Lady Gaga has criticised the photograph of her that appears on the December cover of Glamour magazine, saying that’s not what she looks like when she wakes up in the morning. ‘I felt my skin looked too perfect,’ she said. ‘I felt my hair looked too soft’ (Mail Online 13 November). In effect, what she is really saying is, ‘That’s not me. That’s not who I am.’
When we hear the word ‘glamour’, a number of things probably spring to mind: beauty, elegance, A-list celebrities, expensive make-up and makeovers, and so the list goes on. For the vast majority of us (including, I suspect, many of those whom we would call ‘glamorous’), it is not a word we would use to describe ourselves.
There is much discussion these days about the way magazine photographs are airbrushed so that the final picture looks completely perfect. I recently watched a short video clip, http://www.upworthy.com/see-why-we-have-an-absolutely-ridiculous-standard-of-beauty-in-just-37-seconds, which showed an already attractive woman being photographed, and then demonstrated the process by which the image was completely transformed: her eyes were enlarged, her lips were made fuller, her legs and neck were lengthened, her skin tone was lightened, to mention but a few. She was almost unrecognisable by the end.
I have to say I really felt for this woman. How must she have felt after this experience? It would take someone with an extremely thick skin not to be affected by it.
The media is presenting an image that many people are trying, and of course failing, to live up to. They are failing because these images are not real. They are manufactured images, portraying a world that does not exist.
So what is the effect of all this? As ‘normal’ men and women (because yes, this affects men just as much as it does women), we’re left feeling that we’re inadequate, we’re not good enough. And it’s not only about what we look like; this extends to our abilities too. Whether we compare ourselves with celebrities or other people that we know, we always seem to fall short. We can’t sing as well as they do, we’re not as fast on the football field, we can’t cook as well as they do, or we don’t think we’re as intelligent as they are, and so on.
I spent far too many years of my life feeling that I wasn’t good enough, in so many ways. I tried so hard to be what I thought I needed to be in order to ‘fit’. Yet it didn’t work. No matter what I did, I still felt distinctly less than adequate. And the reason? Because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin.
Genesis 1 tells us that human beings were created in the image and likeness of God. This means he created us to be like him. Wow! ‘God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good’ (Genesis 1:31, NRSV). The problem is that it went wrong: the enemy planted doubt in the minds of the human beings, and they stopped listening to God.
Today we still fall into the same trap. The enemy plants doubt in our minds, and we listen. We doubt our own worth; we doubt our abilities; we doubt the love that others have for us; we even doubt God’s love for us at times. But if we stop listening to the enemy and listen again to God, what is he saying to us?
It took me a long time to realise that what God was saying to me was simply that he loves me, that I am good enough, that he loves me just the way I am. Gradually I am learning to accept myself for who I am, and to embrace the person that God has created me to be. I am learning to enjoy being unique, and am beginning to understand that God has created me to be me, and that he has a particular role for me, and only me, to play. If I don’t fill that role, it will remain empty; no one else is qualified to fill it. And if I try to fit into another role, I won’t fit.
We are all created to be unique. That in itself is awesome: think of the billions of people who have ever lived: not a single one has ever been identical to another. Even identical twins have differences, despite sharing the same DNA. I worked for a while in a playgroup many years ago, and among the children was a pair of identical twin girls. Initially I didn’t have a clue which was which, but as I got to know them, I began to notice subtle differences between them, both in their looks and in their behaviour, and I was able to tell them apart (and not only because their mum dressed them in different-coloured tights!).
God knows us and loves us all, individually, uniquely, just the way we are. Let’s listen to his voice, and believe him when he says, ‘I love you. You are beautiful, just the way you are,’ and embrace who he created us to be. Yes, we’re all works in progress – none of us is perfect, and we won’t be this side of heaven. But it’s important to remember that what the world values as beauty and perfection is very different to what God values as beauty and perfection.
My book, Less than ordinary? My journey into finding my true self, is available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle.