Everyday Theology: Beauty is more than skin deep

The entire selfie craze suggests that we are pretty darn pleased with ourselves."

Selfies are more ubiquitous than ever, thanks to the selfie stick.

I had never heard of the selfie stick until a few months ago when I saw one in action. My husband and I were wandering around Victoria BC’s inner harbour awaiting the departure of our whale watching tour when we spotted a couple with a smart phone on a stick. They were dutifully following behind the stick, oblivious of others and the surroundings as they took photos of themselves.

While I don’t know if the manner in which they were using their selfie stick is common or not, the entire selfie craze suggests that we are pretty darn pleased with ourselves. However, there is ample evidence to the contrary.  We have a hard time accepting ourselves, with our physical appearance being a particular source of angst.  The body acceptance movement is a case in point.

Variously known as “fat acceptance”, “body love”, and “ending fat shame”, the movement is gaining traction.  Women of all shapes and sizes are beginning to react negatively to advertising campaigns that restrict beauty to the ideals of the runway, and some magazines are bucking the skinny cover model trend. Vogue Italia led the way a few years ago when three plus size models made the cover. This year, plus size models Tess Halliday and Erica Jean Schnek made headlines when their photos appeared on the covers of People and Women’s Running respectively.

Although the body acceptance movement is primarily associated with obesity in women, plus size women are not alone in the struggle to accept their bodies. Skinny or fat, young or old, and all points in between, both sexes are constantly confronted with impossible and unrealistic ideals of beauty and vitality that can make us feel dissatisfied with our self.

Despite its good intentions, the body acceptance movement is flawed.  Its mantra to embrace your curves puts the cart before the horse. Beauty, as the saying goes, is more than skin deep.

Poor body image reflects dissatisfaction with our inner self. We construct our self-image from relationships and experiences that shape us from the inside out. So-called “body positivity” alone is insufficient to change our interior narrative no matter how much we profess to love our curves.  To “embrace” fatness or thinness can become an excuse for ignoring the process of inner transformation that leads to authentic self-acceptance.

Body acceptance has little to do with clothing size or the image captured on that high tech mirror called a smart phone.  It has everything to do with the condition of our interior life. If we obsess on our appearance to the exclusion of our inner transformation, we will never be comfortable in our own body. When we look in the mirror, we will see our self darkly, as through a smoky, gray cloud, instead of illuminated with light, aglow with the beautiful colours of our soul. That is an image that not even the smartest phone can capture.

Trail resident Louise McEwan is a freelance religion writer with degrees in English and Theology. Her blog is faithcolouredglasses.blogspot.com. Contact her at mcewan.lou@gmail.com

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