If you’re a girl, chances are that at some point in your life – perhaps each day – you will worry about the way you look. When we are so often preoccupied with our insecurities, how can we approach our physical appearance in a godly way? Today’s post is really helpful and interesting: we have Laura writing for us about how her experience as a model has challenged her perception of beauty. She reminds us that the way God sees us is very different to the way society does, and that we can only find our identity and security in Him. Lots of wisdom for everyone in today’s post…enjoy enjoy!
This is a post about true beauty. I hope it doesn’t come across as rude or boastful. If anything I intend it to be the opposite. This post is also not about how “everyone is beautiful in their own way”. It’s a post about God’s grace, and about how we all desperately need it, especially myself.
It sometimes comes up in conversation: “Oh wow! I never knew you were a model? That’s amazing, I wish I could be too…” My common response is a shy smile and a change of subject, but I often want to ask why?
We are constantly striving to change and “improve” how we look. I’m convinced this is because we only see the “benefits” that society persuades us we need – the subtle messages that tell us “buy this makeup, and you will look like this successful woman ” or “wear these clothes like this model and you will look amazing – by doing all this people will like you and a handsome man like this will whisk you off your feet and you will never have problems ever again!” You get my point.
I will tell you now, and I speak from experience: if you base your happiness on what other people think of how you look, you will never be fulfilled. It will be a constant search for affirmation, and you will never find it.
Here’s a thought. Doesn’t this all sound a little… religious to you: “You must buy this, wear that, say this and do that and then you will be loved”? But it is normal to see this in the secular world. You’re more strange if you don’t seem to care.
And yet, do any of the Ten Commandments say you must do this or look this way to be loved? No, rather it is the opposite – they are all centred on the idea of loving God, and others, before ourselves. There is nothing in the Bible that tells us how to improve our image to be more accepted by others and loved by God.
We are unconditionally loved, regardless of how we look.
God rightly looks at the state of our hearts, not the state of our skin. It is a deep rooted part of our human nature to want acceptance and love. This is not a bad thing. Check out Mark 12:28-31, the two greatest commandments according to Jesus. Does it surprise you that they are all based on love, when we realise that God created us to be loving beings?
One of the ways we try to achieve this is by enhancing our beauty. The feminine figure is a thing of beauty – it’s God’s creation and we see it in artwork everywhere! But this desperate thirst for beauty and acceptance has made us into slaves – it comes from a discontentment that began at the Fall. Every single woman struggles here in some way, regardless of shape. Even the “beautiful” ones. We are brought up to base our perception of ourselves on the people around us who are “better”, “prettier””more successful” etc. Why do you think plastic surgery is so popular amongst celebrities? Because we buy into this idea that by achieving the perfect look we will be fulfilled.
I never really dreamed of being a model. Of course, I daydreamed a little – I thought that if I was a famous model I would be getting somewhere in life and fulfilled, but it was never a serious dream. But when I was approached in a crowd at a festival a couple of years ago and my friend insisted I go back to the agency, I was challenged – does this mean I am beautiful? Am I actually about to be what so many girls and guys want to be? It didn’t make sense – I didn’t think I was really “model material” if anything I was a gangly girl with dark rings under my eyes, an awkward jawline, a big nose, thin lips and thin hair. Why would they be interested in me?
Did it make me feel any better? Did I become a better person with my new found beauty? Far from it. I felt more pressure than ever to live up to this expectation, which was totally out of my control. My fate as a human coat hanger depended on whether I matched the requirements of the designer, the photographer, the agency. I even began to worry when I started putting a little bit of weight on. I would sit in the makeup chair, watching the other girls get ready, and feel incredibly inferior in looks, confidence, style. The girls would effortlessly creating professional photos before my eyes. I would shuffle awkwardly as I try to look moodily for the camera.
There are many obvious crises in the world that we must care and grieve about, such as the fighting in Israel, the terrible things happening in Iraq, slavery, racism, prejudice. But it also grieves me when I see young teenage girls who a few years ago were so content with life to be suddenly so focused on the bedroom mirror, interrogating every pore, sucking non-existent tummies in and applying makeup because without it they don’t feel beautiful enough. It makes me sad to see them feel trapped by their fear of not looking “right”, and the devastating effects it can have. I don’t want to be a model any more – I don’t want to appear to be encouraging the damage this industry has on our sisters. We must turn to God for our affirmation, which is everlasting, and not to other’s opinions on temporary beauty.
I would still give an unflattering description of my appearance today. I need God’s grace. I am not confident in myself, to the point where I often consider myself inferior to everyone around me, in looks and more. I am hardly ever grateful for the body God has given me to care for, and to use for His glory. I constantly worry: “do I look good enough today?” “Are people judging me on my height/makeup/hair? “I feel so out of place being this tall (add your own: short, thin, fat) Should I slouch (wear heels, go on a diet, not eat) to try and fit in?” It’s true- I naturally think of myself as unconventional looking, and very often wish I could just blend into a crowd. Do these thoughts sound familiar to you?
Yet God is slowly teaching me to want to look the way He wants me to look. Like a woman who cares deeply about Him, and as a result takes care of the precious gift she has been given, and revels in it.
What does God’s grace teach us? God tells us that he loves us far more than anyone else ever could. He has destined you from before time. God cares about you deeply, and gave His only Son so that we could be united to Him again, to be more like the loving beings before the Fall that we were created to be. The more we see how fully human Jesus is, and the more we live like him, the more human we will be and more fulfilled. (Read Hebrews 2:5-18) It’s true – the more I get to know Jesus and his love for me, the more I am convinced it is only from God that we can see our true beauty, and this is what I sincerely want you all to know for yourselves today.
I’m Laura, I’ve just graduated from Durham University and I am just starting out on my Relay year working for UCCF! I play clarinet and saxophone and I love to sing. In my free time I like to compose music (particularly choral) and catch up with friends. I became a Christian at university and my life has not been the same since!