It would be interesting–horrifying?– to discover exactly how many “beauty” messages we are subjected to every day from advertising alone. The general consensus is that it’s in the thousands. And if we know anything about advertising, whether specifically for a beauty product or not, it relies heavily on “beauty” and “sex” to sell. (Which goes to say, we are told thousands of times, daily, what beauty is and should be.)
We know this, right? Media literacy was part of our school curriculum growing up. I can remember dissecting a page from a Sears catalogue to see the 101 ways they used sex to sell a twin set!
Even with such awareness (and in some cases, hype), I believe I have become an unwitting adherent to the dogma of beauty as it has been presented to me in all its printed and digital media over the past 40 years. Without thinking, I’ve wanted to buy what they’re selling; namely, eternal youth, flawless beauty. Give it to me.
I am in cahoots with beauty ideals from media as truth – mixed with the formative messages I’ve received via my family, friends, and the current cultural norms. They yoo-hoo at me and I follow. These ideals are what motivate me every day to style my hair, put on makeup, and select my clothing (or gripe when “I don’t have anything to wear”). They are what make me colour my hair every four weeks to hide the ever-creeping grey. They are what have me buying and applying decadent creams with Glycolic Acid and Retinol and AHA and any other anti-aging chemicals I’ve been told I should slather on my fine lines and sun-damaged skin. I hoist the anti-aging flag!
At the same time, I am deeply discontent with this “truth.” It would have me dread every passing day as my treasured youth pulls away from my grasp simply because I’ve lived to see another day. It would have me begrudge certain physical traits I was born with and others I’ve “earned” over time.
Oh, and let’s talk about “earning” signs of aging because here comes the pendulum swing. There’s that defiance we muster up when we just can’t keep up any more. We ask to a sympathetic ear (ourselves), “How long must I fight this losing battle?” Or we declare, “My wrinkles are my war wounds!” We become aggressively, falsely proud of our slowing metabolism and sagging skin. Fine, we’ve been found out! That’s how we wanted it to be anyway! Ha, fooled you, I’m not young and I don’t want to be! (Not today, anyway, mostly because I can’t be.)
All the time we’re receiving these messages of beauty, we’re doing the tough (albeit subconscious) work of categorizing them or embracing them obsessively or discarding them aggressively.
Thousands of messages, coming at us daily, telling us who we should be and what we’re worth.
Dare I say, there has got to be a better way!
This is a recent track I’ve been on, looking for the foundation of my own dissatisfaction, trying to figure out where the truth resides. All this searching has me getting excited (uh oh, there’s that word I like to use!) about what I’m learning.
That is, God actually cares about beauty.
We tend to relegate discussion of beauty to the shallow end of conversation and things to think about. But God’s got a beauty message for us to rival all the others, one that runs deep and brings healing. I don’t know about you, but that’s SUCH a relief to me.
So I say we look into this. By the fact that God has written about this, we are invited to adopt a foundational, God-infused understanding of beauty. I want to be beauty-marked with this understanding, so that it becomes the filter by which I see myself, others, and those thousands of messages coming at me everyday. This new and true understanding could and would have the effect of making swift work of our insecurities by settling our minds about where true beauty/our worth is found, and–importantly–what that looks like.
Over the next little while (weeks? months?) I’ll be exploring the topic of beauty/physical appearance from a biblical perspective. I hope you’ll dig deep with me!