I recently saw a TV commercial for a substance women can use to reduce the sight of pores on their faces. Pores. Did I miss something? Since when did pores become unacceptable. I realize that we’re supposed to be ashamed of blemishes, wrinkles and any indication of a fat molecule, but I hadn’t been cued in to the fact that even the thousands of miniscule holes in our face are unacceptable. Who makes these decisions? Who decides women must be rail thin specimens of perfection? and who can achieve such perfection and remain in tact?
I also saw a commercial for vitamins for adolescents the other day. The vitamins were created for males and females separately in order to target each gender’s specific “needs.” The male vitamins gave the consumer strong muscles. The female vitamins gave the consumer healthy skin. So males are only supposed to be concerned with their strength, and women their beauty. Is this really the message we want to send to our nation’s daughters and sons?
A few months ago I read a heartfelt and candid story of a woman who was born with about half of her face permanently discolored. She lived most of her life spending countless hours and limitless energy keeping her scar hidden. Eventually this woman realized how much of herself she hid under this make-up and how much she was focusing on her physical beauty instead of the beauty she possessed on the inside. She decided sometime in her 20s to stop hiding and be her true self. She no longer wore make-up. She was finally free from the chains she placed on herself as a result of messages she recieved from our society and media. At the bottom of the last page of this heroine’s story, there was an advertisement for make-up to cover “unsightly scars and blemishes.” Thank you, beauty industry, for invalidating everything this brave woman just shared.
How are women to respond to being immersed in such unhealthy and unrealistic expectations from the places they go to in order to learn the “norms” of society? These questions and concepts have been on my mind for at least a decade now, and I still don’t feel like I know the answer. I wear make-up. I pay attention to the latest fashion trends. I want to be pretty. But I also want to be known. I want to be seen for my compassion, my servent’s heart, and my fiery tenacity more than for my brown curly hair or greenish eyes.
Where do you get your sense of identity? From your looks? your children? your job? your husband? your gifts? I get my sense of identity largely from accomplishments. I am driven, motivated, task-oriented, and incredibly productive. But getting a graduate degree didn’t fulfill all my needs. Finding a fulfilling career hasn’t made me a complete person. “Getting the job done” day in and day out does not provide me with self-acceptance.
I need relationships in my life. I was created for relationships, and not just any relationships, but relationships where I am real with people. Relationships where I can be my true self and not worry about what I look like or how I’m coming across, because I know the person I’m talking with understands the core of who I am apart from what mistakes I might have made or what feelings have momentarily–or not so momentarily–been out of control of, or how I look. In these relationships I am reminded that the girl on TV is not real. Even the model in the magazine does not look as perfect as the photo of her does. My girl friends are real, and they look the same on camera as they do in real life.
When I pay attention to TV shows, magazine articles, and movies, I become fat, ugly, and undesirable. When I keep my focus on my relationship with God and the amazing people who put up with me as a friend, I’m broken, and lost, and a mess. But I have hope in my brokenness. I find direction in my confusion. And I receive redemption in the mess I’ve made of things.
And suddenly those unsightly pores seem a little bit less important.