More Than Skin Deep: A Guide to Self and Soul

More Than Skin Deep: A Guide to Self and Soul

by Crystal Kirgiss

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More Than Skin Deep: A Guide to Self and Soul by Crystal Kirgiss

"You can probably think of a lot of things in your life that you’d like to celebrate…but your skin?! Most teenage girls can point to a couple things about their skin that they’re unhappy with (and certainly wouldn’t want to celebrate!). That’s because the world around you has convinced you that your physical skin is what’s most important. But it goes so much deeper than that… In Celebrate the Skin You’re In, you’ll find out what it means to celebrate, accept, love, and care for the “skin” that really matters—the skin that holds together all your invisible pieces like your passions, thoughts, identity, ideas, dreams, beliefs, fears, and more. Crystal Kirgiss will help you see that God not only created you, but that God also understands you. Every teenage girl deals with some degree of insecurity, fear, and overwhelming emotions—whether it’s about their physical skin or just life in general. You’re not alone. And if you and your friends can find the reasons to embrace who you are on the inside, think of the celebration you could have!"

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310398622
Publisher: Zondervan/Boyd
Publication date: 07/26/2011
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishing
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 13 - 18 Years

About the Author

Crystal Kirgiss teaches writing at Purdue University and is the author or co-author of more than ten books, including What’s Up With Boys?, Sex Has A Pricetag, Girls, Guys, and A Teenager’s Daily Prayer Book. She’s been married to Mark, a Young Life area director, for 25 years and they have three college-aged sons. Crystal also writes the monthly “Guys” and “Girls” columns for YouthWalk magazine.

Read an Excerpt

More Than skin deep

A Guide to Self and Soul
By Crystal Kirgiss


Copyright © 2011 Crystal Kirgiss
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-66926-5

Chapter One

Skin versus skin

Junior high wasn't my favorite time of life. Because of bizarre district boundary lines, I'd gone to an elementary school on the west side of town but then got assigned to the junior high on the east side of town. All of my elementary school friends went to the west side junior high. The new junior high. The awesome junior high. The junior high with a full-size gym and a legit cafeteria. The junior high with carpeted hallways, bright windows, and huge classrooms.

But not me.

Instead of walking out of my neighborhood and turning right, like I'd done for the past however-many years of my life, I now turned left—east—and walked into the great unknown. For some people, this might not have been an issue. For someone like me, who didn't have an overabundance of friends and who wasn't overly outgoing, it was a tragic moment of epic proportions. I headed east that first day with faint hopes of building a new life for myself, convinced that things couldn't get any worse than they already were.


Kids from three different elementary schools attended my junior high, so in theory the students knew only one-third of their new classmates and were strangers to the other two-thirds. In that sense, my situation as the new kid wasn't totally hopeless. But instead of getting placed in a typical homeroom where students knew only one-third of their new classmates and were strangers to the other two-thirds (decent odds for the new girl), I got placed in a section with twenty-or-so students who'd all been each others' classmates for the last two years and each others' schoolmates for the four years before that (they were in some experimental program for Talented and Gifted Students) and were all on a first-name basis with everyone. They had inside jokes. They had nicknames for each other ... nice nicknames. Nicknames of endearment. They knew each other's parents and siblings. They were—or at least it seemed to me—a family. And I was the stranger. The new girl. The outsider.

Fantastic. Marvelous. Lucky me.

I'd been in a similar situation in second grade when my family had moved to the other side of the suburbs halfway through the school year. I'd gotten a new home, new neighbors, new school, new teacher, new classmates, new everything, and it was kind of scary ... for about ten minutes. I'd walked into my new second-grade classroom—where everyone already knew everyone else, and everyone already had a desk, and everyone already had friends, and everyone already knew the rules and the routines, and everyone already had art projects hanging on the wall—and held my breath in panic for about three minutes, at which point a girl named Cynthia came up to me and said, "Wanna see what I'm learning how to make?" and my world was okay again. It was as easy as that. But things sometimes aren't as easy in junior high as in second grade.

For me, starting at a new school wasn't as easy the second time around, because I didn't have quite as much self-confidence—and I had a lot more self-consciousness—when I walked into my new junior high as when I'd walked into my new elementary school almost five years earlier. For starters, I was aware of Boys (with a capital B). Up to that point, they'd just been boys—lowercase b—neither greater than nor less than girls. But now, well, they were still neither greater than nor less than girls, but they certainly were very different than us. I wasn't necessarily interested in them as Boys, if you know what I mean—but there were plenty of girls who were interested in them as Boys, and that was a whole new world of drama and romance and gossip that I wasn't ready for. Still, my intense awareness of them made me act differently. Sometimes silly, sometimes stupid, sometimes awkward, sometimes aloof.

On top of that, I was sure that every person passing me in the hall was thinking, "New girl. Bad skin. Look out." A year earlier, I'd had two skin-related episodes that were more than mildly distressing. First, I'd gotten pimples. Zits. Acne. Whatever. I didn't care what they were called, I only cared that I had them and my friends didn't. How unfair could life be? Pretty unfair, it turns out, because just a few months after getting pimples, I got chicken pox. For two long weeks, I watched pox multiply among all the other imperfections on my face, prohibited by the doctor from scrubbing for fear of making everything worse, which was small comfort because when the chicken pox were gone, the scars and the pimples were still there. When I finally went back to school, one girl came up to me in the lunch line and said, "Gee, it's kind of hard to tell that you don't have chicken pox anymore because your face looks so awful anyway."

How do you reply to that? I just turned away and kept filling my lunch tray.

On that first day of seventh grade, I still had bad skin. (Why do you suppose we call it bad, as though it has its own will and is guilty of misbehaving or being disobedient? It's not as though my skin had any choice in the matter.) And I still thought it was unfair because so many other people had good skin. Even perfect skin. Why was I one of the unlucky ones? Oh well. At least I had my health. (That's what grandmas and great-aunts say to make us feel better, but it's not at all helpful or comforting.)

Truthfully my complexion issues didn't totally drag me down. I actually felt pretty good about myself in some ways. I was a good student. I could play piano well. I liked my family. And I was determined to make some new friends in my new school — friends who I could hang out with for the next few years, friends who would like me for who I was.

Then came Second Hour—social studies. We had to read a short chapter about I-don't-remember-what, and then the teacher started asking us questions about what we'd read. I prayed she would skip me. After all, I was the new girl. I didn't know anyone. I was from the west side of town. I had bad skin. Surely she would sense my discomfort and unease and move on to the next student.


She ignored all my mental commands to "Skip me! Ignore me! Don't notice me!" and asked me what I thought about question number three. I withered. I froze. I panicked. I wept (inwardly, of course). And then I thought, This is my opportunity to show that I'm confident. That I'm intelligent. That I'm not afraid of a challenge. That I can be a strong person who would be a good—no, a great friend—to anyone. That I'm not a cowardly, bumbling, introverted nobody. That I am somebody. So I cleared my throat and delivered what I thought was an amazing and stellar answer.

As soon as I finished, a boy near the back of the room snickered and said sarcastically, "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard."

Crisis. What should I do? What should I say? I didn't know anyone, so I wasn't sure if he was the class clown I should ignore (with a condescending "hmmmmph") or the class leader I should try to impress (with my own sarcastic comment). I didn't know if I should respond directly, or pretend I hadn't heard. I didn't know whether to shrug it off, or rise to the challenge. I was totally frozen.

But I knew my answer hadn't been stupid. I knew I wasn't stupid. And I knew I deserved better than being ridiculed and mocked on my first day in a new school.

So from the front of the room, with everyone looking to see what I'd do, I stared that boy straight in the eye, took a deep breath, and said, "You're wrong. My answer was good. Really good."


Total and complete silence.

The teacher, who was super old, seemed unaware of what was going on. But the students all knew exactly what had happened. There'd been a stand-off between the New Girl and One of the Guys (who, it turns out, was neither the class clown nor the class leader). I held my breath. The boy in back held his breath. Time stood still. And then the boy in the back slouched down in his desk, rolled his eyes, and said, "You are so stuck-up."

Stuck-up?! Me?! Was he kidding?! If he'd had any idea of how nervous I was about being the new girl ... if he'd had even an inkling of how self-conscious I was about my complexion ... if he'd had even the remotest sense of how worried I was about making new friends in a new school ... then he would have known I was anything but stuck-up. I was so shocked by his comment that I couldn't reply. I went back to my seat. Sat down. Blushed. Hid my disappointment and worry and fear. Tried to hold my head up high and not be defeated.

By lunch time that day, I was known as "Stucky" to everyone in my class, a nickname that stuck through all of junior high.

I hated my life.

"Love the Skin You're In"

That's a popular catchphrase in today's world. Do an Internet search, and you'll get more than sixty-eight million hits for the phrase. That's right. Sixty-eight million. And all the sites are about (no big surprise) skin. Real skin. The stuff that covers your bones and muscles and veins and tendons and organs and other gross, gooey stuff. Some of the sites are about makeup. Some are about moisturizers. Some are about tanning salons. Some are about beauty salons. Some are about body shape. Some are about body size. Some are about anti-aging products. Some are about beauty products. Some are about freckles. Some are about pimples. They're all about skin. Literal, physical skin.

Now, this book isn't about physical skin—the pigmented, freckled, soft, calloused, tanned, wrinkled, smooth, mosquito-bitten, spider-veined, porous, rug-burned, pierced, delicate, strong bodycovering that holds you all together. This book is about a different kind of skin.

The skin we're talking about is you. Your own self. Your own identity. Your own uniqueness. Your own who-you-are-ness. You. That's right. You are the subject, topic, and star of this book.

Don't get me wrong. Your biological skin, which holds together all the gazillion amazing parts of your body, is truly one of God's most amazing creations. Here's some skin trivia:

• Skin is the body's largest organ. The average surface area is between fourteen and eighteen square feet. • On average, humans shed six hundred thousand particles of skin every hour—1.5 pounds of skin a year. • Each square inch of skin contains nineteen million cells, sixty hairs, ninety oil glands, twenty feet of blood vessels, six hundred twenty-five sweat glands, nineteen thousand sensory cells, and millions of bacteria. • Each person's skin is renewed every twenty-eight days. That's about one thousand new skins per lifetime. Each time I get a mosquito bite or a cut or a burn that eventually heals itself, I realize how miraculous and wondrous skin is. But we're not going to talk about it much in this book because there are lots of other places where you can get advice on skin care. The skin we're going to talk about—let's call it Skin with a capital S—is the thing that holds all your invisible pieces together: your passions, thoughts, identity, ideas, dreams, hopes, values, beliefs, joys, fears, sorrows, and so much more.

Some people believe girls are defined by their skin (color and condition) and what it covers (shape and size). But they're wrong. The truth is, girls are defined by their Skin (grace and kindness) and what it covers (see the long list above). Unfortunately, the magazines, TV shows, movies, Internet sites, radio stations, and advice books don't pay much attention to Skin.

Sure, they might talk about it here and there, now and then, once in a while. (That is, they throw in a token, one-page article on "serving your community" or "getting along with your parents" or "being kind to strangers" or "discovering your passions.") But Skin isn't their main focus nor their area of expertise. They care about skin. Plain and simple. The exterior biological shell. Christians care about skin, too, because God created it and it allows us to be God's hands and feet on earth. But Christians care (or at least they should care) way more about Skin.

So I guess you could say this book is about "Skin care" as opposed to "skin care," something I wish I'd known more about in junior high.

Skin care is especially important for girls in junior high and high school because something happens during those years that causes a Skin crisis. The crisis might last for a week, or for years. It might be slightly uncomfortable, or deeply painful. It might be somewhat troublesome, or seriously tragic. It's different for every girl. But sometime, somewhere, for some reason, almost every girl finds herself wondering, Who am I? What's going on? Why do I feel so uncomfortable and awkward? Why can't I be more like her? Or her? Or even her? What's my problem? Why don't I feel happy? Why do they think I'm stuck-up? What's wrong with me, anyway?!

Another way to think about the crisis is this: It's the moment when a girl starts feeling uncomfortable in her own skin. And her own Skin. Often, it starts with outer appearance—something skin deep—like height, weight, shape, hair color, or skin type. But then it moves into something deeper—something Skin deep—and she starts wishing she were someone else completely, someone with a different personality, different characteristics, different feelings and thoughts and emotions. Sometimes how we feel about our skin affects how we feel about our Skin, and we waste hours and weeks and years thinking that if we could just change our skin, then our Skin would be different too, and life would be perfect and happy and fabulous.

That's what the world wants us to believe, anyway.

The Skin Crisis

One time when I was hanging out with my best friend, her six-year-old daughter came dancing into the room, twirling and spinning, lunging and leaping, smiling and giggling, full of joy and energy and laughter. She paused for a moment, looked at her silhouette reflected in the picture window, curtsied, performed an elaborate and elegant twirl, then continued on through the room, a whirlwind of little-girl confidence and contentment.

My friend smiled and sighed, then said, "I wish I could bottle up all that confidence and joy and save it for a day when she's going to need it."

I knew exactly what she was talking about.

The Skin crisis.

Something that every girl experiences.

The world— the magazines, TV shows, movies, music, celebrities, chat sites, experts, and more—wants you to think they really care about, and know about, Skin care. But if you listen and watch and read carefully, you'll see their questions and answers almost always focus on something shallow, commercial, short-term. Are you unhappy at school? Get a new pair of shoes! Are you having trouble with your friends? Buy this brand of jeans! Are you tired of your parents? Go out with a new guy! Are you struggling with feelings of stress and sadness? Try some new perfume! Are you trying to figure out who you are and how you fit into the world around you? Dye your hair a new color! Are you feeling lonely and left out? A new totebag and pair of sunglasses will fix things! And so it goes, on and on.

Recently, I made some calculations of the contents in a teen magazine. Of the advertisements:

• 30 percent were for shoes • 25 percent were for hair-removal, skin-care, and hair-care products • 20 percent were for designer clothes • 19 percent were for accessories (especially sunglasses and purses) • 6 percent were for perfume, private schools, tampons, bottled water, milk, and other things In the photo layouts of models, there were another eighty-eight ads for accessories, seventy-two for designer clothes, and twenty-nine for shoes.

The articles were about diets, tanning, romantic relationships, dating abuse, and celebrities. There was also a horoscope and an advice column, both of which focused heavily on sex and dating. Wow.

This is what I believe: A lot of our culture's magazines (and movies, songs, and websites) are full of blah-blah nonsense. That's right.


Excerpted from More Than skin deep by Crystal Kirgiss Copyright © 2011 by Crystal Kirgiss. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 Skin versus skin....................9
Chapter 2 Skin Crisis, Part I....................21
Chapter 3 Skin Crisis, Part II....................35
Chapter 4 Questions, Part I....................51
Chapter 5 Questions, Part II....................65
Chapter 6 Beauty....................91
Chapter 7 Fashion....................101
Chapter 8 Shoes....................115
Chapter 9 Boyfriends and Romance....................123
Chapter 10 Skin Care....................139
P.S.: Going More than Skin Deep....................151
Appendix: Advice from the Experts....................152

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