Real Beauty

Real Beauty

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For a few years now, Dove has been promoting a campaign they call "Real Beauty." They use "real" women in their marketing — women of different shapes, skin tones and sizes — and have attempted to tone down some of the makeup and airbrushing and tweaks that abound in advertising. One of their videos, "The Evolution of Beauty," shows how a model gets made-up and then literally changed through computer cropping — neck elongated, eyebrows arched, lips enhanced — before her image ends up on a billboard. The goal is to show that the images of beauty we see all around us every day are truly unattainable.

The latest Dove video is called "Real Beauty Sketches." Women come in, one-by-one, and sit behind a curtain as a sketch artist draws a picture of their faces, solely  according to the way they describe themselves. The women attempt to provide an accurate depiction of the way they look — pointing out their wrinkles, the circles under their eyes, the flaws in their skin. After the artist has finished the sketch, he then asks the women to describe another woman who they met earlier that day. He then sketches based on the woman's description. In the end, the women have two sketches of themselves — one based on how they described themselves and one based on how someone else described them. The powerful — and sad — thing about the sketches is that the self-described image is often sad, disappointed, old and discouraged. The sketch based on the other person's description is much more joyful, youthful and vibrant. The second sketch is much more beautiful.

What hit me when watching this video, was seeing the women look at the two sketches of themselves. Most of them stood there silently — one woman cried. I could see these ladies struggling — grappling with how they see themselves versus how others see them.

I pondered two things when I saw this video. The first thoughts I had were related to how hard we often are on our own looks. Many of us nitpick and condemn and compare; we say things about ourselves that we would never say (or even think) about others. In my article, "The Conundrum of Comparison," I talk about how I've spent a lot of time over-focusing on myself in a negative way. The Real Beauty Sketches video was a really great reminder that many of us spend too much time worrying about our looks and that most people probably see us as much more beautiful than we think we are.

Secondly, the video pointed me back to God's truth. I was reminded that because of Christ's sacrifice, I am now washed, sanctified and justified. When God looks at me, He sees someone who has been made righteous by the blood of the Lamb. My ashes have been turned to beauty.

Last week at church, we talked about temptation. My pastor reminded us that what Satan often does when it comes to temptation is undervalue sin. We are tempted and begin to think, Oh, it's not that bad. I deserve this. It's not a big deal. But the minute we give into sin, Satan twists things by overvaluing the sin and undervaluing the power of the cross. Once we've sinned, we jump to thoughts of never being able to be forgiven, of grace not being enough, of being too evil, too dirty and too unrighteous. That is why the truth of what Christ has done is so amazing. When we confess our sins, God forgives us. He sees what Jesus has done, and He accepts us as clean and holy. He sees us as beautiful.

God's "sketch" of us is not the first one. It is not the one based on the lies of Satan. It is the one He has drawn with His own, righteous right hand. And that is a freeing and beautiful gift.

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  • Wow, that sketch experiment they did is really powerful.  I hope more women get a hold of this truth, and are healed by it.  God's opinion of us, as his Children, is the only one that truly matters.

  • Pretty interesting video and I wouldn't argue that many women tend to view themsevles "less beautifully" than most others see them. Still, that does beg the question though: "Is there such a thing then as 'objective' beauty"? The women in question, and just about everyone else seemed to agree which one of the two portraits was the "more beautiful one". Does that imply then that in fact beauty really isn't in the eye of the beholder for most, and that some are created "more beautiful" than others?

    And does that mean then that women shouldn't pay attention to what "current society" deems beautiful in order to...whatever; attract mates, make themselves feel better, etc? Should they forego makeup, nice clothes, not style their hair, and keep themselves fit?  I don't believe the answer is in the affirmative, but how does one cope with their looks when it does not conform to what most consider beautiful?

  • Wow-powerul blog and links-thanks!

  • One of the striking things I think, is how people focus on their features when describing themselves but on expression when describing other people.  The pictures drawn from other people's descriptions were described as 'friendly', 'open', 'happy'.  Which illustrates how much our 'beauty' is affected by our attitude, personality and expression.  When other people look at us they don't primarily see our spots or our wrinkles or the dark circles under our eyes, they see our smile, how our eyes light up when we engage with them, and I guess all the non-visual things that give us an impression of a person and inform how we see them. To what MikeTime said - I think it does actually show that beauty to a large extent is in the eye of the beholder.  The reality is a combination of both pictures - the flaws do exist, but we focus on our own flaws whereas we sometimes don't even notice other people's. Sure, some of us have big noses or bad skin or whatever, and there's only a certain amount we can reasonably do to improve our features, but the 'inner beauty' of kindness, joy, positivity, friendliness, openness, etc, is not just a consolation prize but has a huge impact on our visual appearance and the most important factor in how others see us.

  • @MikeTime

    What you said is super discouraging to me. I mean, someone out there is always going to think that I'm not very beautiful. I don't think that any girl should conform to the "norm" when it comes to beauty because beauty now days normally means being "hot" and not being modest. That's not what true beauty is. I also don't think that a girl has to style her hair, be fit, wear nice clothes or make-up to be beautiful.

    The video was encouraging to me because it helped me realize that my "flaws" probably go unnoticed by almost everyone. It showed me that the only person being super critical of me is myself. Even though I don't believe the video was a good portrayal of what beauty is, since girls, including myself, tend to be super critical of themselves, it was encouraging to see that nobody else really even noticed their supposed flaws.

  • Mike: Of course some people are created more "beautiful" than others. Symmetry, proportion, and fitness levels are major contributors to "objective" beauty,

    HOWEVER, "Objective" beauty isn't everything, and some people don't desire objective beauty. The same person who finds Anne Hathaway stunning (which she is) might find Scarlett Johannson less attractive (although she is also stunning). But additionally, objective physical beauty isn't everything AND, our ideas of beauty are heavily enhanced through personality, styling and demeanor. Again, for example, look at the difference between a stunning hollywood actress on the red carpet, and that same actress slouched over, clutching a latte, running her kids to daycare in no makeup and a ponytail. Looks like a different woman.

    Here's my thing, I think there is a difference between self-frustration, self-doubt, and insecurity and having a realistic sense of self. I have moments where I look in the mirror and go "Ugh. Who is that fat cow? Where did she come from?" and I have moments where I look in the same mirror and go, "Wow, you are ROCKING it today. Way to be fabulous!"  The truth is somewhere in the middle, and I need both to keep me grounded, realistic, and goal-oriented but not depressed.

    I like the idea that this same principle applies to our spiritual life, because, as Denise said, I often experience the same ideas spiritually. I have moments where I feel like I nailed a conversation or prayer, and I have other moments where I feel like a failure as a Christian. I need both of those moments to keep me adequately focused on Christ. If my life was constantly reassuring me about how good of a Christian and a person I am, I would get complacent, apathetic and I would start taking being a "good Christian" for granted. Sometimes I need to read those stories about third world volunteerism, and marathoners finishing the race and going straight to donate blood, and families adopting troubled teens that make me feel like my faith is dirt to inspire me to do better. Sometimes I need an email from an old friend or mentee thanking me for kind words into their life that inspired them to remind me that even though I'm not the best, what I do is still important.

    And finally, those moments, on both sides, remind me I need to focus on not how beautiful I am, or am not in a particular moment, but on the One who made me beautiful and how I can be more like him.

  • I watched the sketch video last night when a friend posted it on Facebook.  It made me cry a little.  I've never seen myself as especially pretty, and I rarely receive compliments on my appearance.  I do wear makeup, style my hair, attempt to wear flattering (yet modest) clothing, and try to take care of my health.  Still, I don't often like what I see in the mirror, and this video made me wonder how other people actually see me.

    What I didn't think of when I watched the video, though, was the spiritual applications of how we see ourselves vs. how God sees us as His children.  How powerful!  And how encouraging.        

  • I watched the Oscars earlier this year and it was an eye-opening experience for me.  (I very rarely watch anything with 'celebrities' in it.)  These stunning women, when you saw them walk and talk without the soft focus of tv or movies, without the airbrushing of photo-shoots, well, they looked like me.

    Wrinkles around their eyes that make-up couldn't hide, odd expressions in the moment, bodies that were the same shape as mine.  It really brought home to me that we are all beautiful.  If only we were all allowed to be 'real' all of the time and not judge ourselves against these ridiculous standards!

    But you know the biggest compliment someone can give me?  When they comment on my smile.  The smile shows that I am happy/at peace/loved by God.  

  • Here is an interesting commentary on the video (by a woman) and reflects some of what I have written (on how beauty seems to fit into a very specific mold).

  • MikeTime - thank you for that link.  That captures why I have been uncomfortable with the idea of the video.  (I've seen my sisters raving about it - which makes me sad because I didn't think they were insecure about their looks?)  

  • MrsAshleyTOF said.

    "HOWEVER, "Objective" beauty isn't everything, and some people don't desire objective beauty. The same person who finds Anne Hathaway stunning (which she is) might find Scarlett Johannson less attractive (although she is also stunning). But additionally, objective physical beauty isn't everything AND, our ideas of beauty are heavily enhanced through personality, styling and demeanor."

    See and this is where I think objective Physical Beauty comes into play, as I don't find either of those women, pretty, yet alone stunning and I am male. Whenever I hear someone put Anne Hathways name in the same sentence as Beautiful I get really confused, not because she necessarily isn't I guess, I just don't see it.

    Now Emma Stone on the other hand, Lucy Lui or Eva Mendes. I get, Katie Upton I get. Anne Hathway or Scarlet, just seem like plain woman to me, and that's not really a bad thing, just saying I am around more attractive woman on a bi monthly basis at least IMHO.

    I would rather have someone like AJ Lee, Kristin Kreuk, Kristen Bell, or Missy Peregrym. (I bet you'll have to look up at least two of those.) But most of those In my opinion are stunningly Gorgeous, but they are far more normal girl than Hollywood girl.

    That being said I have 4 key points I want to make before the end of this post.

    1. Physical attraction isn't everything, though it helps. Katie Upton for Example has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition 2 times, been in beauty pageants, been on multiple superbowl commercials, and others, but when I hear her speak outside of a script, she shoots out dumb, and that kills a lot of long term attraction. I want someone smart, funny, and strong, not just physically attractive(lets not get into the debate again about the physical being important or not, it is, but there are other things to consider as well)

    The second being that Men do this kind of garage too, I catch myself doing it as well. I look at the Fact I been lifting weights since 2009 2 to 3 times a week and just barely started bulking up in the last few months and want muscles twice the size I have now and compare myself to guys I work with who are bulked to high heaven without even working out or barely doing it for more than a few months and I get down on myself. I don't think I am as fit looking as I should be, or a woman would want me to be, and I bet myself up, so its something i have to work on, its something both genders have to work on.

    The Third being we live in a sue happy, society where if men say the wrong thing to the wrong woman they get fired or sued. The reason you aren't getting complimented as much as you might want, is because of what women in the last 50 years have down, to demand we not do what you now say you want. we been brain trained to not compliment or we get in trouble.

    Forth point is, unless you are overweight and just want to lie to yourself that it should be okay, so you don't have to put the exercise in to get fit and healthy, most women need to just look to God, thank him for How they made them and be happy with who they are, and Happy with God.

  • Am I the only person here is angry about this video? Yes this experiment was a wonderful idea, but it deeply saddens me to  say we live in a society where most people don't think value their own beauty.

    I may not have largest breasts, round hips, or a large butt, but I still consider myself a good looking person. Instead of picking out your flaws, look at your positives instead. You can even go further and include all the talents and skills.

    I'm beautiful and I can do _________________! No one else is like me!

  • Sorry; I have to say that the video made me cry a little too. I have received exactly TWO complements about how "nice" I look from men other than my dad & grandpa in my life (and I'm 28). One of those guys told me that I "looked nice" then immediately turned around and exclaimed "Wow! Your sister is gorgeous!" I wear makeup, dress modestly, but professionally, and do my hair, etc. but I'm always in the shadows when it comes to people noticing me. No, I'm not a size 6; no, I'm not tall and slender (just the opposite, actually), so is it any wonder that I - and others like me - would feel a little insecure about our appearances?

    When I was in high school, I constantly compared myself to my size-3 sister, thinking of her as the proverbial "bird of paradise" while I saw myself as a short, chubby, drab sparrow. Everyone would flock and gawk at the bird of paradise, while the sparrow got swept under the carpet and forgotten. Then one day, my Mom asked me, "Do you think you're smarter than GOD?" Of Course not. "Then why do you think that a 'sparrow' isn't more important than a 'bird of paradise'? Sure, sparrows are more common, but did it ever occur to you that GOD had a reason for making you a 'sparrow'? 'Birds of Paradise' are few and far between, but it is the 'sparrows' that make people smile -  they're the first to arrive in spring, they are hardy, and cheerful, and energetic, and have sweet songs. A 'sparrow' can better cheer a lonely heart than a bird of paradise."

    Now, I'm no where 100% content or confident with my appearance. I still have my days when I see myself as a grubby little sparrow that nobody notices. There are times when I wonder why I try to keep up my appearance, bother to put on makeup, or to try to work out. (Ever seen the movie "Princess Diaries" where the main character looks at herself in the mirror and says "As usual, this is as good as it's going to get" ?) But the truth is, I have good days, too. I get dressed, do my "face" and hair, but then I check my smile AND MY HEART. Is the "sparrow" ready to cheer up a "lonely heart"? Am I ready to bring a flash of joy into someone's - any one's - day? Am I ready to be my Lord's "lovable light" to someone lost in this dark world?

    What really got to me with the Dove video that I don't think many would initially notice was that the random people who described these women seemed to focus on "emotion" and "expression" more than physical traits. I think - and this is something that I, as someone who is the farthest thing from the world's "objective beauty", am in the process of making into something that I KNOW - that a warm, caring smile is ultimately more attractive than the world's concept of beauty.

  • MizzatA: I don't think I even have to point out the irony of a post that starts with a paragraph that says "Physical Beauty isn't everything" and ends with a Paragraph starting "unless you're overweight..." Do I?

    Koopagurl: I kind of think that was the point of the video. You should be less hard on yourself, because chances are you have more to offer than you know.  

  • It seems like a pretty limited thing to me, especially as someone who at times has had to fight to get other people to look beyond my appearance and see me for the person I actually am.  

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