Recently, I watched the film Light Girls and was convicted about my perception of beauty, our perception of beauty. The documentary, aired on the OWN network, details the privilege and plight of lighter-skinned African American women. During the movie I recalled several occasions when black friends had asked if I was part African American. I couldn't believe their sincere question because my skin is about as white as white gets, something I used to be terribly self conscious about. But my hair tells a different story--I can sport a genuine afro, seriously.
Although my answer to being part black was always, "No," I can relate to the discussion of hair in Light Girls. One of the women spoke about not feeling comfortable with her curly hair amidst a society that tells us that straight and smooth is beautiful. She then went on to express her eventual acceptance of her hair after seeing a black women in the media embracing her God-given, natural hair. The movie also detailed the dislike of darker skin color that is occurring all over the world, which has caused a skin bleaching epidemic.
These topics, and others, left me asking the question, "Why do we struggle so fiercely to accept our physical appearance?" I believe we are tremendously harder on our outer selves than others would understand. And we're self conscious about things that others may not even notice. Why can't we be happy with the one and only, intricately, and purposefully formed us that will ever exist? I could go down just about every part of my body and tell you something I dislike, and I'd struggle to list just one area I'm pleased with. I bet almost every one of you feel the same way. When we compare ourselves to models in magazines and actresses in Hollywood, we're bound to feel physically insufficient. The media has done a phenomenal job of telling us that beauty is "perfection." Why can't we see that their perception is false? I want to embrace God's creation, cherish my unique qualities and be the role model my daughter deserves. I believe I can accomplish that through accepting these four concepts:
1. God created me on purpose, with a purpose
As a woman of God, I know that He designed me with intention and purpose (Psalm 139). As someone who attempts to trust God in all circumstances, shouldn't I accept and admire His creation instead of criticizing it? Further, 1 Corinthians 6:19 states, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own." If my body has the glorious opportunity to house the Holy Spirit, it must be worthy and in this I must choose to embrace my body's true purpose--not to look beautiful by society's standards, but to share the love of Christ with others.
2. The perception of beauty changes with time
Some of my biggest insecurities during adolescence were my frizzy, curly hair, my Casper-white skin, and my bushy eyebrows. There were so many times that I wished I had been born in another decade, or even another century. I would have had the ideal hair in the 70s and 80s and my skin would have been envied in the 1600s. Had I not plucked my eyebrows so thin when I was younger, their natural thickness would now be considered beautiful. My point--wait it out and in time your insecurities will be the envy of those around you. Let's choose to accept our original characteristics, understanding that THIS time period is not the sole determiner of our beauty.
3. My children deserve a mother who loves herself
In so much of what I do, I think about what my daughter is witnessing and thus, repeating in both her words and actions. As a two year old girl of a stay-at-home-mother, Adeline is a "mini-me." I fully understand that I am her role model at this stage in her life (and not by her choice.) However, I have a choice. I can choose to criticize my looks or I can choose to model confidence. I want her to see that I approve of the physical body that God has designed for me, so that she learns to do the same. God has created us each perfectly, and we must learn to love His creation (ourselves) in hopes that our children's generation thrives on individuality instead of striving to conform.
A couple years ago I was discussing one of my physical insecurities with a friend and she wisely noted that our "imperfections" give us character--genius! I've held fondly onto that idea and it comes to mind whenever I find myself picking and prodding and tweaking, allowing myself to...well, like myself. How significant would it be if we could come to adore character instead of perfection? I believe it would change our world drastically, for the better. Take a look at these startling, yet sadly believable, statistics by Dove Research. Clearly, we're not accepting our imperfections as character.
• Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful (up from 2% in 2004)
• Only 11% of girls globally are comfortable using the word beautiful to describe themselves
• 72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful
• 80% of women agree that every woman has something about her that is beautiful but do not see their own beauty
• More than half (54%) of women globally agree that when it comes to how they look, they are their own worst beauty critic
Let's make a vow, for ourselves and our children, to value our uniqueness and appreciate God's unmistakable work. Here's a couple practical steps to get you started.
1. Thank the Lord for the body He's given you, a body crafted with a purpose for His Kingdom (and that purpose, most likely, does not entail being beautiful by society's standards)
2. Identify one part of your body that you think is beautiful
3. Accept others' complements about your physical appearance with graciousness instead of denial
4. View yourself the way you want your children to view themselves--they're watching your every move.
Watch the film, Light Girls, here.