Wednesday, January 6, 2010

How Do You Define Beauty?

Artist: Whitney Calvert


Artist: Marie Bushbaum


Artist: Emily Warwick

Artist: Beryl Roda

Posters are contest winners from the NOW Foundations Love Your Body Campaign

As I float around from blog to blog reading various different resolutions I've noticed an all too familiar theme - weight loss.  Very rarely do I read of women desiring health, just that we're desiring some sort of perfection.  I've read some saying that they actually don't need to loose weight but they'd like to because it will make them look "tighter", "trimmer", "sexier". 

I too desire some weight loss but it's not because I want to reach some socially oppressive standard, rather I want to be healthier and happier so that the quality of my life is greatly improved.  Being healthier means I'll have more energy for my son and my husband.  It means I'll be physically able to participate in more activities.  A healthier me means I have a better chance at living longer, doing more.  Weight loss in my life represents the shedding of shackles that hold me back from doing things I'd like to do and it will give me the freedom to do more.

I worry though, as I have for some time, about the imbalance among women and our perception of beauty.  What are we projecting on other women, our mothers and daughters, sisters and friends?  What are we projecting onto ourselves as a standard for beauty?

There is a famous poem by Sam Levenson about beauty that I have long cherished (it's often mistaken as being a quote from Audrey Hepburn - that's how I first discovered it).  I think sometimes we forget that ascetics only hold so much water.  Eventually, if we don't take care of who we are on in the inside, if we aren't attentive to our inner health and beauty, we begin to rot from the inside.  Levenson's list of beauty characteristics are timeless and are themselves, beautiful.

For attractive lips, speak words of kindness. 

For lovely eyes, seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure, share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair, let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise, walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of each of your arms. As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode, but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives and the passion that she shows.

The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.

One of my favorite books of the Bible is Proverbs.  I especially enjoy the telling of the Proverbs 31 woman.  God talks to us, ladies, about what it is we are to be focusing on, who it is that should receive such focus.  I challenge you to read Proverbs 31 today and see if you can identify the characteristics of a Proverbs 31 woman in modern advertising.  If we're not promoting real beauty, who is?

Proverbs 31:30 - "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting: but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised."(NIV)

What else does the Bible tell us about beauty that counteracts the world's ideas?

1 Samuel 16:7 - "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (NIV)

Taking care of our bodies, our temples, are important.  We are to strive for good health and take care of ourselves.  With all things, we must be moving with moderation.  Are you focusing on too much of world beauty and not enough of God beauty?  When was the last time you paid attention to improving your inner beauty?  Does the time spent on your exterior beauty regimen outweigh that which you spend on your spirit?  How is it with your soul these days?

Take a look at the names we have for makeup products:
- Coverup
- Foundation
- Corrector and Concealer
- Mascara
- Eye Shadow

What are we telling ourselves and each other when we say that beauty means a washable foundation, covering up, correcting and concealing who we are, putting on a Mask-ara and shadowing our eyes?  Sounds a little ridiculous when we look at it that way, doesn't it?
- Note that Levenson mentions in his poem the importance of a woman's eyes.  Why then are we 'shadowing' our eyes?
- In Matthew 6:22-23 says, "The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" (NIV)  I ask again, why are we 'shadowing' the light Christ tells us here to be full of?

I wear makeup and I enjoy doing so.  But I wonder what's behind that.  Was I socialized to do that with makeup kits for little girls and media ads selling me the idea that true beauty is the essence of Cover Girl?  Why do I do the things I do and more importantly, does doing these things take my eyes and my focus off of God?

According to World Watch Magazine, we as a world, clearly have our eyes and our pocket books in the wrong places.
Amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide reproductive health care for all women in developing countries.

$12 billion
Amount of money spent annually on perfumes in Europe and the United States
$12 billion

Amount of money needed each year (in addition to current expenditures) to provide water and sanitation for all people in developing nations
$9 billion
Amount of money spent annually on cosmetics in the United States
$8 billion
 Shocking?  I thought so when I first read the statistics.  Imagine what we could do with that money, the lives we could touch, the changes and difference we could make, if we chose the beauty of life over the beauty of appearance.  I'm realistic enough to know that cosmetics isn't going anywhere, and frankly, I'd be a little saddened if they did.  However, maybe this is a call to all of us to rethink what we do and why we do it.  Maybe this is an opportunity for us to grow as women, to identify what it is that really makes us beautiful and to advocate for appreciation of such beauty within the world.  Maybe we can be beacons of change and hope.

One of the most beautiful people in my life was my grandmother.  If I were to list out all the things that made her beautiful, you'd find very few ascetic qualities.  Grandma was beautiful inside and out, but what made her beautiful to me were things that never aged.  Her love, her compassion, her spirit, her faithfulness, her forgiveness...those things made her shine. do you define beauty?  When was the last time you worked out your inner beauty muscles?  Is your focus on God when you work towards beautification?

"For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:21

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Andrea said...

Beauty is most certainly on the inside. This is a great post!

Freddae' said...

Thanks, Andrea.

Kathryn said...

Thanks so much for stopping by! Unfortunately the button swap is over and the featured bloggers have been picked. I would love to still add your button though since you added mine! Lovely blog by the way, I am a Christian too! :)
Adding your button now!

w said...

beauty is what i see when i look at my family.

also. i do love to play with makeup. but not like a lot a lot. true story.

Believer said...

Excellent post!

This is something I'm working on currently.

Wylie said...

Great post! I never thought about that before with the eye "shadow" & calling it concealer, etc. Wow!!! Hope you thoroughly enjoyed Disney. I like the new profile pic!

Lynette said...

Beauty shines out from the inside.

This is a beautiful post Freddae'.

Much More Than Mommy said...

You found me through Mass Hole Mommy, so I hopped over to check you out. This post was eye-opening -- which isn't always easy with all the eyeliner and mascara I use. ;-) This is great, thank you for posting it!

Believer said...

You've been linked! :)

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