Body image is hotter than ever as a cultural idol. The fashion, fitness, weight-loss and cosmetics industries spend billions every year to convince you that there is a lot you can do to be more beautiful, and conveniently, they have the product/workout/pill/diet/potion/procedure to help you get there.
Yet, every year the cancer of self-loathing grows and invades more of our society with its malignancy. Every year, pursuing beauty results in more eating disorders, obesity, suicide, bullying, broken relationships, abuse and feelings of being a loser.
More than at any other time, we have the science and technology to slow aging, improve health, treat disease, and surgically enhance the way our bodies look. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with doing those things, but I have to ask…Are we beautiful yet? When will we be beautiful enough? And if we have more tools at our disposal than ever to become more beautiful, then why don’t we feel more beautiful?
In the land of light-speed digital communication, the discussions around body image, though well- intentioned, seem to further alienate and polarize. The “real women have curves” camp wars against the “thin is in” camp. The “health at any size” tribe battles the “end the obesity epidemic” tribe. All this talking…all this knowledge, yet we still suffer the growing effects of a bankrupt self-image because:
We will never feel beautiful as long as we confuse beauty with physical attractiveness.
Our esteem for ourselves and others will continue to deteriorate as long as we define our image as nothing more than how we look.
The old adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder…” is a load of junk. Beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder, attractiveness is. How you perceive someone else, or how they perceive you is not what determines beauty. What someone finds attractive in another person is completely subjective and wildly diverse. There is no absolute standard for attractiveness and even attraction is “more than skin deep” because we find ourselves attracted to the personality, intellect and values that we perceive in others, as well.
Beauty, on the other hand, is different from attractiveness. It’s completely distinct and infinitely more. Here’s what God has to say about “image”:
“So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them, male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:27
God created the waters and skies, the land and vegetation, the birds and fish, the animals and insects, and declared over them, “It is good.” Yet, we are the only part of His creation that He made in His image. Our image has nothing to do with what is external. Our image is intrinsic. Our image has everything to do with whose likeness we were modeled after:
“Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis 1:26
If God is the omnipotent, all-knowing, eternal Creator of all things in this world, then nothing can be more beautiful than Him. So, if we’re made in His image and we echo His likeness then every human being is beautiful because He is beauty.
We aren’t God (obviously.) Add to that, core to our Christian doctrine is that our sin is ugly and needs the cure of Christ’s atonement in order to receive eternal salvation. That vital principal is woven throughout the entire Biblical narrative, but let’s not forget our inception- our original, still intrinsic design.
Come back tomorrow to read how we can finally SEE true beauty…