Who Told You You Weren’t Beautiful?

We live today with very high expectations of many things. Culturally we have very demanding standards for beauty, especially in regard to women. We expect them to have appealing “curves” but be slender etc. Even ordinary weight is considered by many as unattractive. All this obsession with perfection leads to low self esteem among women and men too. Further, these high expectations of zero body fat and perfect shape, hair color, skin tone etc. leads to hypercritical and hurtful remarks. There is an old saying that “expectations are premeditated resentments.”  Hence this attitude also may have to do with marriage difficulties as the near perfect bodies of youth give way to the more “settled”  bodies of middle age and beyond. (Gravity and age do have their effects and even if you weighed what you did in High School it doesn’t look the same!) Plastic surgery is a miracle for those with truly catastrophic injury or deformities but today it is too often the refuge of those who have become obsessed with how they look and how they think others regard them. Oh to be free of such obsessions! The picture to the right depicts a woman but men have the problem too.

Help me Lord to be little more comfortable in my own skin. Help me to accept that you like both tall and short people because you made them both. Both the blond and the brunette are from your hand, wavy hair, straight hair wirey hair are all from you and apparently to your liking. Thin and hefty, black, white and all between are from your artistic hand. Help me to love me as you made me. If I should lose weight for health’s sake help me, but if its only about what others might think of me, free me.

Watch this video and see how a very lovely young woman is not lovely enough. She has to be altered, “perfected.”  And when simple natural enhancements are not enough her image must be furthered altered on a computer. Message: the perfect beauty does not exist for the world of media. She must be invented. Then everyone can pine after and spend large amounts of money and time trying look like someone who doesn’t even exist.

28 Replies to “Who Told You You Weren’t Beautiful?”

  1. My Lenten fast has been to refrain from self depreciation, self loathing and to see myself as God sees me. This came right in time. In fact, GOD LED ME TO THIS BLOG. I am beginning to think, however, I belong in the Archdiocese of Washington D.C.!

      1. Dear All,

        Sometimes I believe that many of us have a very wrong ideas about the three things that you[Iris] mentioned.
        Self-Depreciation is not necessarily a bad-thing. It is more likely to be a problem when someond is looking at
        our life on earth as a materialistic thing. I would ask you to appreciate that St Louis De Montfort recomends that
        we see ourselves as a worm and a useless thing and that this is not unique to this Saint. He does not expect us
        to be downcast and depressed by this.

        The thing is in our day and age we would associate such self depreciation with things like depression and so on.
        However despite reading in the writings of saints such self depreciation we find them often joyful and full of love.
        It is a contradiction to our modern eyes.

        The issue is that despite the humility of the saints they did know how much God loved them. They were fully
        penetrated with the idea that God had proved his love for them by dying on the cross for them that even though
        they said about themselves all kinds of things that you might ordinarily think that they truly hated themselves
        and believed themselves outcast and so on, it is not the case.

        When you said that you wanted to see yourself how God sees you, well God sees us all as his loved ones
        whom he wants us to know that greater love for us, noone but he has.

        Self loathing means to loath all that is in opposition to your eternal happiness in Heaven. That is what it means
        to me.

        God bless


  2. expectations are premeditated resentments This is so true! (And it fits the bill in so many areas).

    This is a pretty sad story on so many levels. You have your young girls who grow up with the Barbie image; you have your young women vying for the attention of young men, and some of them are willing to do most anything to get it, you have your older women, softened by age and childbirth and everything that goes along with raising a family and taking care of a home – and sometimes their husbands decide they want something a little more along the ‘trophy’ line; you have the dang television and the movie theater and the magazine that say we all need to look more like Angelina Jolie and less like…well, pick someone normal looking…maybe look in the mirror!

    Regardless of what the popular notions are, the best gift parents can give their children, especially their daughters, is the self-confidence that comes from being the best person they can be; not the best looking person they can be. If looks aren’t over- or under- emphasized, it won’t be too much of an issue later on, when the stakes are higher.

    It’s a good thing we’re not all ‘beautiful people’ because there would be constant fighting for space/time in front of the mirror.

      1. Your words Jan have really spoken to my heart in a way that tells me you really care about your children and about the fact the other people should care more in this way too.

  3. I did some modeling as a teenager, and that industry and also Hollywood are huge culprits in this ideal for body image. As a teenager I was a very late bloomer, and when an agency came to my high school and told me I had great bone structure it was a huge boost to my fragile ego. Well let me emphasize on the BONE structure part. I was told to keep losing weight – I guess they really wanted to see that bone structure even more! To keep the weight they wanted me at (I left because I got tired of trying to be this person I wasn’t) I would have had to continually starve myself and exercise for 7 hours a day. Who has time for that other than athletes?

    I am much happier now with the curves I am supposed to have, not doing a whole lot of makeup, and not making sure my hair is perfect. I am Italian – we Italian women are not supposed to be anorexically thin! We have curves and are darned proud of them. That industry had really messed with my head for a while, and to this day I still don’t find myself very attractive. I don’t see what guys might see in me, but it is probably a good thing I don’t think I am beautiful because it keeps me modest. Great post, and I am happy you addressed this issue.

    1. Katherine, I totally applaud your actions of getting out of the snare of that modeling industry you had been in – what you describe sounds insidious and well worth keeping a good distance from as among other things it is totally ridiculous to become underweight and “starve yourself to that expectation”. This is just absurdly demeaning to the human condition. Most athletes however, who are seriously training for their competitions, whilst they exercise fanatically (as it would seem to people not in that routine), they actually eat rather well and cannot afford not too because this gives them the sustainable energy balance they need for their durations and moreover, they often are not underweight as is obvious with many tennis players for instance – take Serena Williams as a good example – she is anything but underweight but she is certainly not overweight either otherwise this would grossly hinder her performance on court.

  4. I have low self-esteem, but I try to think “God made me, so I’m beautiful”.

  5. For some time now, I’ve been praying to God that He might enlighten my mind and teach me to know Him. In knowing Him, I will know myself.

    I’m tired of trying to ‘fit in’ and please everyone else. I’ve realized that In the end, neither the thoughts nor the words of another could add nor detract from my true worth.

    My Father is King and I am His princess! <3

  6. Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day and I will probably repeat what my Daddy told me all the time”I’m Irish and I’m beautiful”..Some will laugh others will think I’m just a crazy 70 year old. All in the attitude and the love.

  7. I know the perception is definitely out there that many people have demanding standards for attractiveness, and it is tempting to believe that, but I’m not so certain that it is actually true for the everyday person, at least when push comes to shove. Certainly with Hollywood and the whole industry of fashion, modeling, and women’s magazines, it is true that they have long pushed a false and destructive ideal of female beauty (as well as pushing a false male ideal, which is often fairly androgynous). But for the typical person?

    If you were to ask most people, they would probably say that only a fairly small percentage of people in the world are truly “beautiful.” A greater percentage would be deemed to be pretty or cute or good-looking or some other level of “attractive.” But most people are deemed to be something less than that. And yet, if you take a look at them, you see that even the “unattractive” people are married and they have children, or otherwise have romantic relationships. So clearly, notwithstanding the superficiality that is rampant, these people are looking deeper into the other person — they are seeing an “attractiveness” or even “beauty” that goes beyond the mere physical. Notwithstanding the sinful eyes of their heads, on some level, they are able to see with the loving eyes of the heart.

    Besides, if “beauty” is the standard — sorry ladies and sorry gentlemen, but nearly all of us will fall short of that aesthetic perfection (there are only a few Sophia Lorens or Olivia Husseys). Being so high and unattainable, do not feel bad if you do not measure up to that standard. If you must be concerned with perfection, be concerned with making your heart perfect, be concerned with loving perfectly.

    1. We fail to see beauty in other human persons because we fail to love, or because we love imperfectly. When you do not have love in your heart, then everything is ugly.

      The more that you are disposed to love, on the other hand, the better you are able to love and find love in male-female and other interpersonal relationships. The more that you have a loving inner disposition, the more potential mates you will encounter. With true love in the heart, the universe of possible mates grows. The more you are disposed to love, the more you will be able to see the good qualities in others. These others become more physically attractive, more intelligent, more humorous, more enjoyable. However, the more you are turned inward, seeking to satisfy yourself, complaining that there are no good men or women out there, the more trouble you will have finding them. A perfect Christian, embracing love perfectly, should be able to be united to anyone and be attracted to them, and desire them, and want to be with them, because they have love.

  8. l guess it has to do with not being satisfied with what God gives us as well or taking the gifts that God gave us for granted,great post.

  9. Mine’s a real long one! Sorry, Msgr but it’s actually longer than your post!! Don’t mean to ‘take up all the room’ but I have just a few things to share which I thought might interest you relative to how deeply moved in many ways I have been by reading your article. I am very enthusiastic to discuss these issues and it makes me feel fondly reminiscent of the last time I was at university which wasn’t all that long ago perhaps – 2006! No doubt, I intend to go back there at some stage in the near future. Anyhow, here goes:

    One of my main questions regarding your article is that you state: “Culturally we have very demanding standards for beauty, especially in regard to women. We expect them to have appealing “curves” but be slender etc. Even ordinary weight is considered by many as unattractive. All this obsession with perfection leads to low self esteem among women and men too.” May I clarify something here, whilst I am in complete unity with you on the stance you have taken relative to the issues of how secular society imposes to a large degree oppressive definitives of how women should be, the way you use the term “we” in this context tends towards amplifying a bit of confusion somewhat. I understand you are generally speaking from a position of understanding the norm in Western society as such but can I challenge you on one point – that as both a priest and someone who very much advocates a Biblical value system which in reality is a culture that is an exemplary world away from “that of the world”, wouldn’t you rather personally write what you write in a way that doesn’t implicate either yourself or others like you in the “we”, despite the fact that you all might live in the West? This is by no means intended as a personal attack but rather as a question of curiosity on my part as to whether you have thought about the subtle implications of using terms like “we”, “you”, even “they”. This concern of mine is based upon the fact that the cultures of the world (esp. Western cultural commodification) are far removed in their values from Biblical culture – that is the culture God Himself prioritizes – after all it was He who designed it and made it to be the Holy example that, if adhered to and walked with integrity, will define or distinguish as separate from the world those who live this way. This is then what marks Biblical living distinct from living via the value system of the world, even though those who live Biblically still live amongst those of the world generally. It’s just that the way you have worded this passage could make some readers think that you yourself personally identify as one who sees things as “the world” sees them rather than to the contrary, when you say “culturally we have very demanding standards for beauty…we expect them to have appealing curves…”

    I say this only because the way someone says something can say much about which culture they either consciously or unconsciously identify with as “their own”. I had been in that habit myself a number of years ago primarily because I was so automatically ingrained into the artificial habit of identifying personally with “the mass culture of the West” in my verbiage despite the fact that other areas of my life were more expressive of a Christian perspective. This continued until I became so conscious of who God really wants me to be and how He wants me to reflect the importance of my relationship with Him to the world. I then had made that deciding choice to pro-actively stop identifying in as many ways as possible with popular Western media-generated culture because Christianity is supposed to be my true culture, the one that I belong to. Although I had for many years generally rejected the notion that I was a part of worldly culture, I still had not fully understood the areas of my life in which I was giving over to complicity with this shallow life-way (without being aware of it), which meant I probably said things in uni tutorials like, “We have so much that is superficial and shallow in our culture etc…” when in actual fact that was a complete understatement and an outright contradiction to the reality of my confessed personal identification as a Christian, considering the real culture I belonged to was that of Christianity and not that of the world’s superficial and shallow standards. Ever since then, I have been more conscientious of how I use words in particular contexts, which means that because I culturally identify with my Christian heritage, I don’t see myself as a part of the mainstream culture, even though I was educated in a highly secular urbanized environment. Now I would say statements like: “We have so much that’s in dire need of transformation in our world” or “The commodity driven culture that makes up a large part of modern Western social conditioning…” – the first being a confession of the fact that I am part of the global makeup while the second lets others know although I am aware of the nature of commodity driven culture, I do not personally identify with it as though it were “my culture”.

    It is a fact that many, even those within the church, have been used to identifying with culture as something intrinsically outside the realm of religion or spirituality. May I remind people though that in actual fact the whole emphasis God is trying to draw our attention towards through Biblical narrative both in Old and New Testament contexts is that He desires us as humans to draw close to Him through our lifestyle, our way of life. A person’s life way is essentially what makes up the core of internally who and externally how someone is reflected to the world as – whether they reflect Christ or something else altogether. God emphasizes that just as He wanted the children of Israel to be bearers of His truth as His people, a chosen people of His own special desiring, likewise does He implore those within Christianity to bear a similar witness, for the New Covenant is none other than an extension and therefore a completion of the Old. God desires for us to cultivate a truly Biblical culture as this was the message of His Son who showed by example, the Way – how to live from a God-centred perspective. Because of this Truth being made evident through Christ, a cultural frame of reference is shown that is completely different in character to the one which predominates the world. It is a blueprint that exemplifies qualities that contravene some of the most commonly taken for granted “norms” of the modern West such as: gross competitiveness, ultra individualism (look out for no. 1), overemphasis on acquisition and accumulation, high value placed upon “doing” and “achievement”, religious pluralism. Contrast these with the traditional Christian ones of: co-operation, community-orientation, conserving and sharing, value in being, and a spiritual life of close relationship with God, each other, and the whole creation.

    Again it is not my intention to devalue what you say or really how you it for that matter – for generally – the way you have expressed what you have said in this article is to be truly applauded and I also appreciate the fact that you would be conscious of your ministry as a priest when writing this article so what I am saying is by no means intended to detract from the authenticity of your ministerial role. It is more along the lines of “one of those things” I get used to discussing in uni tutorials and considering this topic which you have raised is rather popular in university humanities subjects, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to strike up a bit of a discussion on conscious and unconscious representation. After all, what you have discussed about artificial constructs of beauty ties in with the theme of how identity is constructed, and what and how we speak for ourselves and others is a strong reflector of how we see ourselves as human beings.

    Despite my challenging you on this one point, there is much that is absolutely true in how you unpack Western modernity’s obsession with artificializing appearance of bodily form, particularly in regards to over-exaggerated genderized expectations of what characterizes constructed notions of “beauty” and “attractiveness”. I particularly like the way you point out how this can correlate to the high incidents of failed marriages and how you so rightly point out that low self esteem is perpetuated through advertising unrealistic expectations as the must for both women and men to aspire to. I share empathy with you about the trend for plastic surgery being valorized and how this is a gross misuse of something which you again maintained is supposed to be a critical procedure rather than something frivolous and vain. It is a glimpse into how technology has almost reached god-like status in societies of the so-called advanced West where such techno-abuse is often linked to the commodification of the body. Whilst vanity has always been the bane of realistic admiration of God-given beauty, today’s vanity is becoming more and more perverse. It is implicit in the insidious fabrication of distorting natural God-given ability to distinguish between beauty as God sees it and the antithesis of this, which is ugliness – not the idea of ugly as in “ugly duckling” because in reality, I don’t think you could say that there is such a thing as an ugly duckling as I can see all ducklings look cute and adorable – but from the perspective of a duck – who knows!? – only joking! Take the horribly fashionable idea that to look like a heinous temptress is defined as ‘cool’ in more recent times. With all the shops around bearing names like “Lust” and “Temt”, sometimes I wonder what has become of this world – where is God in all of this? I often get so heartbroken when I see these things in public places – even the way some parents dress their young kids – girls of about five wearing suggestive clothing and the like. It worries me greatly and burdens my heart with a mixture of sadness, anger, frustration and a copious desire to see this whole thing turned around!

    What’s more is, have you seen that internet ad – the one that stipulates “no diet, no exercise – one flat stomach rule: obey”? This sounds totally twisted mentality – in the sense that the world is encouraging outright disobedience to God’s ways and yet inversely wilfully demands obedience to its own propagandistic agenda. Now, it is becoming more of a trend to promote the fallacy that “doing absolutely nothing” will suffice in life – the idea that’s it’s perfectly okay to become wilfully lazy – the “no exercise” craze is the new one off the block. Whilst I can’t exactly say that I am a real avid enthusiast when it comes to going to the gym and so on, at least I have come to realize the importance of some exercise, some healthy physical movement in life’s daily routine. I have suffered from the disastrous effects of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for a number of years now and have just become practically aware of the benefits of doing a workout of some description. My routine for this is simpler even than most average gym workouts but it helps much more relative to the condition than just doing nothing at all. BTW, it took me a while to physically become able to do this and by no means was it a feat of my own tiresome effort at trying to do exercise – thankfully! – for it never would have happened that way because with CFS it really is impossible to force one’s self out of the stuck position. What’s more is I must stress that the condition is not a matter of wanton idleness or laziness, despite the fact that a common presumption about it is that it stems from or is somehow inextricably linked to those vices. Realistically, it is more a result of over working one’s self in an unhealthy manner over a prolonged period of time or even can be caused by a severe situation of life-trauma, so cannot be thoughtlessly relegated to the domain of laziness. Hence I am rather vocal in my heart when it comes to the need to confront the trend of presumptions stemming from ignorance being turned into ‘facts’. I feel this trait is positive as the need to be sensitively confrontational, without being dogmatic of course, is a step in the right direction insofar as educating people about how “reality” is presented in our world today.

    1. The use of the “inclusive plural” is a common manner of speaking that seeks to avoid an overly polemical tone. Hence one who uses this tone is not simply accusing others of the negative behavior in question but is accepting that they live in and participate in the very culture in question. This permits a more introspective tone as distinct from a merely oppositional tone.

      1. I have to admit, I am not familiar with grammatical terminology as I have not studied grammar for years so I don’t really know what an “inclusive plural” is. I am guessing that it is where someone personally identifies as part of “the plurality they are using” when they speak – as in reference to a group. Am I right? – please correct me if I am wrong in my guess at defining this term.

        You can identify with a certain culture though without this necessarily meaning you are negative about those who don’t belong to this culture. To positively identify with one’s own culture doesn’t not automatically mean the one who is doing this is being negative about people who belong to other cultures. For example although I am an indigenous person who happens to have one foot in Western mainstream society and the other in re-connecting with my heritage, (that is, I currently live amongst the mainstream culture but I still maintain connections with my own), I do not see that by doing this I am perceiving everyone who is part of the mainstream culture as bad – what gave you the impression I said that??? I simply pointed out the differences between the two cultures and didn’t “attack” the people of the one which I spoke about as very worldly. I simply made the statement about being apart from that culture in my heart but that doesn’t imply anything about being against people who are caught up in it. I am surprised that you interpreted what I was saying as “overtly negative” despite my insistence that what I was saying was not meant to be taken by you this way! I am also a bit shocked you weren’t as kind-hearted in the tone of your reply to my comment unlike how you have responded to the other contributors! It strikes me as rather cold and impersonal – which is actually not how I addressed you although I was very expressive in how I said what I said!

  10. Hey, Siuyin,

    I just I’d clarify for you. An inclusive plural is a term like “us” and “we” that identifies or includes yourself in what you are talking about, so yes, it sounds like you have guessed it correctly.

    I’m sure Msgr. Pope didn’t mean his comments to be an attack on you. He is simply answering your question as to why he uses the term “we” as opposed to “you” or “they” in his article. It is because he doesn’t want to be merely preaching to or at others, since he acknowledges that, priest or otherwise, he is still human, and therefore a sinner like the rest of us. I think you have just misunderstood his comments. He is not accusing you of being negative or attacking you, and he is certainly not perceiving your comments as an attack on him or interpreting them as being “overtly negative.” He is simply saying that he uses the inclusive term “we” in his writings because he accepts that, just like everyone else, he is not faultless.

    Can I just add, in response to your question, that it has been found that people are generally more receptive to a person’s message if they do use the inclusive plural. This is because it’s human nature for us to feel like we are being attacked and to get defensive if we feel a person is lecturing or criticising us. It’s like if a person has an argument with a friend or coworker. They are more likely to solve the problem if one of them confronts the other saying something like “I don’t think we have been respecting each other enough,” than if the person was to say “You haven’t been showing me any respect.” This is because in the first scenario, the person is acknowledging they may be part of the problem, whereas in the second scenario, the word “you” can be interpreted as an accusation, so the person being spoken to is more likely to get defensive and not listen to the first person’s message. That’s why you will find that a lot of priests use the term “we” these days – because it acknowledges their own human tendancy to sin, and because people are more likely to take what they say on board and to act on it. Sorry – it’s not the best way of explaining it, but hopefully it makes sense.

    I hope that clears things up 🙂
    God bless

  11. She may have the best body but she sure needs work on her attitude. Did you see her threaten that little old Asian lady at the U.S.Open. Shame on her.

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