I was partially amused and mostly irritated to find that every ad being served to my free web-based mail and YouTube the last couple weeks have been weight-loss or beauty related. You see, most of these sites require demographic information about the user, specifically age and gender. Apparently, the internet in all its wisdom has decided that as a woman in my mid-thirties, I must be insecure about my appearance and be diligently striving to lose weight.
And it would be right, partially. As a former ballet dancer, a profession that requires one to be almost anorexically thin, I can’t help looking in mirrors and store windows as I pass and wondering what happened to that impossibly slender young woman.
Well, I’ll tell you. She’s still there, just two children and a real life later. But almost twenty years after giving up my pursuit of a professional dance career, those ridiculous standards remain in my head. Yes, some of my friends make faces at me if I comment on the fact I put on a few extra pounds this winter and it’s time to start exercising if I want to fit into my summer clothes. To them, I have nothing to complain about.
These same women say if only they lost about thirty pounds, they’d be happy. That always takes me off guard. I think of them as who they are: quirky, funny, loving, smart, talented. I’ve never once looked at them and thought, “Wow, if only they lost thirty pounds, they’d be prettier. Nicer people. More worthy of love.”
But that’s what we think about ourselves, isn’t it? Regardless of the reality, we think that somehow achieving an ideal of physical perfection will make us better people. That fitting into a single digit trousers size will make the rest of the problems in our lives go away: our jobs will be less difficult, people will be nicer to us, the messy house will somehow be easier to deal with.
It’s easy to chase the notion of perfection when we’re offered “quick and easy” ways to achieve it.
Order your Bowflex today! I lost 60 pounds by working out thirty minutes three times a week!
New shampoo with exotic plant extracts, guaranteed to make your hair bouncy and shiny. (And apparently, gives you the ability to move in slow motion.)
Join Weight Watchers and lost all the weight you want for only a few dollars a month!
Even if we don’t acknowledge it, these ads (and the voices in our head) tell us that there’s something wrong with us if we don’t look red carpet worthy when we go to the grocery store. Just like that little voice in my head tells me I shouldn’t eat that croissant if I ever want to see my stage weight again.
Well, you know what? I don’t want to see my stage weight again. To a mother of two who would just like time to blow dry her hair in the morning, that represents a ridiculous standard. And furthermore, I like croissants. Eating a croissant doesn’t make me a bad person, just like passing up the croissant doesn’t make me virtuous.
So for all of my sisters out there looking in the mirror, feeling less-than and wondering why perfection feels so out of reach, I’ll leave you with this. You are beautiful because you are a child of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. And you were created just as God intended, for the works He intends you to do.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139:14 (NIV)
For we are God’s handiwork,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)