Have you ever regretted a haircut or makeover decision? What makes us realize that we don’t like a haircut (unless it was cut badly)? Usually it has to do with cultural norms. What does our culture say that beauty is, and what does our culture say that femininity is?
Abigail Murrish, a writer for Boundless.org, has written an article titled "I Cut off (Almost) All My Hair and Learned About Beauty as a Result." She feared that cutting her hair too short would take away her femininity and cause her to look ugly, but through her fear she remembered that her identity as a woman created in the image of God is far more important than what the world thinks of her appearance. She writes,
“As women, we’re given a script about what it means to be beautiful. Sometimes it’s explicitly stated, and other times it’s simply implied when you look around and realize many people look the same.”
We can look around our culture, where we live, and see what’s in and what’s not. What are the latest hair trends, fashions, or makeup colors. Of course this is different when you travel to different parts of the world. Each culture has its own set of standards that it judges beauty by. But God only judges the heart.
Just recently I showed a picture of hair color/highlights to my stylist, but when my color was done my first reaction was I don’t like this. Then it dawned on me that it wasn’t that it looked bad, it just looked different from the picture because I look different from the picture. Many women today are surrounded by magazine images, TV actresses, and movie stars who seem to meet the cultural norms of beauty—or at least this is what certain media outlets tell us. But it’s more than OK if we don’t look like a picture because our identity is not found in pictures.
Murrish reminds us,
“Our physical beauty and our internal beauty are mysteriously interconnected. A woman or man may be physically attractive by society’s standards yet lack the desirability that comes with cultivating a beautiful soul. Likewise, someone may not measure up to cultural definition of physical beauty, yet as we come to see his or her soul and how God’s handiwork is displayed, his or her beauty is fully displayed.”
Beauty standards cannot be claimed by one culture, but this doesn’t mean we should all walk around in paper bags either. It’s OK to make style choices, as long as we’re diversifying what we see as beautiful, says Murrish. When we think of beauty are we thinking of more than a specific hairstyle, wardrobe choice, or makeup trend? When we meet new people do we find ourselves subconsciously assessing them based on standards we hold ourselves to?
We don’t need to compare ourselves to others; comparison really only invites two reactions: She or he looks better than I do (self-deprecation, envy) or I look better than she or he does (self-righteousness, pride). We’re not meant to look the same, we’re meant to look different. God designed us with the capacity for different features and He called it very good. For it’s not our outward appearances that unite or connect us, it’s our hearts, souls, and minds.
Believers in Jesus Christ are part of one family; we are all adopted as sons and daughters—heirs to the one true King. And that family has no need to compare outward appearances for we are not connected by how we look but by the blood of Jesus Christ.
“There’s nothing wrong with wearing what’s trendy and popular. But make sure that how you think about beauty and express your own beauty isn’t solely dictated by culture. Consider what it means for you, as a unique image bearer of God, to creatively express your personhood and take joy in it. And if that means cutting off all your hair, go for it.”
To read Abigail Murrish’s article in its entirety, please visit Boundless.org.
Crosswalk.com Contributor Laura L. Smith shares relating Scripture verses in her article 5 Empowering Scriptures for the Woman Struggling with Body Image:
1. For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14
The word “fearfully” in this verse is actually translated from the Hebrew “to inspire awe”. That’s right, God created you to inspire awe. God started putting you together stitch by stitch when you were still in your mother’s stomach. He gave you your nose, your laugh, your body type, your quirks and your sparkling eyes. God didn’t just make you – He made you wonderfully.
2. God created human beings. He created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature. Genesis 1:27
Okay, that is mind-boggling. When we look in the mirror and don’t like who we see, we’re not looking hard enough. Because God says from way back in the Garden of Eden, He made us to reflect His image. Somewhere in our reflections are pieces of God. We need to seek those aspects of ourselves, not dwell on anything we feel is unworthy.
3. God not only loves you very much but also has put His hand on you for something special. 1 Thessalonians 1:4
When the world comes crashing in, telling us time and time again, we’re not strong enough, tall enough, thin enough, pretty enough, funny enough or smart enough, this is when we need to remind ourselves that God loves us exactly how we are. He doesn’t just love us, He loves us very much! In fact, He has his hand on us for something special.
We aren’t supposed to look like anyone else; we’re supposed to look the way we were created. The Master of this universe created us in His image, and the Bible tells us He even knits us together in the womb. So why do we keep trying to change a masterpiece?
5 Empowering Scriptures for the Woman Struggling with Body Images
Publication date: October 17, 2016
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.