What’s Behind Your Vanity?
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall...a plastic surgeon, shall I call?” Sound familiar? Women today are more concerned with their appearance than ever before, and live with ever-increasing standards for “beauty.” It can make even naturally attractive women nuts. When vanity runs amuck, suddenly no wrinkle is acceptable, no change in your figure can be taken as a natural part of aging, and we actually find ourselves jealous of our daughters and the youthful beauty they enjoy.
So what’s driving this focus on external appearances? To be sure, there are external factors like a celebrity-obsessed media and a consumer culture which makes its living by making you feel inadequate. But there are internal drivers for our personal vanity that are often the real source of the problem if we’re honest with ourselves. See if any of these three sound familiar to you:
You were that girl in fourth grade whose papers were neat and penmanship perfect; and your home is a marvel of cleanliness, style and organization. So you can’t drop the ball with your look, now can you? You wouldn’t dare leave the house without being perfectly put together—I mean, what if you ran into someone you knew?
Our advice: Recognize that the people who matter will love you just as much if you’re a little undone. Sure, others may admire your ability to look polished all the time, but it’s not the only reason they care for and value you. If you aren’t careful, your perfectionism can become a prison, convincing you that you can’t go somewhere or do something if you can’t do it perfectly. Take it in baby steps: maybe you drop the kids off at school without make-up on sometime (real people do that, you know), or run a couple of errands after your work-out while you’re still a little frazzled and sweaty. You may find living outside the “perfect” box can be liberating!
You’ve never been the “pretty one,” so you work overtime to make sure you’re not the “downright unattractive one” in your circle. For other people, constant attention to fashion and beauty may be recreational, but for you it’s about survival. If they (and they can be a number of people: your spouse, your friends, your co-workers) ever saw what you really look like without the constant primping, it would be disastrous.
Our advice: Again, back away from the mirror and realize that your worth to the people in your life is about so much more than how you look. Sure, most husbands like for their wives to take care of themselves and make a little effort, but his standard of attractiveness is probably far below the bar you (with the help of that stack of fashion magazines) have set for yourself. We find a great deal of encouragement in looking at the biblical perspective on beauty, and recognizing that each of us is “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. (Psalm 139:14) You are beautiful in the eyes of your creator, who knows all and sees all! So relax and remember that you’re lovely, crow’s feet and all.
It started when you were competing for the title of Little Miss Potato Festival in 1990, and it hasn’t ended yet. You don’t just like to be pretty—you like to be prettier than everyone around you. So you wield your mascara wand like a weapon in a war against the rest of the female world. The battle that used to be fought with simple tools available at the drug store has gone nuclear in your forties--botox, surgery, lasers--whatever it takes, you’re in it to win it.
Our advice: It’s time to recognize that there is no panel of judges watching you walk into the grocery store. Or to your kids’ soccer game. It’s OVER. There will be no more official recognitions of the superiority of your looks, and no tiaras. Given that—what’s the big deal? It’s OK to look like a regular mom, and let the other moms glow sometimes, too. You may even find that if you tone it down, your tween or teen daughters will feel a bit more confident. Living in the shadow of a competitive, vain mom can be tough. Relax, pretty mom! We promise you’ll still be cute enough.
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