by Joanie Butman
Driving with two little friends recently made me nostalgic for the car conversations I often had with my kids. Grace (3) asked if I knew there was once a Princess Grace – for real!" I answered, “Oh, yes. She was incredibly beautiful.” Without skipping a beat, she replied with complete confidence, “Not as beautiful as me.” God bless the innocence of youth. When do we lose that? When do we start comparing ourselves to others and find ourselves lacking? For my daughter, it was in early elementary school. She insisted on curling her pin straight hair, so I washed it and let her sleep in curlers. She thought she was the bomb the next day. My husband pulled me aside and whispered, "You can't let her go to school like that!" Well, she thought she looked beautiful, and I wasn't going to burst her bubble. When she walked in the classroom, a boy looked at her in horror and commented, "What the hell happened to your hair?" The rest is history.
I don’t know if males are less inclined, or if it’s determined more by personality, but my son didn’t lose that youthful confidence until well into high school – if ever. In fact, when I listen to him and my husband critique someone, I have to ask them, “Have you guys looked in the mirror recently?”
Society is definitely harder on women than men – at least in regard to beauty and fashion. I just heard on the radio that the proliferation of the selfie has created a need to be ‘camera ready’ at all times, which has led to a significant increase in the price of stocks in the cosmetic and personal care industry – no joke.
Advertisers spend a fortune each year convincing us to buy products promising to make us look younger, prettier, skinnier, softer, fitter – the list is endless. And we believe them. Sadly, the standard of beauty applauded in our culture is unattainable even for the models posing. Everything is airbrushed. That’s just not reality. Yet, the pressure to emulate that level of perfection remains – stronger than ever.
As a backlash against the beauty industry’s ubiquitous message, in 2004, Dove launched its Campaign for Real Beauty in an effort to challenge long-held beauty ideals. They produced a series of poignant ads encouraging girls and women of all ages to overcome the labels we assign ourselves such as fat, ugly, wrinkly, too tall, too short, too old, yada, yada, yada. You’ve all heard the accusations at some point I’m sure. The campaign’s main purpose is to inspire us to appreciate that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.
Dove’s two-minute ad, Onslaught, dramatizes the barrage of beauty images girls (and women) face. Its provocative message encourages parents to “Talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does."* Wise advice, but my daughter never listens to me. I don’t even listen to me! When I tell my daughter how beautiful she is, she always responds, “You have to say that; you’re my mother.” Okay, maybe I should have been more forthcoming when she was in second grade, but she blossomed into a beautiful young woman, and that's the truth.
So how did I respond to Grace? With wholehearted agreement of course. Does she resemble the Princess of Monaco? No, but God wants everyone to feel like Grace because that’s how He sees each of us. I did remind her that she was a daughter of a King so that makes her a princess as well - for real! She beamed with joy and why not? God thinks we’re all beautiful. Why can’t we? Why do we feel compelled to compare ourselves to others? God doesn’t. “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). We’d be better served choosing to use some of the time we spend primping to enhance what we look like on the inside.
The Apostle Peter would have been a good spokesman for the Dove campaign. I don’t know what beauty secrets merchants were pedaling back then, but he was ahead of his time when he instructed, “let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4). Unfortunately, it’s a lot easier to apply concealer to your face than to your heart. You can’t hide from God. He alone offers the only product I know of to enhance our inner beauty. It’s called grace. The best part about it is that it’s free. Still, we have to choose to accept it.
Is grace a part of your daily beauty regimen? Choose wisely.
Oh, one more thing for the seniors out there. Solomon has a special message for you from Proverbs 20:29: “The beauty of the aged is their gray hair.” Celebrate it!
A few short video ads from Dove well worth watching.