Driving down the street, have you ever come to a screeching halt and jumped out of the car running to admire a brick in a wall? Have you ever admired one pencil above all the others in a multi-pack? Thought not. What an odd notion – if you saw anyone doing those things, you’d think they were cracked; didn’t have all their cups in the cupboard; were a sandwich shy of a picnic.
But isn’t that exactly what the world tells us? As women, if we have anything that makes us unique, we try to cover it up, minimize or maximize it, camouflage it, plaster it over, deny it, or apologize for it. The world tells us to lose our individuality in favour of a “Barbie doll” homogenous look, and woe to us if we don’t look “normal”. In my experience, “normal” is just a setting on the dryer.
I don’t think I have to point out the fact that each and every magazine you pick up (regardless of the topic), every brochure, nearly every advertisement, has one underlying message: “Sex Sells”. This is the mantra of the advertising world, what they say in defence of their practice of splashing scantily clad women of unnatural proportions on every cover.
But does it “sell”? I speak as a woman here; women, do you go out and buy a women’s magazine because there is a sexy woman on the front? I don’t think so. So it isn’t the sex that sells it (I think we can safely assume that it’s usually women who buy such magazines). Then why do we accept such nonsense? The celebrities and models portrayed are not natural; they are pinned up, taped together, spray painted, fake-tanned, and then air-brushed in graphics after the photo shoot. If you met them walking down the street chances are pretty high you wouldn’t recognise them. Some of them have a natural beauty, but many of them might be mistaken for a haggard mother of seven toddlers if you saw them in the grocery store.
Is it a fascination with perfection that draws us in to buying the world’s message? Do we buy the magazine to see what we need to do to look like “her”? Do we actually think that buying particular dish soap will suddenly give us a renovated, sunny kitchen with matching dishes, smiling children and a great hairdo, with perfect teeth and a handsome husband that doesn’t have to go to work during the day?
It irritates me that the world tries to dictate how I think, how I feel about myself, how I react to those around me. Dustin Hoffman, in an interview, talked about his role as Tootsie (1982): He went to the studios and asked to be made over into Tootsie; if he couldn’t walk down the streets of New York without turning heads, it wouldn’t work. They did so, and filmed a test screening of him in costume / make-up; when he saw it, he asked if they couldn’t make him more beautiful, and they told him, “that’s as good as it gets.” He said in that moment he had an epiphany, and went home and cried. He’d realized how many interesting women he had written off and not gotten to know simply because of their outward appearance, and realized how brainwashed society had made him. He did not approach Tootsie as a comedy, but played the role with his new-found respect for the struggles women face on a daily basis. Please take a minute to watch this video on the evolution of a billboard model.
So The Barbie Doll Syndrome goes both ways: We not only judge ourselves by unrealistic standards; we become fixated on the outward appearance and equate that with a value system, rather than seeing each person as a unique creation made in the image of God. Some people’s beauty has been buried by a bad self-image, or by abuse that has worn away their countenance; but God’s heart is to restore such people, and he is the only one who really can restore them to their full potential. The outward appearance will then only change in so far as the inner beauty is allowed to shine forth, but that’s all that really counts anyway! The more we learn about who we are in Christ and where to get our self-worth as sons and daughters of the High King of all the Earth, the more beautiful we will become, inside and out.
Don’t let the world tell you that you’re nothing if you don’t look like a Barbie Doll, or that you have no value if you don’t submit to their perception of success or beauty.
Look at yourself in the mirror each morning, and give yourself an audible compliment: Your eyes, your smile, your nose, your cheek bones, your hair, your neck… something that you like about yourself – ignoring the urge to compensate with an apology or criticism for something that you don’t like about yourself!
And pass on the compliment to someone else; yours might be the only positive word they hear today, or this week, or this year… Don’t use your beautiful eyes to look down on yourself – that’s not why God made them. When you have a minute, click on this link and accept yourself for who God’s made you to be.