Audrey Hepburn: Beauty Icon or Humanitarian?

imgresIt’s been a while since I’ve written on my favorite topic – “beauty in our society”, but rest assured that this delay is not from lack of content. In fact, in the past few months, I have been collecting, storing and sifting through a great deal of information on looks and our society. This post on Audrey Hepburn is one that I have been mulling over since mid-April.

I think most everyone knows or has at least heard of Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993). I mean how many times have you seen the iconic picture below from Breakfast at Tiffany’s?

She is well known for her starring roles in a  number of famous (and really terrific) films,  including Roman Holiday (1953), Breakfast  at Tiffany’s (1961), My Fair Lady (1964) and Wait Until Dark (1967).

But, she is perhaps even better known for something equally as impressive, though completely out of her control: her natural beauty.

She is not just a film icon. She is a beauty icon. When people think of beautiful, glamorous women, they naturally think of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe and perhaps Angelina Jolie.

With that in mind, take a look at this picture below:

grave-at-trenzalore: followingthedeer: sainthannah: heatherbat: stunningpicture: ‘Cause people seem to only post the 20-something Audrey Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts. …and history remembers her as pretty. AND HISTORY REMEMBERS HER AS PRETTY note this is the first time I have ever seen a picture of her older than 20 and I think that’s scary

I saw this picture on tumblr with these three comments below:

1. “‘Cause people seem to only post the 20-something Audrey Hepburn.”

2. “Audrey Hepburn was the granddaughter of a baron, the daughter of a nazi sympathizer, spent her teens doing ballet to secretly raise money for the dutch resistance against the nazis, and spent her post-film career as a goodwill ambassador of UNICEF, winning the presidential medal of freedom for her efforts …and history remembers her as pretty.

3. “this is the first time I have ever seen a picture of her older than 20 and I think that’s scary”

That second comment is my favorite. She was a kind, compassionate and brave woman but, most importantly, she was born with good genes for us to fawn over for generations to come.

Now, to be honest, I think perhaps the older people of the world do remember that she was a humanitarian, but what is her legacy? Already, after perhaps one generation, what do us “kids” know about her? That she was a pretty face?  We must not reduce her life’s work to something so trite and temporary.

Men are most often valued for their brains and money, and women are most often valued for their looks. Why? Because we are sexual objects in society, and that stereotype is reinforced everyday on the internet, on tv and on the streets.

Well, I’m trying to keep my posts shorter, so I’ll leave this topic for now. But, as owner of this blog, I will not leave this post on Audrey without highlighting her real legacy:

1. A seriously brilliant actress. Have you seen this beautiful lady act? Please tell me you haven’t just seen Breakfast at Tiffany’s because, if so, you are seriously missing out. Please go watch Wait Until Dark immediately. I mean she wasn’t picked to star in so many classics just for her looks. In fact, she won an Academy Award for Best Actress, a record three BAFTA Awards for Best British Actress in a Leading Role, three Golden Globe Awards and a Tony Award for Best Performance for a Leading Actress. Bam! Talk about talent!

2. A seriously compassionate humanitarian. In 1988 Audrey Hepburn was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and spent the remainder of her life traveling throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America in an effort to raise awareness for suffering children.

This five year period from 1988 to her death in 1993 was not a publicity stunt or a way to stave off the guilt of her successful life. In fact, Audrey’s friends and family later said that she was consumed by “the thoughts of dying, helpless children” until her death (audrey1.org).

During one trip to Bangladesh UN photographer John Isaac accompanied Audrey and still remembers her genuine love for the children. “Often the indexpicnewkids would have flies all over them, but she would just go hug them,” Isaac said. “I had never seen that. Other people had a certain amount of hesitation, but she would just grab them. Children would just come up to hold her hand, touch her – she was like the Pied Piper.”

I love that quote because he was a photographer and photographers look for beauty. When Audrey was young, her face was the “beauty” of the photo. But, as an older lady, her actions were the “beauty” of the photos (as in the picture to the right).

Audrey used her powerful name and status to help thousands of children because Audrey got it. She knew that the thousands of children pictured in the countless “feed the hungry” ads each year do have a name and do have a life and do need help. Each child has a story. They get embarrassed. They get scared. They worry. They laugh. And they need food and water.

Two quotes from Audrey on her humanitarian work stuck out to me:

“People in these places don’t know Audrey Hepburn, but they recognize the name UNICEF. When they see UNICEF their faces light up, because they know that something is happening. In the Sudan, for example, they call a water pump UNICEF.” (US magazine McCall’s, 1989)

“There is so much we cannot do. We cannot give the children back their parents, but we can return to them their most basic human rights – their rights to health, tenderness and life.” (USA Today, 1989)

 

An Ordinary Woman

“She is an ordinary woman. Not so beautiful, nor outstanding. But the smile she has for June. . . makes me think that she is the most beautiful woman.”

joan Unknown Joan was legendary

and Anne was extraordinary

But I am just ordinary

To the world,

I’m not especially pretty

Nor am I particularly witty

Just an inconsequential itty bitty

But in my own world,

I have a daughter named June

I pick her up every afternoon

And she says, “Play, soon?”

And for the rest of the day,

I am perfectly content

Though I don’t have an extra cent

Or any way to pay rent,

Because me and June are just fine

With our fake crowns of twine

And our makeshift costumes to dine

Our love is like being on cloud nine

And we are doing just fine

Photoshop: the Bad News & the Good News

In my last post I talked about the extensive work that goes into making models look perfect in order to advertise clothes for the average-looking woman. It just doesn’t make sense. Advertisers pick out the prettiest girls in the world, put them through hours of hair and makeup, set up the perfect lighting, get the best cameras, spend hours taking the pictures, and then, the icing on the cake, they photoshop those pictures. Voilà! Parfait!

But that’s not the end of the story.

Part deux begins when a normal girl/woman decides to look through a magazine or to watch some television. Now Prweb.com says that “72% of women wear size 12 or above.” So for some girls normal means a size 12, and, for others, normal means a size 2. Tomato. Tomahto. Potato. Potahto. But, you see the problem is that all women see the same thing when they view advertisements: perfect-looking size 0 – size 2 women smiling, flouncing around, and picking up all the men.

We can’t make specific commercials for each and every woman in the world. But can’t we at least expand the range of girls in the advertisements? Would that hurt?

I saw these photos of Diane Keaton via a thread on Reddit (advice: if you value your grades, time with your family, and sunlight please do not sign up for this website). Now Keaton is currently 68 years old. She’s allowed to look a little old, right? This is a picture from the Golden Globes which took place on January 12, 2014:

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No big deal. She looks like a 68 year-old should, right? Now this is a picture from a L’Oréal commercial that played during a commercial break for the Golden Globes on January 12, 2014:

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Unless L’Oréal is using an archived commercial from 1990, I’m pretty sure some heavy photoshop went into that commercial despite the fact that she already had hours of hair and makeup and the best lighting set up possible. Was photoshop really necessary? Why couldn’t she have just looked her age? She certainly would have appealed to the common woman more.

Now here’s a company that decided to take the opposite approach (this is the good news):

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In case you aren’t a female young adult, Aerie is a lingerie store that opened in 2006 as a sister store of American Eagle. They just released this announcement on Friday via their Facebook page. Take a look at the top two comments:

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What did I tell you clothing stores? What has everyone been telling you? If you would stop making your models look like these otherworldly perfect plastic dolls then people will see that you are real and genuine and they will want to buy your clothes more. Aerie was the first to figure it out. I’m interested to see who follows suit. Even if it’s just for the money, it’s a small step in the right direction.

Here’s the first video from the #AerieREAL campaign (released January 17):

And here are some photos from the campaign.

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543x636xaerie-real-unretouched3.jpg.pagespeed.ic.DPeagu0XQP

The girls are obviously still in the top-tier for looks, but I didn’t see any ribs and I see some curves and even some moles. Besides, Aerie is still selling clothing to young adults so we can’t be too hard on them. Business is business.

But, overall, I love this campaign! It’s fresh, fun, and real. I even liked their facebook page, which I don’t do very often because who needs 100 “LIKE OUR PAGE” advertisements on their news feed? So thank you Aerie. You get a well-earned like from me (in addition to the 1.2 other million likes of course).

Get with the program L’Oréal! #AerieREAL

Aerie Twitter: @Aerie

Aerie Facebook: Aerie

Aerie Website: Ae.com/Aerie

Dear Models, Please Eat. Love, America

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Kylie Bisutti won the 2009 Victoria Secret Model Competition. She beat out 10,000 other tall and beautiful girls and got to walk in the famous holiday Victoria Secret Fashion Show.

But, in February of 2012 Bisutti gave up her enviable title as a Victoria Secret model because she said that it was conflicting with her religious values.

Bisutti recalls the exact moment that she had a change of heart. She was “laying on a bed in little clothing while a photographer encouraged her to pose more provocatively.”

“That’s when it hit me. I was being paid to strip down and pose provocatively to titillate men. It wasn’t about modeling clothes anymore; I felt like a piece of meat,” Bisutti writes. “The next day, I broke down and started sobbing. I was in my bedroom and dropped to my knees and started to pray. ‘God, why did you have me win the Victoria’s Secret Angel competition if it was going to make me feel this way? I’m not honoring my husband. I just want answers!'” (yahoo.com)

This year she released a biographical book about her experience with Victoria Secret titled “I’m No Angel” in reference to the top VS models who are dubbed ‘Angels.’

In this sort of tell-all book she talks about the desperate measures models take to stay thin:

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“I pretty much restricted my diet to oatmeal, fruits and vegetables to meet runway expectations. I’m 5-foot-10, and I got down to 115 pounds with measurements of 34-24-34. In February 2007, New York Fashion Week was approaching, and while everyone I knew was being sent out to auditions, I wasn’t. “Why am I still going on test shoots?” I asked my agent. “It’s because you look like a fat cow right now, Kylie. You need to lose 2 inches off of your hips,” the agent said. After cutting my diet even further to just pineapples, watermelon and liters of water while exercising two hours a day, six days a week, I finally dropped down to 108 pounds, which satisfied my agent, and the gigs started rolling in.

I moved in with four other models on the Lower East Side. One of my roommates was so bulimic she would involuntarily throw up when she ate. She would go to sleep crying every night and just look at herself in the mirror thinking that she was so fat. And she was so thin.”

To emphasize just how thin Kylie got I calculated her Body Mass Index.

Normal Adult BMI = 18.5 – 24.9

Underweight BMI = less than 18.5

Anorexia = less than 17.5

At 115 pounds Kylie’s BMI = 16.5 (anorexic)

At 108 pounds Kylie’s BMI = 15.5 (anorexic) 

I mean people always say that models have anorexia nervosa and bulimia, but I always thought that the problem was exaggerated in order to make us normal-sized girls feel better. But there it is.

So let me just break this down real quick. The clothing industry needs to show how clothes will look on a real person. I think we can all understand that. All companies need relevant advertisements. But, in order to advertise their clothes for women they:

1. Scour the nation for the most naturally beautiful, tall and lean women that they can find. Model Scout Lanny Zenga says he travels to “music festivals, concerts, a lot of place you’ll see young, good-looking people” (fashionista.com)

2. Tell these already naturally beautiful women to spend their time exercising and dieting to look even thinner. On nymag.com Alison Boxer – a contestant on Australia’s Next Top Model in 2010 – says, “It was a shock to the system to be told I needed to lose weight. At home a lot of people say I’m too skinny. I was 50kg at one stage, which I thought was a bit scary. So I was coming from a place where people were telling me to gain weight, to now people saying I should lose weight.”

3. Put the models – who are already in the top 5% of our nation for looks – through hours of hair, makeup and wardrobe. Hopefully you’ve all seen the “Evolution of Beauty” video from DOVE.

4. Take the photos from the beautiful models who went through hours of hair and makeup and photoshop those images to make them even more unattainable. Click through some of these ‘before and after photoshop‘ images from magazines.

Yep, that makes sense.

So about that self-esteem problem in our nation. . .

Sometimes I Don’t Like Being Beautiful

In arguments it’s important to consider the other side right? To put yourself in other people’s shoes? Well I decided to look for a firsthand account of the downside of being beautiful. I mean I continually point out the benefits of being beautiful, but what about the disadvantages?

In a blog post titled “Beautiful People – What is it like, day-to-day, to be remarkably attractive?” some talented photographers give us a rare look at the cons of being beautiful. This is the quote that stuck out to me the most:

“So much of my personal value has been placed on what I look like. It’s sad. Looks don’t last. So as I age, will I lose my value?” -Nicole

I think that Nicole has a great point. People who don’t have looks to fall back on automatically turn to other things – writing, art, sports, music, volunteer work, academics, etc. – in order to find something that they’re “good at” so to speak.

But, for Nicole, she’s “good at” looks. She seems wise so hopefully she’s good at other things too. But, sometimes attractive people can get trapped into just being a pretty doll to look at and admire.

Perhaps when she was just 5 years old people came up to her mom saying, “Nicole is so beautiful already. The boys will be fighting over her when she’s older.” Then she was 10 years old, and the boys were already starting to favor her above the rest of her friends. Then she was 15 years old, and she effortlessly took the title of “most popular girl” of her grade. Everyone – male and female – wanted to be her friend because of something she was born with, something she didn’t even have to work for.

Attractive people like Nicole are put on a pedestal without them even having to win a track race, earn the highest GPA, or land the lead role in the musical. They automatically get this same honor that others have to work for. So then maybe attractive people  don’t feel the need to work for something else – to do well in school, or to be nice to others – because everyone already seems to like them. They were born being “good at” something – something that seems to be very important to everyone no matter their age or cultural background. So why would they need to work at other things?

But then at age 40 your outer shell begins to peel off and what will be revealed underneath? An even more beautiful inside? Or a completely hideous inside? If you haven’t been working on your character that will be a horrific time for you. You will feel worthless because all of your value was placed in your now disintegrating outside.

Really, you should never put your value in anything that you are “good at” because anything can be taken away from you.

Looks? You get attacked by a chimp on a trip overseas and it mauls your face. 

Intelligence? You get in a car wreck and suffer severe brain damage. 

Singing? You get surgery and the surgeons mess up your vocal chords. 

Family? You lose your husband, children, and parents in a sudden tsunami. 

So what is it that you value the most? Is it a talent? A person? A position? A material possession? A future dream scenario? Picture this thing or person or scenario. Now picture yourself waking up tomorrow and realizing that it is gone. Completely gone. What do you do?

Did you even picture something? Is this too hypothetical for you? Maybe you’re thinking “My life has been normal – even boring – for 20 years. I am 99.9% sure I am not going to wake up to a tragedy tomorrow or any time in the near future.”

This is the “it will never happen to me” mentality or the “just world phenomenon” from social psychology.

Can I pause to brag for a moment? Okay thanks, I’ll be quick. Here it is: I don’t think I’m a victim of this mentality. I have many examples, but I will just mention one.

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I do not swim in the ocean past my ankles unless the ocean is perfectly clear. I’m not a beach snob, I’m just aware that I have just as much a chance of being eaten by a shark as the next person.

My friends and family sometimes get frustrated with me because of this. They all say the same things: you are more likely to get struck by lightning, only a few hundred people get attacked each year out of the millions and millions of people who swim in the ocean, what are the chances that it will happen to you?

Well, all I’ll say is that I have read “List of fatal, unprovoked shark attacks in the United States” on Wikipedia and it is freaking terrifying. Do you think anyone on that list thought, “There’s a good chance a shark will eat me today.” No, they all probably thought, “What are the chances that I will be the 1 in 11.5 million to get attacked by a shark?”

I mean look at that picture! That is not normal! If you see that coming toward you in the water, you are toast.

You have to realize that you are not immune. There is not an invisible shield around you protecting you from a shark attack, from a rapist, from a kidnapper, from a fatal car accident, from a damaging surgery, from a life-changing injury, or from being catapulted into infamy tomorrow for one mistake you make that goes public.

Now this is obviously very scary and depressing if your value is found in things, people, reputations, or future plans. But there is another option: place your value in God – the only being who can never suddenly be taken away from you. Ever.

After Jesus Christ died on the cross he stayed on earth for 40 days to prove that he had risen from the dead. He revealed Himself at least 12 different times – once to 500 people. But, before he ascended into heaven Jesus told the people who were with Him, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). That was the last thing He said to mankind before He physically left – that He would always be there for them when they asked for His help.

Do bad things still happen to Christians? Oh yes. I struggle with this sometimes. Why do “God’s children,” whom He supposedly protects, suffer from the same things that unbelievers suffer from? Where was that in the Bible?

Job. It was in Job. And many other places. But  mainly in Job. Job is a man who is called “blameless and upright.” He “fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:1) And you want to know what happens to him? Satan attacks him with God’s permission. Satan. . .

1) sends people to steal all of Job’s livestock and to kill the servants who were taking care of them

2) kills Job’s 7 sons and 3 daughters

3) infects Job with boils and festering sores

4) destroys Job’s home and fortune

God loved Job, yet he allowed all of that to happen to him. Want to know who else God loved? His 12 original disciples and Paul. Want to know who was martyred? 11 of those 13 men. Everyone except Judas (suicide after he betrayed Jesus) and John (died of old age on Patmos).

God loved those men, yet he allowed them to be killed by men. And it’s in the Bible. So clearly God and his disciples are not trying to cover this up. It’s in the Bible.

And this same thing that frustrates me in 2013 frustrated King Solomon in 970-931 BC.

In Ecclesiastes – one of his two books that made it in the Bible – King Solomon says, “Everything is the same for everyone. The same fate awaits the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the pure and the impure, those who sacrifice and those who don’t sacrifice. The good person is like the wrongdoer; the same holds for those who make solemn pledges and those who are afraid to swear” 

If you haven’t read Ecclesiastes, King Solomon is the wisest person who has ever lived – and also one of the richest. He decides to pursue all of the pleasures in life in order to find out the lifestyle that makes one the most happy and the most content. He had endless resources to spend on this experiment and you want to know what he found? Everything was meaningless. After all of his escapades he says that all mankind can do is “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Everything else on earth – any pursuit – will ultimately lead to discontentment.

So what I’m trying to say is don’t put all of your energies and hope and value into anything that can be unexpectedly taken away tomorrow morning – which, incidentally, is everything except God.

Bad things will still happen to you if you have a relationship with God, but you will not be broken by them. Instead of walking down the dark paths alone, you will have God at your side, leading you by the hand, catching you when you slip.

This is getting long, but I want to provide a real-life example so this isn’t just a hypothetical idea. This morning my teacher told us this story:

“About 18 years ago when we first moved to Greenville my family and I needed dental care. I had enough money to get our teeth checked out at the dentist, but then I didn’t have enough money to pay for the dental procedures that we needed. I asked God to provide the $2,500 that we needed. I kept praying for two weeks because I knew that God could provide. Finally, I started to walk toward the dentist office across the street to see if we could work out a deal. I felt terrible that I couldn’t provide for my family in this way. But, on the way to the dentist I was convicted. God knew that we needed a dentist, and He would provide. So I turned around and went home. Now my wife was working as a housecleaner for a family in Greenville. When she came home that evening she said that the woman she was working for asked, “Do ya’ll have a dentist in town yet?” “No. Not yet.” she replied. “Well my husband is a dentist and we can provide ya’ll with free dental care.”

And so they have ever since that day.

God held my teacher’s hand through that trial. And that’s just one example. Talk to Christians who pray consistently – yes they are out there – things like this happen all the time.

Paul Washer is a scarily powerful speaker – one of the only preachers who reminds me of the power and boldness with which Paul of the Bible spoke. If you want to know about authentic Christianity don’t listen to Westboro Baptist Interviews. Read the Bible without preconceived notions and then listen to some Paul Washer sermons.

Anyway, I thought I would try to explain trials in the Christian life with just 3 Paul Washer quotes:

1. Because sanctification is progressive, you will spend the greater part of your life chasing other things. And those other things will leave you empty and that is the why of trials. ~Paul Washer

2. You mark my words, and it won’t be long … when persecution begins in this country [USA], and it strips everything from you, and most of the evangelical church goes totally apostate, and little groups are left to be berated, THEN you will see that Christ is enough.  ~Paul Washer

3. Some of the believers that have been most fruitful since the ascension of Jesus Christ were people who experienced extraordinary difficulties.   ~Paul Washer

Like a woodcrafter, God uses trials to shave away at our faults. With each new trial, an obtrusive piece of wood is shaved away, revealing a little bit more solid, beautiful design. Does that makes sense? Trials hack away at our old, sinful character traits and reveal new, beautiful character traits.

Now trials for unbelievers will 1) drive them to Christ or 2) drive them further away from Christ – their only hope – and thus further into despair (depression, suicide, alcoholism or selfishness).

Trials for true believers will 1) drive them to Christ. That is it. It may take them a few stumbles, but God never lets go of His children. Trials lead them to see that God is enough. Christians are not perfect. We doubt. We chase after other things. But then trials come and we depend on God and we realize that, were everything in my life gone tomorrow, I would still have everything because I have Christ.

That is a very quick overview of a complex topic, but I really don’t fancy overcomplicating matters. If you aren’t a Christian, I mean even if you have never heard of the Bible, then I would say read Ecclesiastes. I promise you that anyone would find this an interesting and worthwhile read. It’s only 12 chapters and you can read the whole thing online. Shouldn’t take you more than half an hour if you’re a fast reader. Then I would say listen to some Paul Washer sermons because he doesn’t sugarcoat the Gospel. He just lays it out there and you can take it or leave it.

You can take God or you can leave Him. It’s up to you.

Honest Abe, Chris Gardner, and Talia the Makeup Artist

So I think by now we’ve established that there is a definite beauty bias in our society. For a quick recap: beautiful people are paid more, receive better grades from teachers, are more likely to get a job, are more likely to get a loan, are less likely to be convicted by a jury, and are perceived as kinder and smarter than unattractive people. Also, they get more dates (bostonglobe.com).

We’ve also established that this bias is not going away anytime soon. The beauty bias has been going on since Queen Esther, Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, and so on. It’s pretty much here to stay.

So maybe you’ve been thinking that you are an unattractive-looking person who is suffering from this disadvantage, and you’re understandably frustrated. Where is the justice? You can study harder to get better grades. You can workout and eat better to get healthier. But there is nothing that you can do to change the features that you were born with. So what do you do?

You forget it and concentrate on your advantages and your strengths. Wait, I have advantages and strengths? Yes, you do. What’s the difference? Advantages are things you were born with or born into: beauty, money, a loving family, a good community, parents who push you, teachers who challenge you, good friends, etc. Talents are things that you are naturally born with and continue to develop over time.

First, everyone has disadvantages and advantages in life. Maybe you were born into a reckless family that you feel like has set you up for a lifetime of failure. Maybe you feel like your looks have set you up for a lifetime of disappointment. On the other hand, maybe you were born into an awesome, supportive community that you feel has set you up for success. Or maybe you were born into a wealthy family that has allowed you to attend college without collecting debt.

Second, everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I don’t think I need to explain this one, but basically some people can sing, some can write, some can throw a ball, etc. No one can do everything. Period. No exceptions.

This requires a visual representation. Let’s look at a chart because you know how much I like graphs.

As you can see in this chart there are 3 girls: Macie, Becky, and Alice. Now look down their charts. Does one person have all the advantages? No. Does one person have all the talents? No.

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Everyone and I mean everyone like literally every single person on this earth has advantages and disadvantages, and strengths and weaknesses. If you see someone you think is perfect then you haven’t spent enough time with them. You haven’t seen their home life or you haven’t seen them try to play a sport or you haven’t seen their grade reports.

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” -Steven Furtick

For example, if you saw “Macie” at school you would see a beautiful girl who could sing, play soccer, write pretty well, and was the smartest person in Chemistry class. But, what you don’t see is that she has never been very funny, she can’t draw even though she wants to, her family isn’t supportive of her singing or academic abilities, she doesn’t have very much money, she has struggled with asthma and diabetes her whole life, and she just lost her best friend to cancer. This is why you never know someone until you know someone, you know? Don’t judge people based on what you see because you don’t know 99% of what they have been through, are going through, and will go through.

So maybe you don’t have a great family, but you somehow found an awesome group of friends. That is a HUGE blessing, advantage, whatever you want to call it. A lot of people would say they don’t have close friends.

Maybe you can’t draw, sing, dance, or act to save your life, but you can finish a math test before anyone has flipped that first page. That is a strength. You are blessed with an awesome strength that a lot of people spend hours studying to acquire.

Like the Spiderman quote, it’s not about what kinds or how many advantages and talents you were given, it’s what you do with them. So don’t waste your advantages and strengths by concentrating on your disadvantages and weaknesses.

The happiest of people do not have the best of everything. They make the best of everything they have. 

It’s not about what you have, it’s about what you do with what you have. Check it out:

1) Chris Gardner’s (The Pursuit of Happyness) “childhood was marked by poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, sexual abuse and family illiteracy.” Did he use that as an excuse to give up? Did he say, “I’ve been dealt a bad hand. Everyone successful was born into a rich family with connections.” No.

He worked hard to become a trainee at Dean Witter Reynolds. Was he done? Nope. He and his son became homeless for a year while he worked harder than most people have ever worked in their lives in order to get noticed. After a year, it finally worked. He went to work for Bear Stearns & Co. But, that whole time he never told anyone that he was going to the soup kitchen, sleeping in the park, sleeping in locked bathrooms, etc.  (chrisgardnermedia.com)

He didn’t let himself use his disadvantages as an excuse to do nothing or to pout.

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2. Abraham Lincoln was described as the ugliest man some people had ever seen. Did he become insecure and hide in his bedroom? No. He did the opposite. He went out into the middle of the public eye and gave possibly the greatest speech in all of history. Can you imagine if he had become a recluse just because he wasn’t physically pleasing to the eye? Would slavery still have been abolished in 1865?

Oh, and by the way have you seen the motivational poster that tells about Lincoln’s perseverance:

“He failed in business in ’31. He was defeated for state legislator in ’32. He tried another business in ’33. It failed. His fiancée died in ’35. He had a nervous breakdown in ’36. In ’43 he ran for congress and was defeated. He tried again in ’48 and was defeated again. He tried running for the Senate in ’55. He lost. The next year he ran for Vice President and lost. In ’59 he ran for the Senate again and was defeated. In 1860, the man who signed his name A. Lincoln, was elected the 16th President of the United States. The difference between history’s boldest accomplishments and its most staggering failures is often, simply, the diligent will to persevere.” (successories.com).

What a man. Also, yesterday I did a post on other unattractive people who are considered important historical figures for their contributions to politics, music, literature, and more. If you didn’t win the genetic lottery, have no fear because there are plenty of other things to be good at. Besides, looks fade quickly. Writing abilities, kindness, speaking abilities, teaching abilities, etc. are usually good for life. Much better investment in the long run.

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3. Talia Castellano was diagnosed with 2 forms of cancer (neuroblastoma and myelodysplastic syndrome) as a child. She battled cancer for 6 years, and she died at age 13 on July 16, 2013. Did she think “Well I’m going to die soon, why try to do anything worthwhile? I’m too young anyway.” No. She made her own YouTube channel where she posted makeup tutorial videos under the screen name “taliajoy18.” She still has over 1 million subscribers.

While undergoing cancer treatment Talia radiated joy, hope, and love at the tender age of 13. I still tear up watching some of her videos.

Want to know the most dangerous thing about my chart from up above? Sometimes when we have slots that say “Not So Good at Dancing,” “Poor Grades,” and “Unsupportive Family” and we see someone else’s slots that say “Star Dancer,” “Valedictorian,” and “Supportive Family,” we get jealous. This is not good. Jealousy is a monster that can eat you from the inside out.

And you know what, believe it or not, other people are jealous of some of your filled slots. Slots that your probably forget are filled because they’ve always been filled and you don’t bother to notice that they’re filled anymore. Be happy for those filled slots.

And don’t be jealous of other people. You need those other people, and those other people need you. We need each other to make a functional and enjoyable society. Be happy for other people’s filled slots, and other people will be happy for your filled slots.

I Corinthians 12 gives an excellent illustration. It says that we are each given spiritual gifts (wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing). Each of us then makes up one part of a complete functioning body.

17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. 

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,

Whoever is reading this, you have awesome advantages and awesome talents. Sometimes the examples are of these incredible rags to riches stories that make it on the Ellen show, but there are so so many more. Look around. People everywhere are overcoming disadvantages and are using their talents to help others and to bring joy to others. The list is endless. Don’t end up on the other list of people who wallow in self-pity lamenting their disadvantages in life and their lack of talent. The choice is up to you. Where do you want your name?

Famous Unattractive People from History

Don’t ever let your appearance be an excuse to not reach your full potential. More on that tomorrow but, for now, peruse through the pictures and short quotes on 6 influential historical figures who were widely described as “unattractive” or downright “ugly.”

1. Socrates (469 B.C. – 399 B.C.)

Who? A famous Greek philosopher.

Ugly? “Beauty, including personal, was vital. It was linked with being good. However, Socrates was ugly, according to all accounts, a fact that made him a good target for Aristophanes in his comedies.” (ancient history.about.com)

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2. Jean-Paul Sartre (1905 – 1980)

Who? Famous French philosopher.

Ugly? Evidently Sartre first realizes that he was ugly when he got a haircut. When he came home, his mother wept at the sight of him because she had specifically designed his former haircut to hide some of his ugliness. (nytimes.com)

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3. George Eliot (1819 – 1880)

Who? Also known as Mary Ann Evans, Eliot was a famous English novelist (Middlemarch and Silas Marner)

Ugly? “magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous.”

“It must be a terrible sorrow to be young and unattractive: to look in the mirror and see a sallow unhealthy face, with a yellowish skin, straight nose, and mouse-colored hair,”

“a woman with next to no feminine beauty or charm or of countenance or person,” (newyorker.com)

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4. Abraham Lincoln (1809 – 1865)

Who? The 16th president of the United States. He abolished slavery in 1865 and was assassinated later that year at the Ford’s Theater.

Ugly? “homeliest boy in the area”

“thin as a beanpole and ugly as a scarecrow”

Lincoln even joked about his appearance:

(1) After being called two-faced in a debate: ‘I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?’

(2) “I was once accosted … by a stranger who said `Excuse me, sir, but I have an article in my possession which belongs to you.’ `How is that?’ I asked, considerably astonished. The stranger took a jackknife from his pocket. `This knife,’ said he, `was placed in my hands some years ago, with the injunction that I was to keep it until I found a man uglier than myself. Allow me now to say, sir, that I think you are fairly entitled to the property.’ ”

(3) “I don’t know why you boys want such a homely face.” — Lincoln, when urged to have a photograph

(4) “On repeated occasions he remarked to some woman or to an audience, `In the matter of looks I have the advantage,’ meaning that they had to look at him while he couldn’t see himself.” (physical-lincoln.com)

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5. Queen Charlotte (1744 – 1818)

Who? Charlotte married King George III and became the queen of England and Ireland.

Ugly? “‘She was famously ugly,’ says Desmond Shawe-Taylor, surveyor of the Queen’s pictures.” (theguardian.com)

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6. Beethoven (1770 – 1827)

Who? Ludwig Van Beethoven is an acclaimed German composer and pianist. (Listen to the Best of Beethoven)

Ugly? “Beethoven was only about 1.6 meters (5 feet, 2 inches) tall, an ugly man, often unkempt, with a pockmarked face,” Ladenburger said. (www.dw.de)

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