A flower swayed in a field, beautiful in its own solitude. A blue sky, void of clouds curved smoothly above. Moist dirt embedded its stem, encasing nutrients that would keep it alive for today and into tomorrow. “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.” I came across that short phrase while scanning through my Pinterest one day and thought wow, that screams against culture. How many billboards, magazines, commercials, or TV shows yell back the exact opposite? This got me to thinking about the definition of beauty, and through a bit of research as well as what I’ve learned just from living in a sex-saturated culture, I found some contradicting information.
Different cultures define beauty in quite opposite ways. Journalist Esther Honig did a survey of 27 countries, sending her headshot to different Photoshop professionals with the simple request to “make her look beautiful.” The pictures she got returned were blatantly original. Not one of the 27 photos resembled another. Though her face was the one dominating every picture, her makeup, skin tone, and hairstyles were completely different.
Something else that caught my attention was the varying body weights differing countries deem beautiful. If you are a bride in Uganda, you might spend weeks leading up to your wedding stuffing yourself with food in “fattening huts” in order to gain as much weight as you can before you are wed.
Contrarily, those of us who know the story of Isabelle Caro, know that some countries value slender, underweight women and girls to a dangerous degree. Caro, a French model, died at the young age of 28 after fighting anorexia for 15 years.
It’s ironic to me how even in the states, the value of almost skeletally thin girls is so valued, while modeling agencies look for the exact opposite in men: tough, toned, and heavy with muscle.
In Thailand, teenage girls would never dream of laying out almost naked in the sun in order to attain a more tanned body. Rather than putting on sun lotion to tan their bodies, bleaching creme is used. Fair skin is the epitome of beauty in that country.
Beauty truly is “in the eyes of the beholder.”
With this phrase in mind, I then turned my thoughts from the beauty-idolizing culture I call home, and to the one who created the very atoms that make up beauty: my God, Jesus Christ, author of the definition of beauty.
If I were to adopt a book into film, the main person I would care about loving it would be the one who wrote the original book — the one who created it in the first place. The person who designed the characters and carefully added details to their character qualities and physical attributes is the one I would want to approve of my film.
In my mind, it is the same with beauty. The main person I care who thinks I’m beautiful is the one who created Beauty in the first place — God. According to numerous references in the Bible I am beautiful in His eyes. Simply type “beauty” or “beautiful” into the biblegateway app and numerous verses will fill your screen.
To me this is encouraging, freeing, and gives a great deal of confidence. I don’t need to binge eat before my wedding, I don’t need to lather creme on my body to give the illusion that I have fairer skin, and I don’t need to stack rings around my neck to push my chest cavity down so my neck looks longer. At the end of the day, a few extra wrinkles made from smiling isn’t going to break us.
So let me try to shake our blinded mindset, if even a little.
We are not defined by culture, however much we try to let ourselves be.
We are not defined by what people say we are, whether the names they use are beautiful, fat, thin, or any other word in the dictionary.
We are not defined by what we call ourselves, even if we already believe the words we've repeated so many times.
We are defined by Jesus Christ.
Until we claim this truth, until we allow ourselves to accept the incomprehensible truth that our worth is found in the God who created us we will find ourselves lacking.
We are defined by Jesus Christ.
Your height does not define you...
That number on the scale does not define you...
The shade of you skin does not define you...
Beauty is something everyone is born with. This is true simply because the one who created beauty is the same one that crafted each person in womb. Psalm 139 sums this up beautifully.
For now, I'll end with a few lyrics from a song I love, written by singer Colbie Caillat in her song "Try."
Wait a second,
Why should you care, what they think of you
When you’re all alone, by yourself
Do you like you? Do you like you?
You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing
Here are some more interesting links about beauty: