You are designer made
Struggling with self-image? You may be listening too much to the media, and not enough to your creator.
Today’s society views "beautiful" as ______________ (fill in the blank).
I am sure every young woman reading this article right now can come up with a whole list of physical characteristics that are deemed as beautiful or desirable based on what society says is the "ideal image".
One demonstration of this ideal image can be seen in childhood toys. Remember Barbie? She has it all. She has straight white teeth, unusually large breasts, an ultra thin waist, perfect hair, a hot boyfriend and a number of successful careers (depending on which one you buy)! Who wouldn’t want to be her, right?
However, did you know that research shows that if Barbie were a real life woman, she would have to walk on both her hands and feet because her proportions are so off?* Surprised? I wasn’t. From the time we are young and play with Barbie dolls up until now, our culture has been feeding us messages about how we should look and who we should be. It could even be said that the advertisements we see on a day-to-day basis try to assert that a certain physical appearance will result in a happier, more successful life.
How does the media do it?
The purpose of advertisements is to promote and sell products and/or lifestyles. Because of these goals to promote and sell, advertisers create visual images that distort reality and create unobtainable standards for both men and women.
A majority of what we see is airbrushed, cropped, re-touched, enhanced virtually, etc. In a matter of seconds, advertisers can transform one image into something completely different. What’s interesting is that, although these images and graphics are not real, they still have the power to shape our mindsets about who we are and who we expect ourselves, and even others, to be.
Everyone, at one time or another, has been or will be under the influence of these artificial images. Think about it for a moment. Look at the clothes you are wearing right now. Where did you get them from and what made you want to buy them? Most people, if they were being honest, would say the way they dress has been influenced by an outside source. This source could be either someone they have personally encountered (such as a peer or family member), or something they have visually taken in from the media. Now, is this necessarily wrong? Not exactly. The problem comes when we start viewing ourselves in light of the media’s standards, which are typically based upon false realities.
The reality: My story
How can I be so certain that media and outside influences affect the way in which women view themselves? It’s because I have personally experienced it. During my freshman year in college, I struggled tremendously with my self-image. I struggled with the desire to fit-in and became consumed with looking like the other female students on campus. I began wearing what I thought would make me more fashionable like the other girls. I can clearly remember times when I would spend money carelessly, every time I went to the mall, just so I could obtain the latest styles or some of the most popular name brands.
Not only did I transform the way in which I dressed, but I also became obsessed with working out (losing a total of twenty pounds that year). To my surprise, although having a smaller body made me feel more confident in my physical appearance, I realized that I was never truly satisfied with who I was becoming. In all truth, I felt worse about myself because I was looking to clothes and a slimmer body to define me, instead of looking to God to give me an identity. It was not until I went home for Thanksgiving break, when one of my past sunday school teachers kindly reminded of my worth, that I realized my mindset was wrong.
The truth is, it is easy to get caught up in trying to obtain a certain weight and/or size. It is difficult to not look at the models in the magazines and feel tempted to be like them or compare yourself to them. It is a challenge to accept yourself for who you are. However, there are some things you can do to lessen - or even completely eliminate - the media’s grip on your life. The following are just a few:
- Be more aware of the magazines you flip through. Trash the ones that tempt you to make comparisons or feel inadequate
- Monitor the types of movies and/or music you immerse yourself in, avoiding whatever fills your mind with harmful images
- Change your internal voice from negative thoughts about yourself to only positive, based on what God says about you, not what the media says
The key is realizing you have been designer made by the Ultimate Designer. When you realize this, you are acknowledging that you have worth and value that goes beyond your physical appearance. You are a girl or woman, boy or man, who is precious and honored in God’s sight (Isaiah 43:4). Every part of you - from your hair color to your personality to that laugh you can’t stand - is all part of his plan.
How do I know? Because God said it! He says you have been made fearfully and wonderfully (Psalm 139:14). The Designer has a plan that is so unique for your life (Psalm 138:8). Comparing yourself to other people and the images you see in magazines will only distract you from living the life that he designed for you even before you were born. Your job is to take hold of all he has to offer you. Enjoy every moment. Look to him, and him alone, to show you how you should live.
Come to know the truth, love the truth, and live the truth.
* Maine, M. (2000). Body wars. Carlsbad, CA: Gurze Books, LLC.