I once heard a quote that went something like “If women just woke up one morning and decided they liked the way they looked, how many companies would go out of business?”
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy supporting American economy as much as the next girl but whoever said this has a point; a thought-provoking and legitimate one that made me think twice when I looked in the mirror this morning.
Since I began working in the field of eating disorder treatment, the way that I think about myself, other women, the media, and let’s face it, basically everything has changed. I see these clients and hear their stories and think to myself: as good as women are at putting up a facade of “I’m-so-happy-that’s-why-I’m-smiling-like-this-and-no-it’s-not-because-of-botox”; the truth is that the plight of a women in the 21st century is not the slightest bit easy. And don’t get me wrong, men surely have their difficulties in this life too, but as Beyonce so poignantly expresses in her ballad “Pretty Hurts”, the messages women and men receive in our society are so drastically different:
“Mama said, “You’re a pretty girl.
What’s in your head, it doesn’t matter
Brush your hair, fix your teeth.
What you wear is all that matters.”
Blonder hair, flat chest
TV says, “Bigger is better.”
South beach, sugar free
Vogue says, “Thinner is better.””
With all of these mixed messages, telling us who to be, what to wear, what to eat, what to manipulate about our every body part, it’s a wonder any of us are actually functioning and living with any amount of self esteem at all! And as if the messages weren’t enough for us female auditory-learners, the visual images our male “visual learner” counterparts are bombarded with on every side about what an “ideal” woman looks like only breeds more dissatisfaction and less joy and appreciation for the soul and essence of a person and what makes us unique.
So what are we to do in the face of this ever-increasing cultural focus on appearance?
The answer is easy and both Jesus and Beyonce answer it in the same way:
Jesus: For what will it profit a man (or woman) if he (or she) gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?
Beyonce: It’s the soul that needs a surgery.
We have to start with the soul. We have to look inside ourselves, each and every one of us and ask ourselves if what we are focusing on is making us lose our very selves. I’m the last person to judge someone for getting plastic surgery, trying to eat healthy, or even wearing certain clothing that will enhance your figure. But when the focus on our outward appearance becomes all that we are, and all that we find our value in, we begin to forfeit our soul. We forget that who we are: women made in God’s image, dearly loved and clothed with strength and dignity, is what gives us worth. And once we realize this for ourselves, we can begin sharing it with others. And the light that we find can shine in the dark places in our society, can heal the broken women and can create a new culture in which we realize our worth, we are happy in ourselves and the only opinion that matters is the one of The One who made us:
Fill your mind with His messages, and your heart with His love:
You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting but a woman who fears the Lord is to be Praised.
Do not let your beauty be merely external–the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.
She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her.
For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.