The Price of Beauty
June 1, 2019| by jamie beeson
She wakes up, glances in the mirror, and zones in on her imperfections: the stretch marks on her hips, the saggy skin under her belly button, her bulging thighs, thick calves, crooked nose, dark circles, and sun-spotted skin. She completes her daily ritual of camouflaging; hiding and covering up all things she does not want the world to see. She tries on multiple outfits to find the clothes that best hide her hips, pooch, and cover up her embarrassing places. Her pants feel tighter today than they did yesterday, and her shirt seems to hug her body in an uncomfortable reveal. Maybe black clothing will hide how she feels.
When she sits, she notices her thighs spreading across her seat, and tries to sit taller, tuck it in, and shrink. As other women cross her path, she notices their perfect skin and slender builds. Secretly, she wishes she looked just a little more like that, and quietly she resolves to workout harder and stop eating sugar. As another person joins her, her mind is slightly distracted, but her heart carries the residue of judgment she's placed on herself. She feels unworthy and embarrassed. She thinks of all of the “should and shouldn't have" and deems herself inadequate. It colors her conversations and taints her decisions. It makes her sensitive to compliments and jump at her husband’s touch.
Do you know her? Can you relate? Have you heard some of those same voices and judgments; put forth some of the same efforts to hide what you don’t approve of? Have you held yourself to the unrealistic standard of the perfect weight, right size, or youthful look to feel acceptable? How often does the thought that you should look better cross your mind? How often are you embarrassed about your body? What do you pay for to help you cover up and hold back?
What is the cost?
It's estimated that Americans spend around 70 billion dollars a year to lose weight, and globally we spend 532 billion on cosmetics. Even in times of personal financial crisis or an economic downturn, the cosmetic and shoe industries thrive and, in some cases, even RISES. The financial cost of ‘covering-up' or image changing is obvious. It adds up quickly. But what are the costs we are not counting and measuring?
I could relate to the above story for many years of my life. I don’t know if it’s because I turned 40, or that I've finally become convinced that other things are more valuable than how I look, but I don't feel as consumed. Don’t get me wrong, I still get my hair done and I like to look beautiful, I just don’t fret about things NEARLY as much as I used to. I can still clearly remember the days that I spent thinking about how terrible I looked or obsessing about the number on my scale. I can vulnerably share that it cost me peace and joy. I gave up peace by using my mind to mentally calculate every calorie in and out during my day. I gave up joy by drowning in guilt when I ate too many brownies or too many handfuls of chips. I sacrificed enjoyment at pools, lakes, and on vacations with my family because I felt insecure in my swimsuit and was convinced that people agreed with me about how I looked.
Recently, a friend of mine shared about a special conversation she had with her grandmother (in her final months of life). Her grandmother had been overweight for the majority of her life, and in most seasons she was on a diet, trying this or avoiding that. She longed to be thin. As she sat by her grandmother’s bedside, her frail body and bony hands lying lifeless next to her, they talked about life and love. Grandma shared that she now has what she always thought she wanted…to be thin. But, she said that at the end of her life, all that mattered was the joy of being with her family, reminiscing about memories and special moments, cherishing the love they shared. “What a waste,” she said. My friend revealed that at that moment, she was struck with what she was wasting by wanting to be a different size. It cost her living in the moment now. In the one conversation, it hit her deeply that those moments are not unlimited and she’s been spending them as if there’s an endless account.
As we talked, we agreed that everything has a cost. It’s an exchange. We exchange time and money. We give away peace, joy, and confidence. Is the return even worth it? There might be some things that are worth the financial expense, but I’m not sure I could convince myself that there is anything worth stealing my joy.
Upon second glance, she looks in the mirror and sees her beautiful smile. She is grateful for the body that gave her the miracle of children. She remembers the moments of healing, adventure, and the story that’s behind every scar, mark, and every new wrinkle. She appreciates the gray hairs, and associates them with lessons of wisdom gained. She feels the freedom in her body that moves with strength and flexibility…and she is grateful that she has another day to live this moment and soak up every beautiful thing that comes her way.
List 10 things you appreciate about your body the way it is now.
I had always wondered what it'd be like to be content. I’d watch others who seemed to be content and think, “Gosh, wouldn’t that be nice? To love life just as is…to feel that kind of joy and satisfaction." I pondered whether it was possible to be a dreamer, doer, and completely content at any given moment.
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