Be honest, do you like what you see in the mirror?
There’s no escaping it, in our culture looks matters. Ask any actor, musician, politician, or man in the street. Our overall confidence and emotional well-being is tied up with it, which I guess is pretty good news if you are in the cosmetic business.
Talking of which, Dove, in their latest campaign for “Real Beauty”, recently hired Gil Zamora, an FBI forensic artist to prove that when it comes to looks, we are our own worst enemy.
He undertook a social experiment to illustrate the ongoing struggle women have with recognising their own beauty.
Without seeing his subjects, the forensic artist created composite sketches of women based on their own descriptions, plus a second sketch based on the description of a stranger that they spent a short amount of time with before the sketch.
The end result was extraordinary. In each case the woman’s own description was different than the description by the onlooker. Their faces were full of “flaws”, but when the stranger described them, the sketches were more accurate and more flattering. In an accompanying video a woman tears up as she realises her self-description resulted in a "fatter, sadder" version of herself, while the stranger saw her as "open, friendly and happy."
Dove research shows that women are their own worst critics. Only 4% of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.
So yes, we do have an image problem. Now, I am not sure quite what percentage of men would consider themselves as good looking or handsome, but the ever-growing shelf of men’s products at my local chemist might be a good indication that low self-esteem and confidence are an issue for us too.
Of course, at one level, none of this should surprise us. We are constantly bombarded with advertising, magazines, films and TV programmes showing people’s skin to be clear, wrinkle and spot-free with symmetrical faces, straight noses and super white teeth.
Is it any wonder that our self-esteem plummets when we look at ourselves in the mirror? And as the weather warms up (finally) we will become even more conscious of our numerous imperfections and want to spend money to fix them.
Yet if we, perhaps, notice more of what we have rather than what we don’t have, our self-perception might just change a little.
Maybe we would stop comparing ourselves with others and for once not be left wanting.
When I read the Bible I don’t see beautiful, perfect, gorgeous people nominated by God to be an example to others. Instead, I see Moses with a stammer, who chose to have his brother Aaron speak on his behalf. I see Paul the Apostle suffering with a speech impediment, as well as well as having bad eyesight. Jesus himself was described as ordinary in appearance. His disciples were equally described as ordinary.
So here is another way to look at ourselves.
Polish psychologist Andrew Bienkowski, a man who was exiled to Siberia and starved himself to death so his grandson could eat his meagre rations, said that we could approach ourselves by thinking: I have breath! I have life! I have shelter! I am here…
Be inspired to see yourself differently. Look at the four basics of life. If you can say that you have breath, family, somewhere to live and some place to sleep you can say, “Thank God my life is full!”
God allows us to focus on his own perfection and goodness and to see ourselves as he sees us. We become grateful and satisfied and learn to avoid discontentment, which always leaves us wanting.
King David famously declares in Psalm 23 says, “The Lord is my shepherd and I shall not want.” So the big, fat, honest questions are: what is the “shepherd” of my life? And does it make me not want?
Our confidence and self-esteem can come from knowing that we are accepted by a loving and gracious God. And by those who know us, perhaps, better than ourselves.
So, come on, put that anti-wrinkle cream back and get real. You too guys!