For the past six months my life felt like a V-8 commercial (where the person walks sideways). My hair was about 2 inches shorter in places on the right side and 6 inches longer on the left side. I actually developed a habit of tilting my head to the right. Now I sat in a salon waiting for a haircut. My hair had grown out so the short part was long enough I could get it evened-out without cutting it way up to my ears. I’d looked at the hairstyle books and found a picture of a chin-length bob to show my stylist.
Not many people noticed my hair problem but I sure did. In those months growing it out I noticed how much a connection I had with how I felt about myself and how this impacted my outlook. For a while it seemed I had reverted back to teenage years when I had felt so insecure (because I subscribed to the lie that who I was was what I looked like). I remember agonizing over my appearance, spending hours over clothes, makeup, and hair.
Now my lopsided hair made me focus on the outward appearance again. When I focused my self-worth on the shaky foundation of outward appearance, I felt miserable and well, lopsided. I resolved to change my thinking. I viewed every day as a new opportunity to decide my identity would be determined by who I was in the inner woman, not by my lopsided view of myself.
In the wake of my hair issue, Dove soap released a new ad campaign. It reminded me of my struggle. Dove asked women to describe themselves to an artist; without looking at the women, the artist created likenesses then they asked the women’s friends to describe the women. Again sketches were created. The sketches made from the women’s own perceptions differed from that of the friends (for example, one woman described her chin as wide whereas the friend said it looked normal), indicating women didn’t feel very good about themselves. The end of the commercial showed a woman crying in her husband’s embrace. At first I didn’t get it. Then I think I understood. He had been telling her how beautiful she was and she hadn’t accepted it until then. This makes me ask, what impact does the way we women view ourselves have on our marriages? I’m guessing it has a bigger impact then we realize.
American women want to feel beautiful, so much so that as one source said, combined, we spend about 6 billion dollars on beauty per year. Due to some financial reversals, I couldn’t spend the money I used to spend on beauty products. Even if the L’Oreal commercial said, “You’re worth it” I couldn’t afford it. At one point, I remember looking in the mirror and wanting to cry. Yet my husband kept telling me how beautiful I was. Once when I had all my makeup off he looked at me and said, “I don’t know if it’s just that I’m falling in love with you more, but you seem to be growing more and more beautiful with each passing year.” I admit, at times the way I felt about myself hindered my ability to receive his word gifts. I wonder how he felt when I threw them back in his face.
Getting beyond negative self-image feels a little like trying to peel off a sticky label. Here are some questions to probe deeper. Can our identity really be contained in such things as hairstyle, facial features, skin clarity, or the size or shape of our body? How much time do we spend developing inner beauty? Do we need to start looking away from the wall mirror and into the mirror of God’s Word? What would happen if we took this to heart “Your beauty should …be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (From 1 Peter 3:3-4).
As I sat down in the salon chair for my haircut, I confided in my hairstylist (also a Christian), “Why do we care so much about our appearance?” I told her about meeting a woman who had some genetic issue which impacted her facial features. Her left eye was near her nose, her right eye dissimilar. I told how I felt God prompted me to tell this woman how beautiful he thought she was in his eyes.
God doesn’t view us through our lopsided perceptions of ourselves. He sees the woman beneath the makeup; he looks past even the worst hair day. He doesn’t look at us through the insults which adhere to our self-image like sticky labels. The Bible says God doesn’t look at us as people do. He looks at the inner woman. He knows us and loves us (Read Psalm 139). He looks beyond that blemish on our nose, or the worst hair day. He sees us through eyes of his unconditional love. Maybe we should too.