Studies have shown that human beings are wired to respond more positively to good-looking people. Research affirms we even trust and value them more. Some argue that beautiful people get ahead, find better jobs, are better paid, and have an easier time in life.
Beauty is a very lucrative business and industry. I saw a study that suggested more money is spent on the pursuit of beauty than education. TV shows like NipTuck reveal an unhealthy interest in achieving physical perfection based on shifting personal and societal standards. The show starts with two doctors asking a potential patient what they do not like about themselves. Episodes deal with the desire for self-improvement, overcoming tragedy, and an obsession with having the right “looks, figure, or image.”
Earlier this year People Magazine put reality star Heidi Montag on its cover and wondered about her recent round of cosmetic surgery. The twenty three year old boasted of ten procedures in one day and was quoted, “I am obsessed. My breasts were enlarged, my chin reduced, my nose redone, and I want more.” Has she gone too far?
The article in People reported two reasons for her aggressive transformation; First, Heidi was teased about her looks as a kid. She added that she recently had trouble filling out a bra for a PR shoot for Playboy. She argued that up-and-coming stars need to look a certain way in order to succeed in today’s pop culture, which is her ultimate aim.
I remember several friends I grew up who had trouble shaking the ugly duckling label and were bullied and demeaned, even as they grew and matured into lovely people. A plastic surgeon I spoke with said invasive cosmetic procedures have doubled among those eighteen and younger in the past decade. She wondered where it would stop.
Western culture places an unhealthy significance on appearance, body type, and physicality. How many of us can match up, catch up, or get tucked up to look like a magazine cover model, beach body, actress/actor, or professional athlete? I have heard from a number of young ladies (and men) who struggle with their looks and desperately want to be liked and accepted for who they are…but fear it may not be enough.
Read Genesis 1 and 2, which states we are made in God’s image. Our identity should be based of “whose” we are, not the opinions of peers or pop culture. Your parents have extended to you (hopefully) their unconditional love and acceptance, no matter if you wear the “right clothes”, have the “best” physical features, or get the kind of grades they assume you should attain. But can you live with your looks? Can you accept yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made? Can you avoid the comparison trap and slick advertising campaigns that suggest you need to look like the models in their ads to be secure and confident in who you are? Are you going to be okay if you never develop six-pack abs?
As followers of Christ, we need to extend the support and encouragement of God to one another that Ephesians 4:29 declares. We need the help of others to overcome society’s insistence that a certain body type is preferred over another. Live communally. Listen to those whose opinion should matter most – God, your parents, and friends in Christ.
Love is a verb,