I’ve been thinking about you a lot this week—like a real lot.
When you first told me last week that you had been feeling unrelenting pressure and scrutiny from others in regards to measuring / not measuring up to society’s weight, fashion, and beauty standards, you were indelibly inked into the processing of my thoughts. Moreover, I began to feel the weight of the expectations you had been carrying, and I knew that—sooner or later—those expectations would begin to morph into beasts of burden. It is my hope that you will never have to experience the beasts of burden.
You know, I read an article yesterday that said, “Blonde hair is better,” and then I read another that said, “Dark hair is mysterious,” and after that one, I read an article that said, “Attract more attention by becoming a fiery redhead!” Which one of those articles held the ultimate beauty standard I was supposed to pursue?
Last week on social media I saw a multitude of advertisements for fake lashes, hair removal, facial tattooing, liposuction, weight loss, exercise—the list went on and on and on.and.on. Just one of those options would have cost me a nice sum of money, but I can’t even imagine the amount of money it would have taken for me to plump, tattoo, rewind and renew my face and body in so many different ways. But then again, why would I? Why would I do that when ultimately no matter how much I try to change myself, I would still fall far short of the shifting goalposts of society’s beauty “standards”?
Many people have suggested to me that I should exercise. Why? Do I look fat? Unhealthy? What? And according to whose standards? And which standards? And do they want me to ‘bulk up,’ ‘tone up,’ or ’slim down’? Exactly what are they suggesting I do? I haven’t known. I still don’t know. And were they suggesting I do that because I’m not nice to look at? And by that same token, was I ever nice to look at, or was I a dismal failure? I mean, I have a few more wrinkles and a little more belly, but how far short of the bar have I actually fallen? And of which bar have I fallen short? Which standards and whose standards am I supposed to align myself with? Tell me… whose?
Insofar as I can tell, Sister, exercise comes from a system: It’s a hamster on a wheel scenario. Dieting comes from a system: It’s a perform to a standard and receive a reward scenario. Makeup comes from a system: It’s a hide your true face because it’s not socially acceptable to walk around bare-faced scenario (much like the Garden of Eden). Systems like these are all based on “right” and “wrong”, “good” and “bad”, and “perfect” or “imperfect”. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t do these things, but I am also (conversely) suggesting that you don’t have to.
Beauty standards always stem from a system. Expectations that become burdens stem from a system. The system stems from both unspoken and spoken rules that have been jammed together and compounded into a world of local or cyber “socialness”, and they require you to perform. The very moment you don’t perform to par, you are rejected. You are ostracised and ridiculed. You are told that you are “too lazy”, “too disorganised”, “too fat”, “too ugly”… “too” everything. But please remember that whenever you hear a statement that is pre-empted with a “too”, it is a comparison statement and the rest of the formula is ugly: “According to [insert celebrity, magazine cover, social media influencer name here] you’re too fat / ugly / worthless/ tall / short / freckled / fair / tan / muscly / flabby / curvy / pear-shaped, etc.” In other words, you don’t fit the system. But the truth is this: who you truly are has nothing to do with societal systems of “good” and “bad” and “right” and “wrong”, and whether you “fit” or don’t “fit”.
I’m going to be honest; yesterday, I had a “moment”. A teary, “I’m not good enough and will never be good enough” moment. But that moment was swiftly shushed by an epiphany of sorts. It came as I was reading the following words:
“For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; but I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass in the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, how much more will He clothe you? You men of little faith! And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:22-33).
As I read those words, I realised that I could not place my life in the hands of the systems of the world because the systems of the world don’t actually know what their ultimate goals are. It’s the old “blind leading the blind” scenario. The systems don’t know where they are headed. They have no clue. That’s why they keep shifting and changing, morphing and moving. They are never happy. They can never arrive at a place of rest because they have been designed outside of the realm of the Giver of Life.
Since last week, I have been saddened that the systems of the world have attempted to trick or entice you into feeling that you don’t measure up, that you’re not worthy of love as you are, and that you must always perform in order to find acceptance. Please don’t believe the lies of those systems. They are temporal, unforgiving, unrelenting, and unrealistic. If your heart continues to chase those things, it will lose sight of the eternal. Where is your treasure? Where does your heart reside? Does it reside inside the system, or does it reside inside the Kingdom?
You know what? God has placed no expectations on you regarding how you wear your makeup, hair, clothes, or even how much you weigh. His expectations are simply Jesus, and His joy comes from seeing you walk in love, freedom and liberty—in seeing you thrive according to who you truly are.
You are truly a walking miracle and your life is sacred. Think about it: the most powerful person in the Universe, called you into existence simply because He loved who you were long before you were ever clothed in skin. The ripple effects of your spirit, your personality, and your character, were felt in Heaven long before the projection of you was realised here on earth. You were made for eternal purposes. You truly are a work of art, and there is no one else who can offer this revelation to you quite like Jesus can… because He was there before everything in the beginning.
My dear sister: I love you just as you are. Just you. You don’t have to perform or adhere to any standards, or change yourself to fit my world in order to be my sister. You fit. We both fit. Because we are both a part of the same family of believers. And family doesn’t need to perform to be family—they are simply just family. And I am thankful for all of your quirks, smiles, depth, mischief, insights, revelations, friendship, and creative moments—everything that makes you, you. You are never “too” anything, and you are never “not enough”.
You are you and I am proud of you, end of story.
Photo by Laura Pocho on Unsplash