The Eye of the Beholder | Connecting with Culture
‘I want to look like me again.’ Is this an advert for a cosmetics detox, or a new ‘no makeup selfie’ campaign? Quite the opposite: it’s the advertising slogan for a brand of hair dye.
This ad campaign strikes me as incredibly sad on two levels. Firstly, there’s the self-delusion that authenticity can be achieved by creating an illusion. Secondly, and more seriously, there’s the revelation of a deep brokenness in our culture.
The ‘beauty industry’ is worth £17 billion in the UK alone, and it’s not just for women: male makeup exists, too. That’s £17 billion invested in telling men, women, and children that the real them isn’t good enough. Look around in your office, at the supermarket, or on the bus: it’s a safe bet that most of the people you see are worried that they don’t measure up.
Actress and presenter Jameela Jamil told the BBC’s 100 Women series this week how she had been ‘fat-shamed’ by newspapers when she gained weight, and described how airbrushed images of herself affected her mental health. I’ve got friends who genuinely fear being seen without makeup. This is not the ‘life in all its fullness’ that Jesus promises us!
Don’t get me wrong, I get my hair cut in a way I feel is flattering. I enjoy the compliments when I use a dab of mascara. And all the ‘likes’ on my profile picture after I had a makeover once did give me a buzz. But all that admiration is for a make-believe me. It’s far more affirming to be praised for my character, gifts, and abilities than for the darkness of my eyelashes or the shape of my hair.
Yet even this is not true flourishing. I am only free when I find my sense of identity, my self-worth, not in the praise of others but in the love of God.
In his powerful little book, The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness, Tim Keller puts it like this:
‘The only person whose opinion counts looks at me and he finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth. How can we worry about being snubbed now? How can we care that much about what we look like in the mirror?’
I can’t think of any benefits of beauty products that aren’t outweighed by the joy and freedom of being known, loved, and forgiven by the creator of the universe.