A young girl, about 8 years of age, walks into her parents' bedroom where her father
is watching TV. She has her mother's curlers in her hair, wanting to try a new hairstyle.
Her father glances over at her, asking, "Why do you have those curlers in your hair?"
His daughter timidly shrugs, embarrassed by his question.
He says, "Why put curlers in your hair? People will say, 'She has a pretty face, but
look at how horrible her body is.' No one will ever love you because you have an ugly
The girl begins to weep. Between sobs, she asks her father to help her lose weight.
He consents to her request.
As an impressionable child, I unquestioningly embraced my father's searing assessment.
In subsequent years it would accompany me, exacerbated by Western culture's piercing
proclamations regarding external appeal: Thinness equaled beauty. Anything commonly
associated with the female figure (such as cellulite and stretch marks), were deemed
I recall a scathing piece of "news" in which Princess Diana was photographed wearing
a pair of shorts, bright red marks circling the areas of nearly undetectable cellulite
on her legs. The magazine editors apparently found her perceived physical flaws sufficiently
noteworthy to create a derisive headline about them.
Such merciless critiques of the female form continue to prevail within our society.
Assaulted by airbrushed images and advertisements lauding fad diets, pills, creams,
and any other absurdities the mind can conjure, many of us have willingly embraced
the distortions, myself included.
While my father's comments were reprehensible and not indicative of how a man should
treat his daughter, I deliberately continued in my painful acceptance of his erroneous
beliefs. I seemingly confirmed the "validity" of his mindset through various painful
experiences and, compelled by such evidence, tormented myself. I sought relief through
starvation and purging, although I thankfully did not sustain either as a lifestyle.
I then moved on to diet pills, which afforded me a measure of the success I craved:
I lost all of my weight, anticipating that such a drastic event would automatically
result in the self-confidence I always lacked. Although a popular perception, I discovered
that it was a falsehood. Whether thin or overweight, I harbored the same sentiments
of inferiority. There were days in which I would suddenly begin to cry, comparing
myself unfavorably to other women, wondering if I would ever be "sufficient." I was
ensnared by the lie that a certain physical shape merited the title of "good enough,"
as though it encapsulated all virtues.
It never occurred to me that I was emulating the very culture I condemned for its
obsession with outward appearance. In some sense I considered myself superior to it,
for I did not impose its standards of attractiveness upon others, yet I was continually
inflicting them upon myself, indulging in an insidious form of conceit.
I recognize the irony of such a concept in this present age. Those whose self-evaluations
are characterized by negativity and condemnation would hardly be considered narcissistic
or arrogant. On the contrary, such individuals are invited to cultivate "high self
esteem." The question is, should further self-preoccupation be encouraged? Is this
the solution for women who struggle with body image?
The Bible is not silent regarding these concerns. Not only does it address the true
definition of beauty according to the God who lovingly created our features, it also
diverts our attention from sinful, self-preoccupation toward the Creator whose incomparable
loveliness is truly breathtaking.
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his
stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks
on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
~1 Samuel 16:7
Unlike human beings, God does not employ worldly standards in His judgments. That
which is objectively valuable differs radically from the popular, misguided trends
we so readily adopt. Instead of taking cues from others to learn about ourselves,
we must look to the One in whom we "live and move and have our being." (Acts 17:28.)
We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27), "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm
139:14.) Each of us is custom-designed for a specific purpose, cellulite and all!
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
The commencement of this wonderful verse contains two elements (charm and outer beauty)
that are passionately celebrated in today's world. However, God reveals that deep
reverence for Him is what is genuinely praiseworthy. He pulls us away from absorption
with exterior adornment and directs our attention toward the definition of enduring
Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or
the putting on of clothing--but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart
with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is
very precious. ~1 Peter 3:3-4
None of this signifies that we should neglect the proper care of our bodies, or that
physical appearance should be utterly disregarded. However, these things must be placed
within their proper perspective. As Carolyn Mahaney says, "Outward appearance should
honor God and draw people to your character. Esther and the Proverbs 31 woman exemplify
In the passages that follow, we unveil the true function of beauty:
When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which
You have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man
that you care for him? Psalm 8:3-4
From a lily in the field to a radiant bride on her wedding day, all manifestations
of beauty are designed by God to reflect His glory; they exist to point us toward
Himself and His exceeding loveliness, to inspire awe and humility within our hearts.
When we behold the starry expanse above us, are we dwelling upon our physical shortcomings,
or are we simply enthralled by the incredible sight, feeling wonderfully small in
comparison? If the heavens are but mere, faint echoes of God's majesty, imagine how
truly captivating He must be!
A negative body image cannot successfully be overcome by conforming to a culture's
fickle tendencies, but by accepting what God says about us and gazing upon His beauty
instead of ourselves. I guarantee you that His transforming truths do more in beautifying
a woman than any wrinkle cream or spa treatment!