Dove Real Beauty Sketches: if you haven’t seen this video that came out several weeks ago from Dove Beauty products, it’s based on the dilemma that seems to be too common today: that women think they’re much less beautiful (in the case of the Dove campaign, on the outside) than they really are. If you have read or followed any of the research as to why that is, it’s a rather interesting story. I will not go into my own opinions on the Dove campaign, as I feel its already been covered rather well all over the net. And, if you’d like to know why it is that women (yes, and I also think men…but in a different way) feel so inadequate about their looks, my personal favorite source to go to is Lindsay and Lexie Kite of Beauty Redefined. I highly recommend going to their site and learning in a more detailed way than you may already be familiar with the role that money has played in the way media would have us see ourselves. They both recently received their Ph.D.’s in media studies and the site outlines just some of the issues they’ve studied. Because I’ve read more about the female issues regarding this (mostly because it’s easier to find) that’s mostly what you’ll find on their site, but I don’t think it’s too hard to come up with the things men are expected to be. Or is it? Comment below.
I don’t think it’s difficult at all to find parallels between the gospel and how the Lord would want us to view ourselves. While he wants us to be healthy, the opposite focus of being too hard on ourselves actually usually has the opposite effect of either making it harder to lose weight for those who need to, to the all too common problem of anorexia. As for myself, I was never anorexic, thank goodness, but while I was quite thin all through high school and into my mid-thirties, yet (especially in high school) I hated the shape of my body, because even if I lost weight, my large frame but small bones would never look as “thin” as a lot of smaller teenage girls, even if I lost all the fat in my body. I had at times bought into the idea that beauty was reliant not on health or taking care of oneself, but on a specific body type.
Corporations who sell makeup and clothes want people to be unhappy with the way they look, because studies show that people who are unhappy with their appearance will buy more clothes and more makeup. The same goes for any corporation who sells just about anything. If they can make you believe that you can’t be happy without it, you’re more likely to pine for it and (hopefully for them) find a way to buy it, even if you don’t need it. In our society where most of us have our basic needs met, it’s effective.
So how does this relate to being single? I’m not sure that it really relates to us anymore than those who are married. One way it can sideline us, though, is by us letting ourselves believe that some of these lies are the reason why we’re single.
I’m not saying, at all, that working at being more attractive is a bad thing, or that trying to be healthy is bad. (Of course not.) What I am hoping to do is just to help make others more aware of just how skewed our views of ourselves and sometimes others can be. Elder Holland gave a talk on this to the Young Women a few years ago that is better than anything I could ever come up with, so I’ll defer to him. And of course, these are timeless truths that apply to everyone, and not just teenage girls.
I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else. We are all different. Some are tall, and some are short. Some are round, and some are thin. And almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not! But as one adviser to teenage girls said: “You can’t live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power. … The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self—[the real you.]” 8 And in the kingdom of God, the real you is “more precious than rubies.” 9 Every young woman is a child of destiny and every adult woman a powerful force for good. I mention adult women because, sisters, you are our greatest examples and resource for these young women. And if you are obsessing over being a size 2, you won’t be very surprised when your daughter or the Mia Maid in your class does the same and makes herself physically ill trying to accomplish it. We should all be as fit as we can be—that’s good Word of Wisdom doctrine. That means eating right and exercising and helping our bodies function at their optimum strength. We could probably all do better in that regard. But I speak here of optimum health; there is no universal optimum size.
Frankly, the world has been brutal with you in this regard. You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress is reported to have said recently: “We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. … I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] … pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can’t get off of it.] … It’s really insane … what society is doing to women.” 10
In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical, this is more than social insanity; it is spiritually destructive, and it accounts for much of the unhappiness women, including young women, face in the modern world. And if adults are preoccupied with appearance—tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled—those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children. At some point the problem becomes what the Book of Mormon called “vain imaginations.” 11 And in secular society both vanity andimagination run wild. One would truly need a great and spacious makeup kit to compete with beauty as portrayed in media all around us. Yet at the end of the day there would still be those “in the attitude of mocking and pointing their fingers” as Lehi saw, 12 because however much one tries in the world of glamour and fashion, it will never be glamorous enough.
And our kids, nieces, nephews, and the primary kids and young men and young women we work with will notice our attitudes about these things in both obvious and subtle ways. When we strengthen our own testimonies about our self-worth and self-image, they will want to improve as well. They know that we’re not perfect, but they do want to emulate who we are whether we’re aware of it or not. Perfection we’re not, but comforting and loving we can be. And, I truly believe that it makes it easier to live with oneself as well. Aren’t we better company to ourselves when we realize who we really are?