Observations Of An Amateur Housewife

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Beauty and the Box

At some point in their lives, usually at a young age, most women are given a pretty little box.  The box can come from many different sources. A mother or grandmother. A father. A boyfriend. A circle of girlfriends. A TV show, magazine, or music video. Some boxes are bigger than others, but usually, they are pretty small. You may keep yours on the bathroom vanity, or carry it around with you everywhere you go.

Contained in the box is its owner's personal ideal of beauty. The box is small, because usually it consists of  only one thing, one tiny detail...a number. Maybe a dress size, measurements, or the numbers on a scale. And every day, or even several times a day, the box is opened. Every time the person looks in the mirror, goes shopping, or finds themselves in a crowded place, they take the box out and compare themselves to what's inside.

"How do I measure up today?" they wonder. "How long before I reach this level of beauty that will make me happy with myself?" They may feel a twinge of guilt, disappointment, frustration, or envy before they put the box away.

And so it goes, every day. A constant struggle to find the personal happiness that can only be found in the perfect dress size.

As I raise my daughter in a society that revolves around image, I can't help but want better for her. I want her to know that personal beauty is so much more what than can be stuffed into a tiny box. It isn't about how small her waist is or isn't, or how flat her tummy is or isn't. It bothers me to hear teenage girls talk about how many calories they ate that day, or how they need to go on a diet, always with this self-loathing in their voices as they stare at their image in the mirror, hating what they see and wishing they could just measure up to some shallow ideal of beauty.

Who teaches them this? These are girls that grow up in church, in Christian homes. Shouldn't they be learning that they are "fearfully and wonderfully made"? Shouldn't they know that the image they are staring at with such disgust is a work of art, created with care by Someone who thinks they are beautiful? Shouldn't they know that happiness comes not from a constant focus on self, but a forgetting of self?

It makes me sad to hear little girls worry so much about their appearance. It bothers me to hear ladies my own age, who are all so pretty just the way they are, talking about "just 5 more pounds" or how much better they looked before they had kids. It drive me nuts to hear grandmothers and great-grandmothers talk about how they "really shouldn't" eat dessert because they want to slim down! I'm all for being healthy, but if you haven't accepted yourself by the age of 70, you never will! And moms, if babies gave you a bigger tummy or hips, hey, don't be embarrassed, you worked hard for those! There's nothing wrong with looking like a mom, you are one! ;)

Health is important, yes. Eating nutritious foods, getting adequate exercise and fresh air, these are all good things. But diet and exercise for the sake of...what? Being skinny? Measuring up to some lame standard of beauty that the fashion and diet industry says we have to look like? (((Who made them so smart anyway? Maybe it has to do with the fact that the more money you spend on their weight loss products, the more money they make off of you?))) That's not healthy or good. It's wrong! When it comes right down to it, it's nothing but pride. Pride is not beautiful.

These are just my thoughts on things I'm working on personally. It isn't easy, I would be a hypocrite to say that I don't struggle with all of these things. I'm no supermodel, it's HARD to look in the mirror and be happy with what I see. I was raised in the same society as everyone else. But the longer I am a mom, the more mindful I am of what I'm teaching my daughter. Every time I look in the mirror discontentedly, comparing myself to a number, every time I say "Ughhh, I'm so fat!" or "I'm so ugly!" my daughter is learning. I'm shaping her ideal of beauty. She's taking away from me the idea that the worth of a woman is measured by nothing more than a reflection in the mirror. I think she's worth more than that. A lot more.

Maybe we should think outside of the box. Throw the box away. Broaden our perspective. Teach our girls that they are beautiful the way they are! It takes more than words to teach. If I tell my daughter "You are so pretty just the way you are" and then turn around and say "If I could just lose 10 pounds I would look so much better" what have I taught her? I've taught her that everyone else is fine the way they are, but not me. I can do better. I can improve on what God made. Wow, if that isn't nasty pride rearing its ugly head in my mirror, I don't know what is. And pride does not look good on anybody.

Psalm 139:14-15 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Life In Bloom Linking up with Life in Bloom today!