Beauty, Part I ~ Why Are Our Looks So Important To Us?

When you look in the mirror, would you say you were completely happy and at peace with the way you look? What about your friends or your sister, or your pals at work even? Among all the wonderful women in your life, can you think of one who guiltlessly enjoys chocolate and cheesecake, revels in her wrinkles, and is blissfully relaxed in a swim-suit?

It seems that almost all of us as women are affected. Almost all of us are compelled by the idea of looking good or looking better, as if attaining physical beauty (as culturally defined) will somehow make us feel better about ourselves. For you it may be the low carb diet, for me it may be an obsessive gym regime, for another lady it may be distress at the rapidly increasing lines on her face, but at the heart is the common concern about our appearance and a desire to be physically attractive, and even beautiful.

A beautician friend told me recently that when she gives women makeovers, it can often give them a real boost to their confidence and make them feel good. Proverbs 27:9 also says that “ointment and perfume delight the heart.” We can see then that taking care of our appearance, enjoying cosmetics and the occasional pamper maybe, can be fun and a positive thing. But what happens when this becomes more of a focus in our lives? What happens if it becomes something that preoccupies us? When we feel that certain standards have to be met day to day perhaps – only a certain number of calories, a certain number on the scales.

Over the next ten days we are going to really look into this whole area of dissatisfaction with our physical appearance and this nagging feeling that we have to do more to measure up. We’ll be looking at everything from the lengths we go to, to being beautiful to the core; men’s perspectives, being defined by God, and also, I have added my own story about beauty and body image at the very end. So we’re covering a lot and actually, so many more themes came to mind – this really seems to be something that affects so many of us. Please do leave your thoughts and comments about your own experiences on the posts – it would be great to be able to share how this affects us all.

So what it is all about? Why is the way we look important to us?

Is it perhaps because we believe there is a connection between being physically attractive and certain outcomes we desire in life? We may believe that our basic need for acceptance as a person is tied up with looking a particular way. We may feel the (perceived or real) weight of others’ expectations – that being slim and attractive is important and necessary within our family or within our circle of friends.

We may feel that our work opportunities are dependent on the way we look.

We may feel that our natural desire to be sexually attractive to our husband means that we must look a particular way. He may even tell us so.

We may fear that we will lose respect if we loosen the reins on the way we look.

Our self-confidence and basic sense of feeling OK is strictly tied up with maintaining a certain standard of appearance.

What about the strength with which these messages are drummed into us? We are all well aware of the influence of the media and pervasiveness of the “physical ideal” that we are fed, but are we so aware of the connections that are made between this ideal and our ability to feel acceptable, secure, confident and happy? As we progress in this series, we are going to look more closely at this connection and the deceptiveness of it.

One last possible reason to offer in this part is that perhaps on some level we do not feel OK as we are. We do not feel acceptable, or maybe we even feel shame, and our striving after physical beauty is an attempt to compensate for this. We believe that if we can hold it together outwardly, if we can be thought of as attractive, then we will be OK. But does the reality bear up? Or is this little more than “labouring after the wind” as the Bible says (Ecclesiastes 5:16)?

Come back tomorrow when we will look at this some more in the post Beauty and Identity

© Copyright 2007 Birgit Whelan

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~ by Birgit on August 10, 2007.

3 Responses to “Beauty, Part I ~ Why Are Our Looks So Important To Us?”

  1. Thanks Birgs..your message is very refreshing.

    It is weird how we all want to be something that we are not. One huge pressure amongst ourselves is that we compare ourselves to each other, usually our weaknesses against anothers strengths (or in this case our flaws against someone else’s perceived beauty) which gives such a warped perspective on who we really are. I heard someone once say ‘God created us as an original and not a copy’ …mmm…very true…

    Self acceptance is key and we can only do this by firstly accepting Gods love, mercy, kindness and compassion for ourselves. When we receive this we can freely give it to others too.

    We are not weird…we are unique!

    Keep writing..this is inspirational to me personally

  2. Thank you for your comments.

  3. Thanks for your replies – that’s so true, Sandy-lee, that God has created our uniqueness and loves it! Thanks for your thoughts!

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