Mena and Pat, my older sisters were discussing my long toes again. We sat on the sofa that hot summer day, watching movies in black and white. They laughed as though I wasn’t privy to the conversation. I curled up my long toes and eased my feet off the coffee table. It wasn’t funny to me, but that didn’t matter. The day’s jokes had begun, and all I could do was suffer through it. From that day on, I thought of my toes as ugly. No one ever tried to convince me otherwise.
Perhaps that’s where my fetish with socks began. I wouldn’t be caught dead in winter, summer, spring, or fall without a pair of socks on my feet. I covered my sheer stockings with socks when I took off my shoes in public, and I used the excuse of being cold to conceal my toes no matter what the occasion.
I even wore socks with sandals. How strange I must have looked years later in southern California, strolling on the beach in hiking boots while friends and passers-by donned flip-flops, Rockports, or bare feet. Southern Californians go barefoot right through the fall! The humiliation of looking hot was much less than the shame of exposing my “ugly toes.”
Traumas suffered in childhood can remain in the psyche for what seems like forever. It doesn’t have to be anything big. It just has to make a self-conscious impression on its victim. At the age of 12, my toes became my wardrobe consultant. Many years later, I still took their consultation whenever I went shopping. Open-toe shoes were out of the question, no matter how pretty.
Sales that promised another 20% off at the register couldn’t get me to trust their judgment. It didn’t matter if the color matched a new outfit perfectly; if the toes were exposed, I left those perfect color open-toe shoes on the shelf. Bright colors looked big and awkward anyhow, my consultants said. Black or dark brown looked smaller. Besides, my toe consultants outnumbered me 10 to one.
Surprisingly, at the age of 50, in the quiet setting of my devotional life, I read these words, “You made my whole being; You formed me in my mother’s body. I praise You because You made me in an amazing and wonderful way. What You have done is wonderful. I know this very well” (Psalm 139:13, 14, NCV). Wow, toes and everything, wonderfully formed by God. “No way.” Of course, when He created me, I probably had beautiful feet. I imagine when I was born, my parents smiled down at me, checking out every inch of my tiny body. I’m sure someone made a comment, “Look at those pretty little feet and those long toes; how beautiful!”
At that moment, there was no reason to suspect that by the age of 11, those toes would demand an adult-size shoe. My toes pushed through four pairs of Keds in one summer. My sisters laughed to their heart’s content, seizing every opportunity to mock what seemed like some rare deformity.
Embarrassed, I began to curl up my toes and force my long feet into shorter shoes, even if my knuckles protruded. The corns and bunions were a small price to pay. I preferred the discomfort of a smaller shoe to the possibility of more ridicule from anyone who would notice that my feet were always two sizes longer than my peers.
Almost everyone has experienced some perceived traumatic experience that has caused them hidden shame or pain. For me, it was my feet; for others, curly hair, chubby thighs, flat chests, bifocals at age five, big ears, or crooked teeth. Hopefully, we move beyond acts of nature to discover that our worth is not based upon what we look like but who we are on the inside.
In today’s extreme make-over culture, I could probably pay for some surgical procedure to beautify my feet. Let’s face it; people are pumping collagen into their cheeks, lips, and other areas that we won’t discuss to have someone tell them that they are beautiful. Perhaps you’d like a bigger bust line, thinner thighs, longer legs, or a flatter stomach. Reality shows offer amazing results if you turn your life over to them and let the whole world watch your transformation. Husbands and wives are sending in videos begging the networks to do something to make their spouses look like the person of their dreams.
Yet, ultimately, God is the only one who can bring about true transformation. However, He’s been axed right out of the equation. How can I believe I am fearfully and wonderfully made while longing for a different body, skin color, or blue eyes?
Getting rid of excess weight, changing our eating habits, and getting more rest are healthy choices. The Bible encourages us to “Present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God; which is our reasonable service.” If God’s health plan is followed, the body takes care of itself, looks good, feels good, and has longevity. And, if we allow God’s indwelling Spirit to do His thing, the beauty we possess will come from the inside out, for which there is no match.
I remember the old expression, “Beauty is only skin deep.” So the same must apply to ugly. A scripture brings it to bear, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” (Isaiah 52:7).
I once read an article about a woman who became a recluse because someone told her that she was too ugly to be in a college production of Romeo and Juliet. I can imagine her pain because my ugly toes thrust me into years of self-consciousness and low esteem.
Seeing Inner Beauty
On the outside, we all smile, pretend we are fine, and put our best foot forward (no pun intended). But let’s face it; everyone has a little pinch of self-consciousness about something. Shouldn’t our imperfections make us more compassionate toward one another, more willing to overlook trivial displeasures and search for the inner beauty in each other?
Recently, while visiting my middle sister, she looked down at my feet and commented, “Those are pretty sandals, Sali. Where did you get them from?” The flashback lasted only ten seconds. Mmm. She didn’t even mention my ugly toes.
My sister focused not on my toes but on the pretty white Indian sandals I wore. My nails were polished and pedicured. And I wore my sandals with grace and dignity because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Seven Ways to Boost Your Confidence
1. Type Psalm 139:13, and 14 in large letters and post them on your bathroom and bedroom walls. Memorize these verses as a mantra to combat negative self-talk.
2. Purchase a throw-a-way camera and have a friend or family member take pictures of you in funny poses.
3. Write a letter to God thanking Him for who you are and listing your special and unique qualities. Yes! You are special and unique.
4. Make a list of your favorite persons, places, and things. Make a plan to spend time with the people on your list, go places and enjoy things.
5. Learn to give others gracious compliments (no flattery) to brighten their day (your day will be brighter, too).
6. Give yourself credit for the good you bring to this world.
7. Give glory to God every day for the little things you take for granted. He loves you just the way you are.
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Sali Butler writes from Southern California.© 2002 - 2022, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.