Have you ever felt it—that rush of excitement when you receive an invitation? Whether it’s for a wedding, a ball or a lavish birthday celebration, your mind swirls with images of beauty and music and celebration, then leaps straight to the vital question—“What will I wear?”
The last time I went through this routine, something about it bothered me. I felt honoured to be included in the guest list for a wedding and I wanted to look my best for such a special event. But my dreams of how I might dress were marred by the sharp prods of anxiety as I worried, Will everyone approve of my outfit? And, more importantly, Will everyone approve of the way I look in that outfit?
My body is changing. Skin doesn’t spring back the way it used to. Weight is shifting to new locations and clothes don’t sit like they did before. After years of having little bother about my fitness, I need to work harder for the same results. And I am. But I’ve been aware of a new body-consciousness simmering under the surface, a fear of judgement by others—and I’m annoyed. I’ve been in that place before and I know it does me no good.
Many years ago, I learned that the compulsion we feel to fit a certain mould is based on a lie—that our worth is measured by the size and shape of our body. Every day, through all sorts of means, we’re bombarded with perfectly crafted images telling us how we should look, what we should wear and how much we should weigh if we want to measure up—and they suck us ever-downward into a spiral of comparison, discouragement and striving. Even when we know the truth, those messages still creep in sometimes and warp our thinking. What a shallow way to judge the value of a life! To let those lies take root in our souls is to sell ourselves short—way short.
We are more than a body. Much, much more. And, deep down, I think we know it.
God gave us our bodies as a powerful instrument through which to express the fullness of who we really are. The way we treat people, the things we throw our energy into, what makes us happy or angry or sad all reveal to others what is in our heart. And it’s our heart that truly defines who we are—not our appearance.
The world’s standard of beauty changes all the time and from culture to culture. To spend our days pursuing an ever-shifting ideal is like a dog chasing its tail—lots of energy is expended but there’s very little reward. Real beauty, God says, comes from a heart at peace with Him and with others—and it doesn’t fade with the passing of years or the trials of life. How much better would we be to focus on that kind of pursuit?
So how about we shake off the lies? How about we lift our sights higher than the mirror, to the One Who looks straight to the core of our being and says we’re worth dying for? That kind of love sets us free to flourish. And it gives us the desire to appreciate the beauty in the women around us. Instead of comparing and competing, let’s cheer each other on as we learn to be the best versions of our unique selves. And let’s get busy pouring all God has put inside us into lives well-lived.
When we focus on what really matters, there’s a joy that goes far beyond skin deep.
PS. Once I shifted focus, I went to that wedding with my heart set on encouraging the people around me—and I had a blast!
“Your beauty should . . . be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4
“Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16