I’ll tell you what — in the last ten years or so, it seems as though society’s unattainable quest for “beautiful” has become more drastic, more in your face, and more unapologetically superficial than ever.
Hair extensions. Lip filler. Fake eyelashes. Spray tans. And even on top of all that, we’re “Face-Tuning” and photoshopping ourselves within an inch of our lives.
I mean, don’t get me wrong: I do it too! — I whiten my teeth. Obsess about skincare. And I will smooth out a pimple on FaceTune without a second thought.
There’s nothing wrong with doing any of those things.
But scroll through Instagram, turn on the TV, or flip through a magazine for a minute, and we’re bombarded with society’s gospel: the quest for beauty, at any and all cost.
I mean, how many times will we have to hear about diuretic “flat tummy tea,” meal replacement shakes, “waist training corsets,”or tattoo’d-on-eyebrows before somebody stands up and says, “Enough already!”
Is this the type of “womanhood” that we want to usher younger generations into? One where we’re striving for this unattainable standard of perfection, with the ultimate goal of “You, but better.”
Because I can tell you – coming from someone who nearly died from anorexia, trying to achieve that perfection – it’s simply not worth it.
Beauty has been in the news a lot recently. Sports Illustrated is being praised for “expanding” the definition of beauty by including their first Muslim model, Halima Aden, to be featured, in a hijab and “burkini.”
Other beauty brands are being applauded for broadening the different “types” of models they feature, to include more races, sizes, nationalities, abilities, etc. Which – yes, is great. And they should be commended for doing so.
But real talk: that’s still only addressing half of the problem.
Because it’s missing the point. The beauty they’re praising is exactly that which you can capture on the glossy pages of a magazines: beauty that is skin deep. So sure, you can broaden that “skin” to include any and all varieties; or you can be like Dove and “campaign” for “real beauty” but still at the end of the day, their distorted message is the same: Beauty is what you see on the outside.
Well, I think it’s time we change that definition.
I had been wanting to write this post for a while, but didn’t really know how to approach it, to be honest.
And last night, I found myself without any plans. I was supposed to go on a date with this handsome venture capitalist, and he canceled on me last minute — typical New Yorker. And I was annoyed — I mean, I showered for the occasion, and everything. So I was not going to let a “clean hair day” go to waste. So I decided to go to the Young Adult Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And wouldn’t you know — God gave me exactly what I needed to hear. Because the entire sermon was on this passage:
“God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” Genesis 1:26
That right there is where the skin-deep beauty gospel misses the mark.
Yes – we were made in God’s glorious, radiant, image — which is beautiful to the eye, and yes, something to be celebrated.
But we are also made in His likeness. Which gives us this incredibly beautiful depth that no photo or image can capture.
That is the beauty we need to be striving for. Beauty of the heart. Beauty of the spirit. Beauty that reflects the likeness of God, which we all possess, as handmade creations of the Father.
God is love – and what do we know about love? “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
All of those beautiful attributes are in us too, as reflections of our Father, made in His likeness.
It’s time we start factoring those into our definition of beauty.
What do I want to tell my future daughter about beauty?
That our beauty is not our own. Our beauty comes from our Father who made us. Who made every freckle on your face, the sparkle in your eye and the radiance in your face. The merciful Father who put the kindness and joy in your heart, and gave you the gentleness and patience you have towards others. Your beauty, dear, sweet, future daughter of mine someday (God willing), is so much more than merely what can be seen with the eye. Your beauty comes from deep within, as a child of God.
None of that can be airbrushed into or out of existence. None of that can be fully captured in a photo.
That, is the authentic beauty — the dual beauty — that we should start championing today.
The authentic, dual beauty, that yes, includes outer beauty – but leads with what’s inside, our inner heart beauty. One cannot exist without the other. It’s a divine duality – the image and the likeness — the outer and the inner.
How life-affirming our world would be, if we celebrated that.
What is your definition of beauty?
“This is what the Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” Ez 37:5
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