As I was walking the other evening, the sun was setting behind me and my shadow stretched out in front of me like a giant version of myself. I shuddered at the thought of being that large, but I knew that it was not an accurate version of my shape and size. Like my shadow, the world seems to place a lens over our eyes in terms of how we’re supposed to look. I’m getting tired of our culture and western society dictating to me what I need to look like in order to be acceptable. It’s time I wrote about this. It’s time I let go of whatever notions I have about the way I look and the way you look and the way I expect people to look and just accept us all for how we look right now.
As women, our society tells us by the ads we watch that our skin must be smooth and blemish- and wrinkle-free. Our hair must never be gray unless we’re really old. We must aim to look like a Cover Girl, with perfect makeup and long eyelashes and white teeth. Our bodies must have curves in the right places, and be flat and toned in all the other places. We must have long, luxurious hair on our heads and no hair anywhere else. Men have a similar set of standards.
If we don’t look like this, we just don’t measure up. It’s not even other people looking at us and saying this to us. Our society teaches us to say this to ourselves. Can you imagine a world where we didn’t feel like we needed to look like the people on television, and we could just look however we looked and that was acceptable?
I’m not saying let yourself go, don’t bathe and don’t make an effort to look clean and presentable. It’s important to care about the way you look. In fact, not caring at all represents other issues. But what if for once we looked in the mirror and didn’t see something we wished could be different—we just smiled and winked and loved that reflection just the way it is?
The truth is that you and your body are more acceptable and more beautiful than you realize. Your body is awesome no matter what it looks like, because it has to be. It’s the only one you get. If you don’t love it and accept it, you may struggle along like someone we know who recently died, authorizing surgery after surgery to try and change it and make it look like something else. Your body and your spirit together make YOU. “And the spirit and the body are the soul of man.” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:15) “The physical body is a divine gift, a complement crucial to the spirit if we are to receive a fulness of heavenly joy and glory. The Doctrine and Covenants declares that ‘spirit and element, inseparably connected, receive a fulness of joy. And when separated, man cannot receive a fulness of joy.’” (John Tanner, “The Body As a Blessing”)
“I marvel at the miracle of the human mind and body. Have you ever contemplated the wonders of yourself, the eyes with which you see, the ears with which you hear, the voice with which you speak? No camera ever built can compare with the human eye. No method of communication ever devised can compare with the voice and the ear. No pump ever built will run as long or as efficiently as the human heart. No computer or other creation of science can equal the human brain. What a remarkable thing you are. You can think by day and dream by night. You can speak and hear and smell. Look at your finger. The most skillful attempt to reproduce it mechanically has resulted in only a crude approximation. The next time you use your finger, watch it, look at it, and sense the wonder of it. You are a child of God, His crowning creation. After He had formed the earth, separated the darkness from the light, divided the waters, created the plant and animal kingdoms—after all this He created man and then woman.” (Gordon Hinkley, “The Body is Sacred”)
I submit to you that the world’s definition of what is beautiful and what is acceptable is not the true definition of beauty. If we could remove the blinders of the world’s ideas and definitions and see ourselves for what we truly are, we would be astounded by the beauty and majesty of these physical bodies. We would thank God every day for the gift that they are—for they allow us an opportunity to become like Him. Next time you look in the mirror, put away the criticism and try giving yourself a compliment. Let’s love our bodies!