I’d be lying if I said that I don’t roll my eyes every time I hear someone say that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty.
Not because it isn’t true or because I don’t live by that standard, but because I live in a world that says that, but does everything to contradict it.
Recently I’ve lost weight and it seems to be the only thing anyone in the world wants to talk to me about. It seems to be the only thing worth commenting on. And I’m never sure how to handle the situation because it wasn’t exactly by choice, so I’m never certain how to respond.
“Yeah, really bad migraines and the medication for them will do that to you…”
and yet still people’s comments seem to run down the path of telling me that “well, you look great anyway” or they scold me not to lose any more.
The conversation rarely goes much deeper than that. That’s my life these days, the weight that I’ve lost and everyone’s opinion on it and how it’s affecting me. What about my classes? The brilliant paper I just wrote on conservative politics and their disturbing/fascinating relationship with evangelicalism? What about the book I just finished? The last movie or documentary I just saw? What about what I’m learning or understanding in my life right now? What about God? My heart? Anything else….really.
We tell women that inner beauty is more important than outer beauty, but if the only thing you ever approach them about is their outer beauty, you shouldn’t be surprised when they stop believing you.
I see the difference in the way men look at me now.
Tears fill my eyes as I write those words. I’ve always been considered a healthy weight. But the thinner I’ve gotten and coincidentally, the more blonder I’ve become, I have seen a change in the number of men that approach me. It hurts to write those words. It hurts to write those words because they do not say, the more books of I’ve read or the more I’ve grown to know myself. It hurts because the words I wrote say: the thinner and blonder I’ve gotten, the more men have been interested in me.
I wish those words were not true.
Those words about inner beauty appear to be a myth and because of it we have a crisis on our hands.
Inner beauty feels like a myth for the girl who sits home alone on a Friday night, for the girl who wears t-shirts at the pool, who tries to make herself feel comfortable with the word “curvy”, for the girl who is always looking for the perfect foundation to cover up her acne scars.
Inner beauty: the two words she tries to hold on to, but secretly hates because she feels like they’re meant for the best friend of the pretty girl.
We have created a Youtube makeup-obsessed culture. We are obsessed with the next work-out fad, and kale-bowls-with-quinoa and green smoothies. We are obsessed with looking good in leggings and having perfectly sculpted eyebrows. But we post all about these things while saying what we really care about is inner beauty.
Health is good. Vanity is not.
Eat kale. Work out. Wear leggings…I don’t care. But if you need the world’s approval for it on a social media platform—it is vanity, not health.
Yesterday, I saw this group of girls running down the street in their cute workout gear. I want them to pursue health, but every fiber of my being just wanted to pull over and yell: if any of you are here because you hate the way you look, get inside this car right now!
Because if our motive for health is hatred, if our motive for anything is hatred, we will fail and we will kill something precious inside of ourselves in the process.
Let me tell you a secret: you can become thinner and blonder and more men will look at you, more women will praise you. Men will turn their heads and honk their horns when you are waiting at the crosswalk. Women will envy your body, ask where you got your clothes.
But the truth is, you will secretly hate them for it. You will have to sit in your tears and repent for all the anger you feel inside of you.
Because this body is not you.
You are not your body or your hair color. You are your heart, your soul, your spirit. You are your mind, your humor, the witty things you say when you haven’t had your coffee yet. You are the person who prays in crisis, the person who cries at Beauty and the Beast. You are the one who helps the elderly lady put her groceries in her car, who picks up trash in public bathrooms, who sits with strangers so they don’t have to eat alone.
You are not your weight, your height, your hair. You are not your dress size, your exercise routine, your teeth.
Still, I know you have read these posts a million times and it doesn’t change the Friday nights you sit alone, all the phone calls you don’t get. I know it doesn’t ease your pain. It doesn’t make you look in the mirror and not wish you saw something else.
But let it change how you approach your conversations. Instead of approaching someone and immediately commenting on their weight or appearance, ask them about something that sits deeper. Ask them about the thing that we tell the world we value, but never seem to show them we have any value for. Ask what things have been inspiring them lately, what has been exciting or difficult, where has life been bringing challenges?
Inner beauty is a myth only when we don’t allow it the place of honor in conversation. We choose what we talk about, what dominates the discussion. “Cute dress” should be a passing comment, while conversations about things that change us and change the world should be what take up hours upon hours. Those are the things I hope my daughters someday see on the cover of women’s magazines.
You are beautiful. Most women hear these words and don’t believe them. Did you know that 2% of women believe this to be true about themselves? I’m starting to understand why.
You are beautiful. I hope someday we learn to hear these words and never once associate them with anything other than what right now we’ve made seem like just a myth.