True beauty; it’s a topic that’s been on my mind a lot lately. After a long conversation about it with my best friend, I exclaimed, “I could write a blog post about that!” and she encouraged me to do so.
Of course, this post is mostly directed towards girls and women… men probably wouldn’t understand half of what I’m going to say, anyway. 😉
With that said, here I go…
In the Eye of the Beholder?
“When a man looks in a mirror, he admires the one, physical feature about himself that’s attractive. While a woman only sees the features which she considers to be unattractive.” -Unknown
Now, I don’t really know if that’s true of men – perhaps they don’t really think that way at all, but I do know how women think. We have this tendency to obsess over our personal appearance and most of that obsessing is on the subject of what we wish looked better. With our eyes honing in on the imperfections, we’re far from content with our appearance and we’re ready to go to extreme measures to enhance it.
A study done by Dove, along with Dr. Nancy Etcoff, Massachusetts General Hospital – Harvard University, and with consultation of Dr. Susie Orbach of the London School of Economics, showed that 90% of women (ages 15-64) worldwide want to change at least one aspect of their physical appearance (with body weight ranking the highest).*
Facts and History –
After doing some research, I discovered some interesting facts:
The average woman spends 2 1/2 years of her life washing, styling, cutting, coloring, crimping, and straightening her hair at home and in the salon.**
American women spend and average of a half-billion dollars, in one year, on shape-enhancing garments.***
In 2000, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons indicated that cosmetic surgery procedures among women had increased by a dramatic 165%***
Author, Robin Marantz Henig, says:
Over the centuries, women have mauled and manipulated just about every body part – lips, eyes, ears, waists, skulls, foreheads, feet – that did not quite fit into the cookie cutter ideal of a particular era’s fashion. In China, almost up until World War II, upper-class girls had their feet bound, crippling them for life, but ensuring the three- or four-inch-long feet that were prized as exquisitely feminine. In central Africa, the Mangbettu wrapped the heads of female infants in pieces of giraffe hide to attain the elongated, cone-shaped heads that were taken to be a sign of beauty and intelligence. During the Renaissance, well born European women plucked out hairs, one by one, from their natural hairlines all the way back to the crown of their heads, to give themselves the high, rounded foreheads thought beautiful at the time…
Among the Padaung people of early-twentieth-century Burma, the ideal of female beauty involved a greatly elongated neck, preferably fifteen inches or more. This was accomplished by fitting girls with a series of brass neck rings. At a very young age, girls began by wearing five rings; by the time they were fully grown they were wearing as many as twenty-four, piled on top of another…
The weight of the rings leads to crushed collarbones and broken ribs, and the vertebrae in the neck becomes stretched and floppy. Indeed, these women wear their rings around the clock because, without them, their stretched-out necks are too weak to support their heads.
Can you imagine? What causes this intense desire to be what our culture defines as beautiful? Why this desperate rush to make ourselves attractive? The history of our world is abounding with these ridiculous stories, but no matter how absurd they seem, this is still a very real problem in our culture today.
Women in America are surrounded by the media and continuously presented with the voices and images that define what they are to look like. Today, women compare themselves with pictures of super-models, displayed through billboards, magazines, commercials, ect. With an image of beauty so narrow, it’s no wonder women are feeling unattractive in comparison.
Digitally Deceived –
On top of this, the fashion industry deceives us. Did you know that most of the models we see in the magazines don’t even look like their own pictures? Almost every photograph of a model has been digitally altered.
“So think about it: this alluring model has been toned by her personal trainer, had her hair done by a professional stylist, her face painted by a professional makeup artist, and her image captured by a professional photographer under ideal lighting. After this, if the model still doesn’t look good enough, she is recast through computer graphics.” -Carolyn Mahaney, Becoming God’s True Woman
How can we ever live up to that? More importantly, why do we want to? Why aren’t we pleased with “normal”? What’s wrong with just being us?
For some reason, we have this false idea that beauty will bring us everything that we desire. We’re deceived into thinking that being attractive will make us successful, recognized, significant, important, and approved of. But is that really what our goals should be?
The Attitude of Our Hearts –
While it is our culture that puts forth a false standard of beauty – along with false promises – it is ultimately the wickedness of our own hearts that motivates us. You see, these are sinful cravings. We’re becoming obsessed with making ourselves physically beautiful in an attempt to satisfy these longings. We’re longing to be accepted by the world around us, but forgetting that God has told us not to be like the world.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” -Romans 12:2
When the bible speaks of physical beauty, it says things like:
“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is passing, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” -Proverbs 31:30
We must come to realize that this longing to be the world’s definition of beautiful is sinful and unnecessary. Our obsession with being physically attractive is nothing less than the revealing of our own, sinful hearts. I don’t know about you, but this post is beginning to pry at my conscience a little!
God’s Definition Of Beautiful –
So if we aren’t trying to be the world’s definition of beautiful, what should we be trying to be?
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” -1 Peter 3:3-4
God’s definition of beauty stands in stark contrast to the way that our culture defines beauty. While our culture is looking on the outside, God is searching the inside (our hearts). The culture is putting forth a standard of beauty that is unattainable, but God puts forth a standard of beauty that we can attain through our response to His work of grace in our lives. Although our culture encourages us to cultivate a beauty that is skin deep, God tells us to pursue an inner beauty of greater worth. While our culture expects us to strive to attain a beauty that will only last for a brief time, God encourages us to strive after a beauty that will not only never fade, but will actually grow more attractive as the time passes. And most importantly, our culture is striving after this beauty in an attempt to impress others, but God is calling us to cultivate a beauty that is – first and foremost – for His eyes.
Do you see the difference here?
A Heart Check
After all this, we must take a moment to review the attitude of our hearts. Where is our focus? What are our reasons? Where should we be focusing? And what do we do about it all?
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” -Colossians 3:1-5
Be watching for, Beauty: America’s Obsession – Part 2, as I continue to cover our new perspective and the changes that come with that.
***Becoming God’s True Woman, edited by Nancy Leigh DeMoss