Authored by Tina Kapp
I’ve found it rare that a TV commercial will teach me something of importance. Most are terribly boring or obviously trying to promise you unrealistic ideals. You know the type: fit, beautiful people eating junk food, or that tired-looking mom suddenly looking fresh with a sparkling kitchen after changing her dish soap. Others obviously try to play on your emotions by starting up with some moving story only to end up promoting a bank, insurance, or some other equally unemotional product.
However, every now and then someone gets an interesting concept and shows us something that makes us think. There’s one commercial that recently went viral. It’s called Real Beauty Sketches by Dove.1
A sketch artist, who had worked for the San Jose Police department for many years, was brought into the studio to sketch women who sat behind a curtain, where he couldn’t see them. He asked them to describe themselves and he would sketch them as they saw themselves: a large forehead, jutting chin, a round face, stringy hair, and so on. Someone who had sat next to these women in the waiting room would then come in and describe them the way they saw them—good traits that these women actually had but had never seen or appreciated about themselves.
The sketch artist then hung these two portraits next to each other. Invariably, the sketch according to the other person’s description was more beautiful than the one that was self-depicted. Both looked very much like the person (which showed that this portrait artist was one amazing artist), but one portrait brought out all the “bad” traits while the other brought out all the good.
This showed me that dwelling on the worst aspects of yourself only seems to draw attention to them. Have you ever had a friend who went on and on about something they didn’t like about themselves only to have you start to notice it when you hadn’t before?
That’s where I think inner beauty comes into the picture. If I describe someone who I think has inner beauty, I would pick someone who is kind, friendly, outgoing. Even if they’re shy by nature, they would still not be afraid to start up a conversation with a “wallflower,” and most of all, they don’t come across like they’re thinking about themselves all the time. They may make an effort to look nice, but you don’t see them continually primping or fussing throughout the day worried that a hair may have gotten out of place. Sure, they have flaws like the rest of us, but they don’t spend all their time worrying about it.
I personally love makeovers—seeing someone look better with a fresh haircut, more flattering clothes, and tasteful makeup. But more than a physical difference, you notice the confidence they receive when they see their new improved selves. They smile more, they “walk a little taller,” they laugh more easily because they feel so much better about how they look. That feeling of confidence contributes to the makeover as well.
The good news is that you can get the same boost to your confidence without a big makeover. There’s a great quote that says that there are three versions of every person: the way you see yourself, the way others see you, and the way God sees you. Let’s break those down.
The first version—the way we see ourselves. It probably is the least flattering, and the version where you’ll most likely hear the most about the flaws. Okay, you may be one of those people who thinks you’re absolutely wonderful and a breath away from perfection. If so, I could work on another podcast just for you. But if you tend to judge yourself fairly harshly, focusing on your faults and failings, then you’re in the same boat as most of us.
In Romans, Paul asked his fellow disciples, “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, `Why did you make me like this?’”2 Whoever he was talking to must have had the same issues of not liking things about themselves.
The next version—how others see us—is usually more flattering. We can see this from the example of the Dove commercial I talked about. Sure, there may be judgmental people who are critical or just plain mean, but in general, I think you’d be surprised to see how many others envy you for the things you have never fully appreciated.
Thanks to my dad, I’ve been blessed with very curly hair. Growing up, I always envied other girls’ long, straight hair that didn’t frizz out or get tangled all the time. Now that I’m older, I’ve come to appreciate it (and I’ve learned to take better care of it), but I still thoroughly enjoy the odd occasion I get to straighten it. It’s fun to see other girls with beautiful straight hair enjoying curling theirs once in a while. We all have something beautiful if we can learn to enjoy it and appreciate it.
Try to make a note of the next time someone gives you a compliment and allow it to boost your confidence. Rather than brush it off, stop and thank the Lord that someone thinks there is something nice about you.
Now the third and ultimate version—the way God sees us. He’s the architect that designed and created us, and He loves us just the way we are. Now in today’s society, we allow the media and fashion trends to determine what is beauty. In the olden days, ladies wanted to be plump and have lighter skin—this showed that they were wealthy and could afford lots of food, and that they didn’t have to work out in the sun. Now your typical model is lean and tanned and just about the opposite of what used to be considered beautiful.
In some countries in Africa I’ve lived in, naturally thin women try hard to gain weight because being bigger and curvier is more attractive to the men in their culture. Also, losing weight can be a sign that you’re ill. In fact, a common greeting after not seeing a friend for a while is to say, “You’ve grown fat!” This was much to my chagrin as a teenager, until I learned the good nature behind the compliment. It means you look well and not poor or sickly.
I’m a big fan of looking and feeling healthy and fit, but it’s important to step back and realize that healthy can come in various packages, and you shouldn’t feel that you have to fit into anyone else’s version. Since you’re a creation of God, you should take good care of the body He gave you so that you can live a long and productive life. You may not see the flaws in other people, but they might not see any in you either. Everyone has their battles to fight in life, and one goal to ask the Lord to help you with is to see your own good traits and focus on them.
Easier said than done, I know. I battled with eating disorders for many years and tried every diet and cleanse under the sun, but it was only when I was older and made peace with myself and accepted the Lord’s help to focus on other things in life that everything became much more balanced. Now I enjoy life so much more.
I have some really beautiful friends, but they’re far more beautiful because of the kind of people they are. They’re a joy to be around, they care for others, and their so-called flaws just disappear because I love being around them, and all I really see when I’m with them is their fun, easygoing, loving nature.
Golda Poretsky said, “Beauty shouldn’t be about changing yourself to achieve an ideal or be more socially acceptable. Real beauty, the interesting, truly pleasing kind, is about honoring the beauty within you and without you. It’s about knowing that someone else’s definition of pretty has no hold over you.”
If you can work on being a better person on the inside, the Bible says the outside will follow. “A happy heart makes the face cheerful,”3 and “Wisdom lights up a person’s face.”4
We are not beautiful because we look a certain way; we are beautiful because we are sons and daughters of God.
2 Romans 9:20 NIV
3 Proverbs 15:13 NIV
4 Ecclesiastes 8:1 NLT
Read by Stephen Larriva. Music by sindustry(CC). Copyright© 2015 by The Family International