The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

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The Eye of the Beholder

‘I want to look like me again.’ Is this an advert for a cosmetics detox, or a new ‘no makeup selfie’ campaign? Quite the opposite: it’s the advertising slogan for a brand of hair dye.

This ad campaign strikes me as incredibly sad on two levels. Firstly, there’s the self-delusion that authenticity can be achieved by creating an illusion. Secondly, and more seriously, there’s the revelation of a deep brokenness in our culture.

The ‘beauty industry’ is worth £17 billion in the UK alone, and it’s not just for women: male makeup exists, too. That’s £17 billion invested in telling men, women, and children that the real them isn’t good enough. Look around in your office, at the supermarket, or on the bus: it’s a safe bet that most of the people you see are worried that they don’t measure up.

Actress and presenter Jameela Jamil told the BBC’s 100 Women series this week how she had been ‘fat-shamed’ by newspapers when she gained weight, and described how airbrushed images of herself affected her mental health. I’ve got friends who genuinely fear being seen without makeup. This is not the ‘life in all its fullness’ that Jesus promises us!

Don’t get me wrong, I get my hair cut in a way I feel is flattering. I enjoy the compliments when I use a dab of mascara. And all the ‘likes’ on my profile picture after I had a makeover once did give me a buzz. But all that admiration is for a make-believe me. It’s far more affirming to be praised for my character, gifts, and abilities than for the darkness of my eyelashes or the shape of my hair.

Yet even this is not true flourishing. I am only free when I find my sense of identity, my self-worth, not in the praise of others but in the love of God.

In his powerful little book, The Freedom of Self-forgetfulness, Tim Keller puts it like this:

‘The only person whose opinion counts looks at me and he finds me more valuable than all the jewels in the earth. How can we worry about being snubbed now? How can we care that much about what we look like in the mirror?’

I can’t think of any benefits of beauty products that aren’t outweighed by the joy and freedom of being known, loved, and forgiven by the creator of the universe.

Jennie Pollock
Jennie is a freelance writer and editor who lives in London and worships at Grace London. She blogs at and tweets as @missjenniep

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Jennie Pollock


  1. Great piece!

    By Tim  -  7 Dec 2018
  2. This is such an incredibly valuable article. It would be great to put it on Facebook where everyone only shows the good and successful parts of their lives.

    By CAROL BEVAN  -  7 Dec 2018
  3. Thanks Jennie, this is a helpful piece.

    It can be so very painful to be rejected by others for any reason – including how we look. And telling people that they should not worry about appearances does not necessarily help. (I remember once a tall, muscular and very handsome youth worker telling a group of teenagers “It doesn’t matter what you look like. Just put that out of your mind!”. “That’s fine you” I thought, “Try being a skinny teenager with an acne problem!”)

    What we need to do is to demonstrate the love of Christ in our relationships. That is not always easy. People are not always attractive physically, neither are their personalities. It is however what we are called to do as Christians.

    If we do this we may prove the old adage that actions speak louder than words – and remember that beauty is only skin deep.

    By John Steley  -  7 Dec 2018
  4. So, I have said this very thing while looking at myself in the mirror and deciding to highlight my hair, which I have done and with which I am delighted. I know that God loves me amazingly, unconditionally and continuously and I rejoice in Him every day. I love that people colour their hair and dress in creative ways and I rejoice in that. This is not a sad ad, it is a creative ad.

    By Mary  -  7 Dec 2018
  5. Well put, and the Tim Keller quote is good too 🙂

    By Bruce Gulland  -  7 Dec 2018
  6. Thank you this is a powerful and important message. Let us do our best to affirm one another and to be encouraged by the fact that God loves us. We often need to see God’s love reflected to us through the love of friends and family and the church family. Those who will stand by us when we are weak.

    By Prudence Eliapenda  -  7 Dec 2018
  7. Thank you. It’s a pity that girls in particular don’t get this message at home, in school and on Facebook. I have never worn makeup but I too know people who would not go out without their ‘face’! It is very sad. God loves us just as we are, the way He made us. It takes some of us, including many Christians, too long to realise this. If He is the most important person in our lives and He sees the real me, then no-one else’s opinion need matter. Hallelujah!

    By Sue W  -  7 Dec 2018
  8. Very timely for me, Jennie, as I’ve just let my hair go grey!

    By Cynthia Tews  -  7 Dec 2018
  9. I thank God that I can change the colour of my hair, nails etc
    I find the people I love and like to be increasingly attractive physically.
    Learning to say no or see the lie in adverts and consumerism is all around us – not just to do with appearances.

    By Veronica  -  8 Dec 2018
  10. Personally, I’m glad I’m not attractive. In the first place, it stops me from committing all sorts of sins. In the second place, it’s nice not to be all that bothered by advertising which tells me I need to be better than I am. No amount of makeup would make me look five inches taller, broad-shouldered and suave.

    Just remember – Jesus wasn’t all that much to look at either (Isaiah 53:2)

    By Alfred J  -  10 Dec 2018

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