I recently had an image crisis.
Packing for my friends’ festival-themed ‘sten’ (a joint stag/hen do), I panicked. What was the right ‘festival’ look? Social media seemed to have strong opinions. For me, the question ultimately boiled down to which face glitter I should wear. The struggle, as they say, is real.
Image crises are not a new phenomenon. Even Adam and Eve, after eating the forbidden fruit, fashioned some large leaves to cover themselves. Somehow though, there seems to be more doubt than ever about our image and identity.
The search for identity in the perfect image leads people to seek out all kinds of solutions, from the mild to the extreme. It can be as serious as dabbling in crazy – and often dangerous – fad diets to get the illusive ‘summer bikini body’, or as trivial as my face glitter dilemma.
Sadly, however, a misunderstanding of our true image has created a culture in which there is an ever-growing demand for surgical procedures to change ourselves. The UK cosmetic surgery industry was said to be worth £3.6 billion in 2015 and is globally worth $20 billion today.
There are movements attempting to counteract this myth of the ‘perfect image’. Dove, for example, has been showing natural women – and now, different shaped bottles of body wash – in TV adverts, exemplifying that there is no normal.
As refreshing as such messages are, however, there is only one source of truth powerful enough to transform and free us from the constant struggle for the perfect image: the living word of God.
The Bible is clear about the truth regarding our image and identity. In Genesis 1:27 we learn that God made human beings in his image. Our identity, according to 2 Corinthians 6:18, is as sons and daughters of the living God.
Of course we have a part to play in stewarding the bodies we have been given. But when we find our identity in God and understand that as our beholder, God sees us clearly and loves the beauty that he sees, I believe we will be far less swayed by the voices of the masses, and maybe they will be swayed by us instead.
So, an encouragement: embrace and thank God for your identity. Be confident in the way God made you, declaring that you are beautiful to a world which so often tells us otherwise.
Rachel is a solicitor. She lives and works in Manchester but daydreams about travelling the world.