“Women’s bodies are not our own but society’s”
~ Naomi Wolf.
Boy, I know the meaning and full depth of this quote. All our lives, since birth into this world, society think it owns our bodies. Society thinks it has a licence to dictate who fits its standard of beauty and who doesn’t; who qualifies to “fit in” according to their looks, and who doesn’t. As we grow up, the pressure mounts (for both males and females) to look a certain way and to stay youthful and enduringly beautiful (whatever beautiful means anyway). We’re encouraged to use whatever “add-ons” necessary (whether fake hair, fake tan, cosmetics, anti-acne cream, hair dye, bleaching lotions, jewellery, designer clothes, the list goes on…) in order to go one step further, to look that little bit more “attractive” or to achieve what fits the fashion bill at the time.
A few years back, appearance was a major obsession of mine – to an emotionally unhealthy degree. I wouldn’t leave the house without having using all sorts of lotions and beauty products, which would result in a face full of piled-on make-up and excessively straightened hair. I believed my popularity, self-worth and acceptance from others were all shaped by how I looked, so I took the appropriate steps to maintain some sort of feminine ideal.
However, for the past year or so I’ve been on an “au natural” campaign which involves using no lotions at all, no beauty products, no make-up, no hair styling, no clothes shopping, no visits to the hairdresser…NADA. It’s not something I manage to keep up every single day in all honesty, but overall I think I’ve become pretty successful in it and I have just a little way to go until I can let go of old habits and obsessive behaviours. And actually, by not being held down by consumerism and all things superficial, by asking God to pour out His love on me, by asking Him to show me how beautiful I am to Him, I feel liberated. Finally.
But it doesn’t stop people from commenting on what they think I should change: “but the way you dress isn’t sexy”, “why don’t you do your hair like this?”, “you need to do x, y and z otherwise your husband will start looking elsewhere…” This post isn’t meant to be a lament or life story, but to encourage anyone who thinks their success or place in life is measured by their outer appearance. To lift up anyone who constantly compares themselves to a magazine index of beauty or to the pictures of models airbrushed to the hilt or even to their own peers. For anyone who is being held back in achieving their dreams because of crippling low self-esteem.
Don’t let the evil and lies of this world hold you back or take your joy. Don’t beat yourself up about how everyone else sees you because God has told us through Psalm 139 that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. His ways are also higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts. That person rejected by society because of how he/she looks is still beautiful in the eyes of God the Creator and a glorious reflection of His handiwork.
But God doesn’t actually look at appearance, He looks at our hearts. What is more important is the impact we are making in this world. In Chronicles 4, Jabez stood out amongst a LONG list of unmemorable names because he was more honourable than his brothers, because he prayed for God to be close to Him and because he cried out to God to enlarge his influence. The imprint we make on this world through our actions and how we impact the lives of others is something that will endure forever, but there’s nobody in this life that can hang onto the beauty of their outer appearance; we are living in a perishing world and every one of us is getting old. What the LORD really requires of us is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Don’t allow low self-esteem or insecurity stop you from making your impact on the world or stop you from living a joy-filled, abundant life. When people reject or put you down, ask God to renew, fill and satisfy you with His love. Ask Him to help you reject the lies that the world/people feed you and to give you strength and wisdom to walk according to His truth.
For anyone struggling in this area, I furthermore encourage you to read the poem I posted a couple of posts ago called “His image, His likeness” by Ayo Oduniyi. Try browsing the categories at the top of the page. Also, fill out the contact form and be in touch.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).