Why do we base so much on appearance and image?
I know, I know; this isn’t a fresh or original question. But it hit me tonight, as I stared at my reflection in the upstairs bathroom mirror at my grandparents’ cabin: how silly.
In the glass, though I’d just removed my makeup, my skin looked nearly flawless, my eyes bright, and my teeth white. I smiled at myself, pleased.
Then I realized that the soft lighting in the room was responsible for my suddenly-airbrushed appearance.
And I thought, “whoa. it’s not about how you look, but how you see.”
If I had grown up viewing my reflection only in that mirror, in that room, would I have felt more beautiful? Worth more? Might that have changed my attitude, and therefore, my actions?
It shook me a little to realize: yes, it probably would have.
“Appear:” to look, to seem. Why do we place such importance on illusions?
I admit, though I ask these questions, I’ve bought into the cultural lie too: “to be beautiful, you must have [any number of physical qualities, determined largely by one’s social influences]. I grew up hearing the usual cliches: “everyone is beautiful,” “it’s what’s inside that counts,” “you are uniquely you,” et cetera. Looking back, I suppose I never truly believed that stuff. I saw it as fortune-cookie-consolations for people that– well– weren’t very attractive. I decided that that way of thinking just wasn’t for me. I wore contacts, endured years of braces to work my way to straight teeth, and begged to visit a dermatologist. I ran hard to stay skinny, soaked up the sun when I could to stay tan. I woke up early on school days to straighten my thick, wavy hair into submission, bought expensive mascara, made sure my nails were always well-manicured.
And on its own, I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with any of that. But the motivation behind those actions, at those times, was the problem. I could have been loving others, instead I was worrying about myself, wasting so much time.
I still run, still wear contacts, still keep my nails covered in coats of candy pastel. But at 19, I see much differently than in middle and high school. I don’t curse my larger-than-average feet or the bump on the bridge of my nose or how my figure’s not the coveted hourglass. I don’t compare myself with others, and most importantly, I’m realizing more and more that Seventeen, for instance, has so, so little to do with beauty, while a person’s spirit has everything to do with it.
Proverbs 31:30 says: “charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
The most beautiful women (and most handsome guys) I know seem to glow from the inside with their joy and vitality, the kind that only comes from knowing Christ, from living in love, from being truly selfless. Believe it or not, but it’s true. And when you see it, you just know. These people are rare, but they’re out there.
I pray to be one of them someday. In the meantime, I’m off to redefine beauty (it does not, not, not equal perfection), to quit letting mirrors determine my attitude and the quality of my day, and to seek out beauty in the many incredible people around me: and to let them know what I see!
Wanna do the same? Let’s compliment, see others as more than competition, look for beauty in the young and old. Let’s tell the mirrors they don’t define us.
Tonight, I’m thankful for soft lighting and a mirror, for they reminded me where beauty truly lies.