This post was originally published on March 19, 2008. I’ve edited and updated it slightly to add some more thoughts that I’ve had recently on the subject.
I got a new haircut last week. I was tired of the old style; I wanted something bold, something edgy, something that would fit who I’m trying to become. I thought about something short and spikey, something really red. Luckily I realized before it was too late that I’m not THAT edgy. I’m happy with the cut I got, it’s close enough to my old style to still be in my comfort zone, but different enough to feel like I made a change.
Later that week at Bible study group I received a lot of compliments on my new style. As we went around the circle listing our prayer requests for the week the leader asked us to describe what our feelings were at that point in time. (Here’s a tip…’fine’ and ‘ok’ are not feelings, just in case you were wondering.) It had been a rough day for me mentally, and I was doubting my ability to ever crawl out from under the clouds that sometimes hover like low-hanging fog on my mind. My word? Defeated.
“But at least you’ve got great hair!” someone piped up.
“Yeah, that’s me,” I responded, “defeated but with great hair.”
How often do we as women do that, I wonder? How often do we try to rely on our outer image to bolster what’s inside? I feel worthless…but at least I’m thin! I feel unloved…but at least I’ve got great clothes! We go on countless diets, get the latest celebrity hair style, frequent the cosmetic counter in the mall and the trendiest clothing stores, all the while hoping that somehow we will reach that magic combination that makes us feel beautiful and therefore makes us finally feel good about who we are.
Page through a women’s magazine sometime and take a count of how often how you look or what you wear is equated with a desirable feeling. Sometimes the messages are subtle, sometimes they are in your face bold. “Visible gray hairs make me feel invisible.” No magazine is immune, and we are constantly bombarded with ad after ad and article after article telling us to wear this, buy that, and our lives both inner and outer will be richer and fuller. It probably shouldn’t surprise me that once I stopped looking at women’s magazines on a regular basis the amount of money I spent on makeup and other facial products dropped significantly.
It is so easy to be sold a bill of goods, to believe that our skin must be smooth, our wrinkles plumped, our lips kissably soft (I have NEVER heard my husband complain that my lips are not soft enough, I’m kind of starting to think maybe it doesn’t matter to him). And whether it is sold with the negative messages or couched in terms of “You deserve to do this for YOU” the message is still the same, as we are there is something unacceptable.
I’d like to say that I have totally escaped from all cultural ideals of beauty, but I’m pretty sure that would be a lie. (OK, I’m positive that would be a lie.) But simply being aware is the first step to solving the problem. And I have noticed something over the past year. On days when I truly feel like a daughter of the King, when I am dwelling in a place of joy it does not matter if I’m wearing makeup, it doesn’t matter if I look ‘perfect’ in my own eyes. His beauty shines through.
So, just for today, do something different. I’m not telling you to run around in your rattiest pair of sweats with your hair pulled up in a rubber band (but don’t let me stop you if that’s what you feel like doing). No, just for today, when you start to feel that inner gnawing, that little voice that says “If I just looked like…if I just wore… then I’d feel better,” do something radical. Spend some time with your heavenly Father and let his glow infuse you. Then take time to think about what you REALLY want. Take time to sit down and listen to your favorite music. Read a book. Plan the first step to pursuing your dream. Be the beautiful you that God created you to be.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)