Friday, October 26, 2012

The Bible's takes on beauty and appearance

This subject has been on my mind for months, maybe for almost one year and I guess that I've handled this subject already more or less but this time I'll bring you on some of my new thoughts and inspirations about beauty standards. But why am I bringing this on right now? Because for a while ago I visited Bloggers and there was a really fruitful conversation about secular beauty standards going on. I don't know whether the starter of the conversation was a male or female but surprisingly the nick referred to more male than female in my associations. Anyway, OK, let's say his concern was that he called himself fat and he felt there's a boundary between him and other people because of that and he felt that he isn't accepted because of his shape. I want to note that people gave him mostly some really beautiful and wise responses and the key idea of these responses seemed to be "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". They also said that it matters the most what you think of yourself and when you will learn to love yourself the way you are, you'll be loved in return. But one sentence really touched me because I truly agree:" Even the slim are lonely." They also said that beauty comes from the inside and your inner beauty is reflected on the outside. "Beauty is always found from within." True friends accept you the way you are they also said. From the other hand they also said that he should take more care of his health, maybe to eat healthier and do some exercise. I think that everybody who responded to this conversation were right in their own way.

The reason why this conversation even exists is that media seems to give us a narrow-minded idea about ideal beauty which is that women is ought to be slim and men is ought to be muscley. Or from my point of view this at least used to be ideal beauty about 10 years ago. Once (and not even for so long time ago) I was being dumped by a spiritual guy with creative aspirations for not having big breasts enough or curvier body enough but he was satisfied with my inner beauty. In my opinion this actually seems to be a growing trend: In TV programmes that I've seen ordinary men when being asked on ideal beauty the general of them answered "women's got to have chest" and I actually hear or read more and more men saying that curvy women like Beyonc√© and Kim Kardashian are considered sexy. Wow, when I was 11-years-old guys criticized me almost straight to my face for not being beautiful enough because "I was chubby". Well, insecure that I was already then, I dietted for one year - in puberty! And now I'm so mesmerized for hearing that I'm not good enough for being slim?! When I was 11-years-old I even had short hair and I wore glasses until I turned 16. Not standard beauty, eh (or so it seemed to me)? Though I had reached a slim fit and long hair until secondary school I suffered from braces and glasses but by the year 2007 I got them both away and so I had reached the way that I actually look even on this day, now wearing contact lenses.

Actually, to be honest, I've been lately getting really confused about what's the ideal beauty of today. There's no denying that media is still full of those mainly slim women with good-looking abs starting from music videos to the covers of magazines. My current shape is something in between these extremities of curvy and being slim with good-looking abs: I haven't heard anybody calling me fat for about 10 years, so I have to be one of the slimmest kind but without good-looking abs. Well, in my opinion I'm healthy shape for being an average type but I've been asking myself for months, Which way should I go from here? Should I pursue more curves or should I be after good-looking abs? According to media my average type doesn't seem to be sexy. Well, due to my experiences in puberty I'd rather be after good-looking abs or just stay the way I am. But the question is burning inside me, is my average type ever considered beautiful? You see from what I've written in this post that for years I've seen quite a huge effort for improving my looks with natural procedure, without surgery. I'm not even that type of girl who's into make-up but I might use lip gloss at times.
I actually recently started to put a bit more effort to exercise too which has been my weakness for years. I actually already started yoga in 2009 and I had a pretty long break from it until returning to it again. I think yoga is the only exercise that I truly love and that genuinely makes me happy. I've also started to do abdominal workout on a daily basis and tried some dance/aerobic which inspires me but can't beat yoga. As I already pointed out in my previous post the truth is that there truly are moments when I'm feeling myself beautiful or sexy in my own skin, especially when I do yoga. So you would ask me, what's my problem then?

I actually read through my self-analysis in this post and my point seems to be: Is it worth losing your natural self for the standards of others (meaning the secular beauty standards) IF you after all are truly happy with what you are? Well, my answer is NO without any hesitation. OK, now I'm once again going to surprise some of my friends who have known me for long time: If I'm truly honest with myself and close my ears from the standards I wouldn't necessarily change much of anything in my looks, especially not my shape because I consider it being healthy. I also wouldn't necessarily dye my hair - I've never dyed my entire hair but 10 years ago I tried small amounts of red and blonde (not together though!). Anyway, been there done that. If I'm happy with my God-given features so be it. There's no use for changing yourself for people who genuinely don't love you because God, your true friends and your true family have already accepted you. 

 

But to avoid any misunderstanding I'll highlight: There's nothing wrong with dying your hair, following trends and fashion and mainstream and exercising if you ask yourself:" Is this truly me, am I being real?" and your answer is YES. I'm only saying that there's no use of changing yourself for others but if you consider yourself a brave style chameleon then it's part of who you are and nobody should have any rights to disrespect that. This may work for you but it doesn't work for me and it's all beautiful :).  


The best advice that I would give for anyone or the best that I've gotten is:" Stand behind your words." Yes, it usually means that your deeds must equal to your words but I'm seeing this phrase deeper than that: You could include to this also being true to yourself in the way that I've described in this post because if you're trying to be something that you are not that's not standing behind your words, right? All this blog represents being true to oneself because I'm always outspoken and want to encourage my readers to follow your path, whatever it is as long as you're true to yourself. It's all part of your gift and purpose provided by God. YOU are the gift. 

The Bible and beauty 

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:14 

The idea behind this Scripture is the same as I had in my previous post: God created human as His image. We are His masterpieces and made unique and different on purpose: We don't have to fit in any standards because we already are the standard! God created only biological twins to fit in the same standard but made it surreal and impossible for the other ones. Let's embrace our different genders, ethnic backgrounds, talents, beliefs, dreams, bodyshapes, wealth and health - This all is part of the magnificent plan. 

"But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." 1 Samuel 16:7 

The world focuses on what people look like on the outside. God focuses on what people look like on the inside. There's nothing wrong with wanting to look pretty and seeing effort to your outfit but as I said in my previous post: God wants us to be and do everything in balance so we shouldn't overdo our efforts towards inner or outer beauty. Both in moderation are good to have.
Now that I'm saying this in my opinion plastic surgery is overdoing your effort over outer appearance in 90 % of the cases. I mean by this that I accept it in cases where your facial features are turned so shapeless that we can't say that you have eyes, lips or nose. I believe that it's part of our human value and rights to have a face. I wouldn't encourage an ordinary healthy person to go and do plastic surgery and I also don't accept plastic surgery done for Down syndrome patients because they do have distinctive facial features.     


"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." Proverbs 31:3

Beauty fades with age, so if you are more concerned with your outer appearance, you will be unhappy when the wrinkles come and the number on the scales goes up. God wants us to "fear" Him, which means that we should put Him before any other standards and it doesn't matter to Him that we're getting old: He will still see us beautiful when we continue to reach for Him. 


"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight." 1 Peter 3:3-4

This doesn't mean that it would be reprehensible to put effort on your outfit but God would rather see us putting effort on inner beauty which will probably last longer or at least He appreciates it more. I'm saying probably because people do can change in time on the inside and on the outside. 

"Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is much more important, for it promises a reward in both this life and the next." 1 Timothy 4:8 

Exercising and staying in shape is a good thing but God expects us to stay in shape spiritually by reading our Bibles, praying and going to church on a regular basis. In other words, there will be plenty of people who put their time and effort into staying in shape but who are out of shape spiritually. Our heart and soul matter to God more than anything.  

The mysterious woman in this picture is The Queen of Sheba. I chose her because I consider her being a Biblical beauty icon because her legendary beauty is highlighted so much in the Scripture. Also Queen Esther is one of the Bible's beauty icons. But actually if we should choose the most crucial Biblical beauty icon I would name it Mary Mother Of Jesus without any hesitation because as we see the Bible highlights high moral values, justice and inner beauty more than anything else and I think that the Biblical beauty ideals are crystallized the best in Mary. She's been described as humble and diligent putting herself before others.

Bliss is also beauty: when you're happy and smiling and you have a positive outlook on life it becomes easier to appreciate your own beauty and see beauty and goodness in others and around you as well. 


I'm going to make a surprising point: Though the Bible highlights inner beauty I just realized that the entire Song Of Solomon might be the most superficial book of the Bible most of its chapters praising outer appearance as we know and if there's to believe in the lore, the woman praised is The Queen Of Sheba. Having knowledge of both the Bible and Quran I know that both books have similar concepts on outer beauty and appearance because they were both written in Middle East. Knowing the context and era during which both of these holy books were written, they seem to highlight brown eyes, dark skin and thick black hair and as I interpret both books - also a curvy shape as beauty ideals. This is of course obvious because women living in Middle East generally look like this. I also want to highlight the beauty concept of Antiquity because the Bible was written in this era: Against our modern ideal of feminine beauty they actually thought the fatter, the better! They considered slim women like me ill and unsexy! But the ideal beauty concept on men hasn't changed since Antiquity: men are still encouraged to be muscley.

 I'm making a conclusion: The Bible lets me understand that your looks do matter but it would be a much, much bigger loss if your heart and soul were ugly.

 

Beauty secrets from the Antiquity!

      Oils

Oils used in Biblical beauty treatments included myrrh which was given to baby Jesus by The Three Wise Men and later used to anoint his dead body. Esther received a six-month myrrh oil beauty treatment in preparation of her marriage to King Ahasuerus (Esther 2:12). Myrrh moisturizes and heals the skin. Myrrh and other oils, such as cassis oil and frankincense, were also used as perfume at that time. Olive oil was another ancient beauty treatment used for its moisturizing and anti-aging properties:
Woman of Valor teaches how you can make your own Biblical fragrant olive oil treatment: Place a brown glass bottle with cold pressed olive or almond oil, full with herbs on the heater for a period of time. Or heat the bottle with oil and herbs placing the bottle in a pan with hot water for some time or just by placing it in the hot sun. Use this infused oil immediately after showering on your wet skin to make sure the oil absorbs the skin completely. Your skin will not feel oily after using the oil like this.

Nuts

Nuts are mentioned in the Bible for internal and external beauty uses. The staff of Moses' brother Aaron bursts into blooms with ripe almonds in an Old Testament story. Almonds are a source of vitamin E which protects the skin from wrinkles, photo damage and may improve skin texture. Pistachios were used for skin treatments and as food during Biblical times and are believed to have been part of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Pistachios contain carotenoids, a phytonutrient that helps protect the skin from sunlight-induced inflammation.

Fruit

Fruits mentioned in the Bible include the apricot, mentioned in Proverbs 25:11. Apricots are rich in carotene, a phytonutrient that protects the skin from UV damage. Pomegranates were brought back by spies of Moses to give to the hungry Israelites during the Exodus. They contain more antioxidants than red wine and green tea. Pomegranates contain polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that protect the skin from aging. Pomegranates are now used in skin creams, in addition to be eaten.

Dairy products

Milk baths were another beauty staple of the ancient world. Cleopatra, who ruled before the birth of Christ, was one of the first women on record to have utilized this treatment, though she used camel's milk. Milk contains vitamins D and A, which keep skin strong yet soft, as well as beta hydroxy acids, which slough dead skin from the body. Milk's ingredients also soothe and hydrate newly revealed skin. It may also be used as a hair treatment as it removes the small scales on hair follicles that make hair look dull.

Scents, cosmetics and other procedure

Biblical women may have also used scents such as saffron, myrrh, calamus, nard, cinnamon, henna. Women may have used also beet juice and pomegranate seed juice for blush and lip stain. They also surely had honey and oil massages for moist and soft skin after milk baths. 

Questions for readers: After reading my post do you think that Biblical view on beauty differs from the secular one or are they one and same? Also, what's the ideal beauty of today? Have beauty ideals changed in the past 10 years or have they remained the same? Feel free to comment below.      





                              

1 comment:

  1. Hi Anne :)

    I love this post!, you're so knowledgable, you're incredible :)

    I've always wanted to try moisturising with olive oil, so I might use what you've written here.

    I love your references of scripture and your use of elaboration on them, great job :)

    I think the biblical view on beauty DOES differ to the secular one however, they are similar with regards to the physical care of the body for women with royal and high status.

    The ideal beauty of today is too difficult to define as beauty is seen differently by every individual. I too have struggled with my appearance and sometimes still do, trying to be skinny, strong, being careful of what I eat and it's exhausting at times to be quite honest !!

    I believe beauty ideals have changed in the past 10 years within the media ie. magazines, movies etc. but I also believe that there is an uprise of focusing on the beauty within.

    Keep writing and inspiring girl xoxox

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