Friday, March 12, 2010

Like This, Like That

When I was young, my mother, in one of her new holistic health kicks, started giving us vitamins, supplements, and all sorts of weird stuff. I remember swearing to myself that when I grew up, I'd never take anything so bizarre as Kelp.

I take it every day now.

Funny, isn't it? How we are determined to not be 'like that'. I work on a college campus, so a lot of my 'like thats' center around the current fashion trends of the still-teens going to their classes. I won't dress 'like that', wearing ballet flats *looks at feet, cringes* or leggings, or multiple flimsy layers. *avoids mirror* But how often do we hold true to those things? And does it really matter, our attempts to be unique?

When I was younger, I would get my hair cut by taking a picture to the stylist and say "I want to look 'like this'." Rarely would I, though. How it looks on Jennifer Aniston isn't how it will look on me, sad to say.

Nowadays I just tell the stylist how I want to to look, but without the expectation that her scissors and comb will magically transform me from ordinary to extraordinary by a few snips.

We have a lot of 'like this' moments. And 'like that'. We know what we want to be, how we want to look, down to the nitty-gritty of what's okay and what isn't. We all know what we'd change about ourselves if given carte blanche with a plastic surgeon, right? A nip there, a tuck here, a lift or a snip. We all carry with us an image of our ideal selves. If you're anything like me, you avoid looking in the mirror so your bubble doesn't burst as you realize that yes, actually, that shirt sort of does make you look fat.

When I was in 6th grade, I was pretty much through puberty, unlike a lot of girls in my class. I remember at one point being proud that I had curves, a shape, and wasn't a twig like a lot of other girls in my jazz dance class. But then came the recital. I saw myself in comparison to everyone else on stage, and suddenly, those slender limbs were graceful, and my heft was grotesque. I felt like an elephant trying to be a gazelle.

I went from being glad I didn't look 'like that' to wanting to look 'like this'. And it never stops. We don't live in a vacuum. I'm always looking at my hair, my clothes, my shape by comparing myself, and sometimes I feel good, but I'm doing so at the cost of putting someone else down, if only in my own mind.

Beauty isn't a mountain to climb. It's not about looking better than the person beneath you, or trying to look better than the person above you. It's about looking your most you, whatever that may be. So what if my bangs looked better on Tiffani Thiessen. Or that my shirt looked better on my mother. Or my shoes looked better on someone with smaller feet. I could come up with a million 'like this, like that' moments, but I can't let them define me. My gaze has to stop being so external, and start being more internal.

I started this as a response to Sarah Markley's challenge to blog on beauty, but in thinking about it, these attitudes about beauty are only symptomatic of a larger problem. We worry about beauty, but what we really need to be worried about is pride. Wanting to be something we aren't, letting our gaze be judge, jury and executioner to all we see, that just leads to unhappiness, and ultimately, death. To see anything, anyone, as not beautiful, is to condemn them, and I don't think that's how it's meant to be.

It's certainly not how God sees us. he didn't create the world in six days and spend the seventh tinkering to make it just so. It was GOOD, just as he had made it.



Sarah Markley said...

jen - thank you so much for posting this. i appreciate it.

beauty is a hard thing especially when the world tells us that it determines worth. after this past week i'm ready to redefine the concept of beauty, i think.

sound good?

thanks again, friend. =)

Manda said...

I'm with you... I no longer want to be a "like this" or "like that" kinda girl.
I've been on the journey of embracing my God given beauty... I truly don't understand why we question the way he formed us.
It is good!
Be blessed...

Colleen said...

How funny, I was just thinking today about bringing a picture in when I get my haircut, and then I thought "no, I'll just be disappointed that I didn't turn out looking like the girl in the picture." I guess it's not just me! :) Great post.

Jennifer said...

I like how you said, "beauty isn't a mountain to climb". Exactly! This is a great way to think about it! Here from Sarah's link list. :)


OneGirl said...

You're right, beauty does have so much to do with pride. I hadn't really thought of that lately...thanks for the reminder.

I came over from Sarah's blog...if you're interested, my post is

Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

This reminds me of the time my best friend and I were walking at a park when we were in high school. After seeing a woman jogging, we decided we would NEVER look LIKE THAT. She had - if you can believe it - BACK FAT.

Guess what I have plenty of now. Yeah. BACK FAT. I look LIKE THAT.

Your post makes so many great points. Thank you for sharing this post!

Mel C said...

I never looked like the pictures I took in to the stylist either... It took awhile to wish I had hair like others or was as skinny as someone else, but I'm glad that God made me unique and beautiful in his image!

Reyna said...

I think Sarah is right, it's time for us to redefine what beauty is. My favorite quote from your post is, "Beauty isn't a mountain to climb. It's not about looking better than the person beneath you, or trying to look better than the person above you. It's about looking your most you, whatever that may be." loved it!
Many blessings to you,
pass by and follow:)

Stacey said...

Glad you're right there with me on looking internally and not externally when searching for beauty.

Time for a re-definition revolution!