan that a person or a situation be the way it is, then that person or situation is good the way it is.

God has a plan for you: to look the way you do, and, probably, for you to create your aura—the way people perceive you, the way people see you—through exuding inner goodness, inner kindness, inner poise, and even inner confidence.

If God created the transmitter that way, then it’s not faulty: it’s perfect.

I know it’s tough to emit waves of confidence when you feel like a faulty transmitter. But if God created the transmitter that way, then it’s not faulty: it’s perfect.

All that being said, I’ll tell you something girlfriend to girlfriend (and guys can listen in, too). My mother taught me an invaluable lesson when I was young. If we went shopping, and I absolutely loved loved loved a dress and wanted to buy it, she would have me try it on, look at me in it, have me walk back and forth in it to see how it hung on me from every angle, and then she would say, “You know, the shoulders are a bit too big for you—it doesn’t flatter your figure.” Or, “I like the dress, but that color makes you look pale.” Or, “The cinching at the waist makes it look damaged.” Or the glorious, “Wow! That dress brings out the best in you!”

What I’m saying is this: the cut of clothes, the color of clothes, the bulkiness or stretchiness or clinginess of clothes, how to apply makeup, how to use hair gel, the haircut you have, the blowing-dry or airing-dry of your hair—all of these factors can make a huge difference in your actual physical appearance. Ask some friends or hairstylists or clerks at a store you trust to help you figure out the best physical accoutrements for you.

And then do the most important part: walk this earth with confidence, exuding inner beauty and graciousness and goodness to make you beloved in everyone’s eyes—including your own.