My youngest sister stares at picture books and compares her thick, well-muscled frame to the bean-pole ballerinas and wishes she was thinner. The blind, unquestioning hunger in her desire makes me feel sick.
Yet when I sit on my computer and look at ravenously gorgeous, curvy lingerie models, and wish desperately to be more beautiful, I rationalize it. That’s freedom from cultural standards. That’s what diverse beauty looks like. That’s what art looks like. Come on America, let’s respond to Victoria Secret’s sexualized beauty with more sexualized beauty!!
(Have we ever stopped to think that maybe, the answer to fantasized, airbrushed lingerie models isn’t to post more diverse lingerie models? Consider just not taking commercialized photos of women in their underwear. Novel concept.)
I am overwhelmed by our cultures lopsided emphasis on sensuality–even in the bold, possibly laudable attempts currently popping up on every newsfeed–the #imnoangel and facets of the Dove campaigns, to normalize many different types of outward appearance, the focus of everything is still physical, sexual beauty. Human beauty is so much more nuanced and subtle and vast. It can’t always be captured in a photograph, or video. Sometimes it comes in packages that are scarred and vaguely unattractive. It’s always really, really complicated.
This summer, a friend commented, “We forget the intrinsic beauty of a soul, and the fact that a soul somehow shines through something physical, and makes a shell that might not otherwise be attractive…somehow, attractive. Some of the most beautiful women I’ve known weren’t necessarily what you would call physically attractive. It’s complicated like that. Because people are complicated.”
I wrestle every day with feeling unattractive. I think most girls do. But it stopped mattering so much this year when I realized that those emotions, and in some ways, that reality, couldn’t stop me from being beautiful. The people who loved me usually don’t notice the things I hate about myself, and if they do notice them, they have too much grace to care.
There’s a subtle, important difference in proclaiming, “My body is beautiful” and saying “I am beautiful”. I want the confidence to say that when I slather thick layers of foundation on to hide the scars and marks I dread so much. I want the grace of Christ to show my best friend how radiant she is when all she can do is compare our dress size. I need the honesty to tell my little sister that yes, she won’t ever fit the ballerina mold, but that doesn’t keep her from being one of the most jaw-dropping, shining lionhearts I’ve ever encountered.
Let’s stop acting like we’re just cadavers, please. This is my heart…