I don’t know about you, but I go on Instagram to see golden retriever puppy videos, memes stolen from Twitter, and what my friends are up to. I DON’T want to see gorgeous, model-like humans, as sculpted as Michelangelo’s David, who make me feel like a potato. Yet, there they are, all over my feed.
Look, the last thing I want is to preach about the dangers of social media. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. But we have to be honest with ourselves and recognize that constantly scrolling past all these seemingly aesthetically perfect people can cause some blows to our self-esteem.
It’s not just social media affecting us though. It’s hard not to constantly compare yourself to others, including classmates, friends, and youth group attendees you see every week.
Then you look in the mirror — especially up-close mirrors that show every flaw you never wanted to know you have — and you have to deal with those little jabs coming from your own mind, pointing out all the ways you aren’t “perfect.”
To contrast, at other times, I think a lot of us get caught up in the opposite problem of the false humility described above too. Looking in the mirror becomes staring in the mirror, thinking God blessed the world with how good you look right now. On social media, you become the wannabe influencer, posting pic after edited pic, taken at your best angles. Maybe you even compare yourself to those around you and instead of feeling down, get a confidence boost and feel almost as if you’re superior.
Both of these are unhealthy approaches to body image. But how do we find a balance?
Where Beauty Comes From
Trust me, I understand the desire to be beautiful. We all have it. But that’s because we were all created beautiful. We are “wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) by the greatest Artist there’ll ever be, God Himself.
When God made the first humans, He didn’t say, “Well, Adam would be better if he had a six-pack.” or “If only I hadn’t made Eve’s nose so big.” NO! He looked at Adam and Eve and found them “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Keep in mind, He considered the Milky Way, Niagara Falls, and the Amalfi Coast to be just “good.”
If “we are his workmanship” (Ephesians 2:10), created by Almighty God, shouldn’t our worth and how we view ourselves come from how He sees us? And we can rest confident, knowing He finds us “beautiful in every way” (Song of Songs 4:7).
Imagine receiving a priceless gift from a great artist, only to go and complain about what you perceive to be blemishes in the work. How much greater of a gift is your life and how much greater of an artist is our God? And yet we have the audacity to wish we looked differently when He, Himself, formed us in our mothers’ womb (Jeremiah 1:5), in His own image (Genesis 1:27). St. Catherine of Siena said, “What is it you want to change? Your hair, your face, your body? Why? For God is in love with all those things and he might weep when they are gone.”
On the other hand, who do we think we are, when we puff ourselves up with pride because of our appearance? When we think of ourselves as better or more attractive than another? When we criticize someone’s appearance? Do we not know all are made by the same God, with the same dignity, worth, and love?
We can rest assured that the only One whose opinion matters will always love us just the same and see us as “very good.” He’ll never think we look better or worse than another but will always see us as His prized creation. And remember, He wouldn’t be caught up in image anyway. “He does not see as man sees but looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
Think of the saints. So much of their beauty comes alongside their detachment from getting caught up in their own appearance. How was Mother Teresa supposed to help the poor in Calcutta if she were worried about breaking a nail or sweating off her makeup? How could St. Paul evangelize across Europe and write half of the New Testament if he were spending hours and hours trying to bulk up? How could Padre Pio continue to live such a holy life if he got caught up with how different having the stigmata made him from everyone else? You get my point.
Think about it: of all the saints, how many of them are esteemed for their physical beauty or looked down upon because they weren’t perceived to be as attractive? Not one. While we might comment on the beauty of Mary when she appeared to the children at Fatima or joke about Pier Giorgio as “Hottie Frassati,” these details are never dwelt on. We look up to the saints and have devotions to them because of the lives they lived and the way they loved.
All the saints have something in common: humility. They recognized the worth they had in God and didn’t seek it in themselves. Their gazes were towards Jesus, not their mirrors. We should strive after the same, thanking God for the gift of our bodies and using them to be his hands and feet here on earth. After all, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Let’s live like it.