But First You Need to Look Good

Shruti Rajkumar   |   March 30, 2016 


“She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future.” Proverbs 31:25

The other day when I looked in the mirror I was sure my face looked too big for my body (this has been an ongoing concern). Later in the evening, a cute little boy made a drawing of me where the whole page was basically my face and right at the bottom was a teeny tiny body. I thanked him politely and kept it next to my bed where I kept glancing at it worriedly. The next morning I sheepishly took a workshop for a bunch of girls on body image.

We live in a time when one of the most celebrated characteristics of a woman is her body. Media and advertising constantly provide us with a standard of what we’re meant to look like. And if we aren’t there yet there are, apparently, a whole load of products we can buy.

Cosmetics for women is a billion dollar industry and their advertising campaigns often capitalise on the dissatisfaction women feel about the way they look. According to market research by Lucintel, the global beauty care products industry will reach around $265 billion by 2017. In comparison, it would take $175 billion a year for 20 years to get rid of global extreme poverty, says Jeffrey Sachs in The End of Poverty.

The pressure is from within as much as without. Even if we aren’t giving in to external pressure, what we feel inwardly is tiring. Whether it’s comments from the people we meet, the advertisements we are bombarded with, or the pictures in our magazines or newspapers, a message is being sent to us: Who we are is not enough, how we look is what matters.

When we have come so far in our fight for equality, isn’t it silly to listen to a message that tells us, “But first, you need to look ‘good’?” And what does it mean to look good?

A UK based pharmacy, Superdrug, did an experiment where they asked graphic designers (mostly female) from 18 different nations to photoshop a picture according to what is attractive in their country.

While some of the results were just a slight slimming, others were drastically altered to skinny figures or highly defined hour glass shapes depending on which part of the world the designers were from. The researchers said, “We focused on female designers, as we wanted a woman’s view of what her culture finds attractive and to understand more about the pressures they face.”

And how do these pressures affect us? Bella Ellwood-Clayton, in her article, 10 Things You Need to Know about Female Sexuality, says “our desire to appear desirable exceeds desire itself.” Could it be that we sometimes forget our own desires in the pursuit to look desirable to the world?

Jean Kilbourne describes our dilemma in her article, Beauty… and the Beast of Advertising, saying,

“A woman is conditioned to view her face as a mask and her body as an object, as things separate from and more important than her real self, constantly in need of alteration, improvement, and disguise. She is made to feel dissatisfied with and ashamed of herself, whether she tries to achieve ‘the look’ or not. Objectified constantly by others, she learns to objectify herself.”

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu, a Delhi based author and columnist wrote an article on body image for The Quint. She asks, “Why do we box our bodies? Make so little of our brains? Our bravery? Our battles? Squeezing them into deceptively packaged, airless containers?”

When we objectify ourselves, we begin to think less of our thoughts, opinions and feelings. We second guess our importance in society and how we contribute. Worse still, it leads us to objectify other women and think less of their thoughts, opinions and feelings. Objectification feeds the culture of patriarchy and when we give in to it we are in danger of becoming patriarchal ourselves.

The objectification of women dehumanises a woman to the state of a lifeless thing — without feeling — to be used and discarded. It can lead to rape, abuse, violence and human trafficking. While it affects us individually, there are women out there - especially those who are marginalised and exploited because of poverty - who face the worse forms of objectification.

Looking good for the world is a race that is exhausting, discouraging and never ending. I don’t think it’s bad to want to look good, but I think there is a difference between chasing a ‘beauty’ that the world defines and enjoying the beauty that we already have.

Isaiah 53:2-3 talks about Jesus saying,

“He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.”

He did not use outer beauty to prove His worth, and because of this, I do not have to depend on mine. He now chooses to make my body His dwelling place. My body is a temple where the Most High dwells. His presence in me gives me value and worth.

Our calling is so much higher than what others think we look like. The world doesn’t need women who are weakened by social expectations of their appearance, it needs women who are strengthened by confidence in their own worth.


Photo Credit: Unsplash

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Shruti Rajkumar

Shruti Rajkumar lives in the chaotic, beautiful city of New Delhi. She is currently studying to become a family therapist whilst being a mother to a little girl and partnering with her husband in the church they have planted. In her free time she enjoys shopping in Sarojini Market, reading and hanging out with friends.

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6 comments on “But First You Need to Look Good”

  1. Great post, Shruti! Much needed in today's world of new products and commercials selling that so-called 'perfect' body/hair/face/teeth. We need to get comfortable and love the bodies we are given by our creator God and teach our daughters the same!

  2. Must needed post in the world we live where outer beauty matters more than inner beauty which puts us all in so much pressure to be accepted in the society. We are in deception and instead of enhancing the talents we are gifted by God we waste time and our life in faking our image by wearing temporary mask on our face and still remaining dissatisfied. It's a never ending struggle unless we realize our true identity in Christ and start living a transformed life.

  3. Hey Shruti! Great article.. Such a common struggle with women that it's become a part of us! By the way.. Never once thought your head is too big for your body.. Just saying ????

  4. I loved this, Shruti. Thanks so much for putting such articulate words to this truth. Much love!

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