Everyday Christian: Fixing beauty

You know what I realised the other day? Not once have I looked at my daughter and thought, ‘You know what you need? Concealer for your baby acne. Your eyebrows are outta shape – time to start plucking. We should shave your lanugo (body hair). And, my gosh, you could stand to lose a few rolls.’

Which made me wonder when I started feeling like my own body needed to be ‘fixed’, like what God made wasn’t good enough.

It probably started when I was a girl, with people commenting on my looks, hearing other people complain about their bodies, and messages from beauty ads and teen magazines.

Apparently, Aussie women spend up to $3,600 a year on beauty, averaging out to $300 a month – that includes makeup, haircuts, false eyelashes and nail treatments. A US survey said women spend, on average, 55 minutes a day on hair and makeup, which equates to 335 hours or two weeks a year. That accumulates to a lot of money and time over a lifetime. Just think how much better off we’d be if we invested or donated that money, or spent that time on sleep, hobbies or with loved ones.

It’s a double standard because it’s undeniably skewed that women more so than men are expected to modify their appearance to meet societal beauty standards.

Girls and women who don’t meet these expectations sometimes face judgment, name-calling, discrimination, harassment and bullying. In toxic relationships, some are emotionally and physically abused. In the workplace, some aren’t offered jobs or promotions due to a perceived ‘lack of professionalism’, or are even fired because they require women to have a certain appearance, for example, flight attendants and jobs in retail and sales. In churches, some are unfairly rebuked over ‘immodesty’ and made to feel guilty for others’ potential lust. Female leaders in our communities, businesses, media and politics are routinely judged on their appearance more than their male counterparts, receiving anything from more comments about their looks than their work, to vitriol and threats for not adhering to subjective expectations.

And that’s just the external pressures. These expectations and experiences often result in girls and women feeling insecure about their bodies and looks, and then seeking validation and acceptance in the wrong places. We don’t just waste money and time, but our self-image and self-love. For some, it exacerbates poor mental health and can lead to self-harm and suicidal ideation.

I don’t want this future for my daughter. Which means I shouldn’t want it for myself now.

Like most created things, there’s nothing inherently wrong with beauty products or practices, but I want to critically examine my motivations and drivers and ask myself the following hard questions:

  • Am I just having fun and expressing myself creatively? Or am I trying to meet others’ unhelpful and unrealistic expectations?
  • Have I bought into the beauty industry’s lies that I need their products or services to be more beautiful, confident or simply better?
  • Have I been conditioned to believe makeup and being a certain body shape make me look better or more presentable? That my face, hair and body need contouring, shaping, removal or some kind of fixing (often by uncomfortable or painful methods) just to be socially acceptable? That so-called blemishes need to be removed? That wrinkles and grey hair and any other signs of ageing should be avoided?
  • Do I view beauty as something I put on or do to my body, or as a quality that exudes from my mindset, actions and character?
  • Is there something wrong with the way I look or is the way I think about the way I look the real issue?
  • Do I live as if I believe that God unconditionally loves me or am I still seeking validation in the eyes of others?
  • And how does all of this affect the way I view God, who created me? How does it affect the way I teach and model godliness to others, including my daughter?

It’s time I prayerfully figure this out in my head and heart, and grow to value and be confident in my God-given body as it is – some call this ‘beauty culture deprogramming’. I may have passed on my genes to my daughter but she doesn’t need to inherit my body insecurities too.

I welcome you to join me in seeking God’s wisdom and perspective in your own self-reflection.