I have felt so unattractive lately. Having given birth not long ago, I feel flabby, stretch-marked, and frumpy. My clothes don’t fit right, I don’t have time to fix my hair, and every morning I go without exercising my self-esteem plummets a little more. It doesn’t help that every time I go on Facebook or watch TV I am bombarded by images of gorgeous, photo-shopped girls with tan, skinny bodies and perfect makeup. Finally I realized that my anxiety isn’t because of my extra baby weight. It’s because of the trap of comparison.
I’ll never forget working at a youth camp while I was in college and meeting one of the pretty high school volunteers. She was teeny tiny, with thick dark hair piled on top of her head, and bright blue eyes fringed with thick lashes. Every time I saw this girl I got annoyed. I finally realized that I was annoyed because every feature about myself that I was slightly proud of or was praised for, she had the better version. Truly. I’ve never particularly loved being 5 feet tall, but I do like being petite. This girl was more petite. My hair is one of the features about myself I like the most, but her hair was thicker and darker. I like my round blue eyes, but hers were bluer and she had long eyelashes.
One minute I was content with who I was, and the next minute I was questioning my confidence. All because I had compared myself to another girl. Women do this all the time. She is such a trendy dresser, I really need a wardrobe more like hers. She does her makeup so perfectly, I really need to watch more YouTube tutorials. Her arms are so toned, I really need to start lifting weights. The problem with this is that there will always be somebody that we deem better looking. Angelina Jolie was quoted as saying, “I struggle with low self-esteem all the time! I think everyone does. I have so much wrong with me, it’s unbelievable!” (I wanna be like, “Really, Angelina? Really?”) But there you have it…
We can never be perfectly satisfied with how we look. Remember the evil queen from Snow White? She was totally satisfied with her beauty until the Mirror on the Wall told her that some other chick had her beat.
So what can we do to separate ourselves from society’s laser-like focus on outward appearance? Let’s help each other! Let’s continue to have fun with makeup and clothing, but all the while remembering that it’s simply that: fun. It’s not where our identity is found.
The apostle Peter encourages, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4). How on earth do I raise my daughter to care more about being precious in God’s sight than in society’s? How can I teach her that outer beauty fades but inner beauty lasts forever? *Sigh.* I suppose by attempting to live this out myself.
By refraining from making disparaging comments about my personal appearance in front of her. By praising celebrities who give generously and speak thoughtfully rather than those who are simply good-looking. By telling her she’s lovely even during her awkward years (thanks, Mom). By warning her that modesty and faith will land her a better guy than a short skirt will. By feeding her Scriptures like 1 Samuel 16:7 that says, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” By reminding her that while her body will grow old, her soul will live forever. By helping her grow into a beautiful woman who is known for her stunning compassion and kindness rather than for her facial symmetry.
And just one last thought. What if instead of comparing our beauty to that of other women’s, we compared good works? Perhaps then instead of logging onto Facebook and being overwhelmed by artful selfies and endless articles about beauty and beach bodies, we would be encouraged by others to love our families and communities better. Maybe we would then be obedient to Romans 12:10 that says to “outdo one another in showing honor,” and to Hebrews 10:24 that says to “stir up one another to love and good works.” Just a thought.
Perhaps then we would live in a world in which the woman who loves deepest and works hardest and speaks kindest would be considered fairest of them all.