I saw a video on youtube a few weeks ago and I can't get it out of my head. Take a look:
Brilliant, isn't it? And heartbreaking. A little uncomfortable too, maybe. I've been wanting to write about my reaction to this video for weeks, and yet each time I tried to corral my thoughts and feelings about it, I came up short. The concept of beauty pressure in our culture is so pervading and yet somewhat blurry, because a person can sit on either side of the ever-swinging pendulum. Some women (and I know men deal with these issues, too, but since I'm female, I'll speak to that crowd) are obsessed with their appearance: weight, calorie-intake, exercise, and diets. Yet others seem untouched by society's pressure to measure up to its standard and seem genuinely happy with how they look. I think at various points in my life, I have related to both sides -- in particularly content times, I've felt confident about my body. In uncertain times, I've felt more insecure and disapproving of the way I look. I'd almost bet on the fact we've all been there at one time or another.
But the issue that really struck a chord for me while watching this video was this: the root of all the insecurity, all the obsession over the way we look to others, the self-inflicted pain and feelings of inadequacy we experience in relation to our bodies, is fueled by a standard. And where did we learn about this standard? In the media. Magazines, billboards, music, TV, film, you name it, they've claimed it. Obviously the media isn't responsible for our response, but it certainly perpetuates that standard (that ridiculous, unrealistic standard) and bombards our lives daily.
For me, the most tragic part of all this is the fact that it gets to you when you're young and still so unaware about the standard. (The little girl in the video is a case in point.) I remember watching an episode of Oprah a couple of years ago where she interviewed a 7-year old girl who claimed she was "too fat" and "needed" to go on a diet. Seriously? How did this first-grader even know that she had the option of being too thin or too fat? Where did she learn it? Perhaps from Mom, whether intentional or not, but that idea originally stems from the culture she is surrounded and informed by. I have two little sisters, one eight years old and the other fifteen, and my heart breaks for them when I think about the messages they're hearing when they watch TV and listen to music. I pray that they realize and know the Source of their beauty and that it doesn't depend on an image or size or weight.
I think God is vying for my attention here. Perhaps for all of us who struggle to make peace with our bodies. I know it sounds overused and cliche, but sometimes the things that are most often said are the things that most need to be heard: we are beautiful, no matter what. Our genes are our genes, and we have the freedom and ability to treat our bodies with the care, love, and healthy attention it so deserves. We don't have to buy into what the beauty industry tells us -- the one that tries to make us feel any less a woman if we don't fit the mold. The mold, by the way, that was completely fabricated by people trying to sell clothes, beauty products, and an image. Let's remember this first for ourselves, as strong and healthy women, and then for our daughters, biological or not. We owe it to them to model acceptance, health, and a genuine love for who we are and how we were created. Choose whose voice you want to listen to, and let it be the One who loves and accepts you just as you are. I honestly think the world would be a different place if we believed and lived in this truth.
"Your kingdom come, Your will be done..."