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.

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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?