We are very lucky to be living on planet Earth, because beauty surrounds us. However, it sometimes seems we have forgotten to appreciate it. One of the beautiful things we seem to have forgotten to appreciate is the beauty of the human body.
The media constantly reminds us of this sad fact. For example, the article 20 Celebs Criticized for Their Curves is a horrifying collection of almost abusive comments about the weight of 20 female celebrities, who rank from pretty to downright gorgeous. These comments include: America Ferrera, a size 6 or 8, being a spokeswoman for curvy women in Hollywood, Kelly Clarkson’s curves being mocked on numerous websites, Mariah Carey being fat or pregnant, Scarlett Johansson’s curves making her look too sexy, Tyra Banks being called fat by Janice Dickinson… Need I add more?
This is not to say that we should never watch our weight. After all, it is one of many indicators of good health. But the line between watching one’s weight for health reasons and watching one’s weight because of societal pressures is a very fine one. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to look good, as long as it does not become the central focus of one’s life. The challenge is in determining what “looking good” means. The current definition of beauty as portrayed in the media is so narrow, that trying to achieve it can – and does – become the source of many physical and emotional ailments.
When one believes that there is a God, and that humans were created to know and worship Him, then concerns about one’s weight should be mainly related to our health, so that we can fulfil this purpose. However, because of the immense pressures exerted by mainstream media (the same that calls the size 6-8 America Ferrera “fat”), it seems like a large part of our day to day life is ruled by concerns about our weight. How interesting that the average human being, a creature endowed with a soul, exerts so much mental energy on maintaining the weight of its body within the limits of an unrealistic definition of beauty.
How can we rid ourselves of the pervasive, unjust influence of this limited-to-the-point-of-cruelty definition of beauty? The first step is awareness. Thankfully there is an ever-increasing amount of that! Next is action at the level of society, a powerful example of which is the recent, successful petition asking Seventeen magazine to stop airbrushing its models. Boycotts are also often called: of tabloids that denigrate women by focusing on size, of fashion magazines that also focus solely on image, of clothing companies that market their wares through models that belong to only one very limited category of beauty.
Society can only advance if change happens at both the level of society and at the level of the individual. What can we do, then, at the level of the individual? We know that we were created in the image of God. We have a right to want to look good, in part by wanting to reach and/or maintain a certain weight. However, we should filter out decisions that have to do with our lower nature from those that have to do with our higher nature. To want to look and feel good by losing weight is not a problem; to forget that the primary way to look and feel good is by achieving emotional and spiritual balance is. To define oneself primarily according to one’s weight is a problem. We should instead primarily define ourselves by our virtues.
We should also remember that man’s reality is his thought. This means that the words we use to talk to others, or even to ourselves, defines our reality. When we greet each other by focusing on how we look physically, it limits our reality to our physical selves. We are telling each other that our physical selves is what deserve the focus of our attention. What if instead, we changed our words to reflect the fact that the focus of our attention is on each other’s souls? Instead of seeing the weight lost, what if we saw the extra bounce in their step, the shine in their eyes, or the way they are holding their heads higher?
So while we should pay attention to our physical well-being and beauty, we should strive to remember that, despite the media’s strong emphasis on the contrary, our main focus should be on our emotional and spiritual well-being. And maybe we should be more interested in the fact that America Ferrera is concerned with the advancement of women and girls, that Kelly Clarkson is involved in the organization “Houses of Hope”, that Mariah Carey donated the royalties to her song “Save the Day” to charities that create awareness to human rights issues, that Scarlett Johansson visited African as a Global Ambassador for Oxfam, and that Tyra Banks founded the TZONE Foundation which aims to empower girls and young women.
Maybe it is time that we focused on the many reasons why these women are beautiful, and not just on their bodies – which are, by the way, beautiful as well, in all the sizes we have seen them in.
Originally Published on Sahar’s Blog on 5 April 2013