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Finding True Worth in an Image Obsessed Culture

By: Kristen Clark

After years of failed attempts to become a European supermodel, Alana’s dream job finally became a reality. Out of thousands of girls, she was selected to be a runway supermodel for a famous fashion designer in Milan, Italy.

She was exactly what they wanted.

After spending a short vacation at home with her family in America, she arrived back in Italy only to find that her position had been replaced.

“You’re not what we want anymore,” one of the Italian agency directors told her. “You’re too short and too pale. We found someone better.”

Alana’s dreams shattered before her eyes.

This was her life. She was good enough one day and not good enough the next. Her entire worth and definition for success was based on how she looked.

Whether you’re a supermodel or not, you’ve probably felt like you didn’t measure up at times. You’ve probably felt the pressure to look a certain way in order to win the approval of those around you.

For centuries cultures have placed a huge emphasis on fashion and the latest clothing styles. However, in recent years something huge was invented that launched the clothing industry further than it’s ever been before. Do you know what it was?

The invention of the camera.

As a result of the camera, the fashion industry is now able to instantly capture pictures and share them with the entire world.

Think about it. You’re able to instantly receive images (via email) from any clothing store the moment they launch a new line or have a big sale. Fashion companies broadcast their runway shows on television, while other companies grab your attention through a billboard.

The pressure for you to have the best body, cutest outfit, and perfect makeup is at an all time high. This pressure stems from the fact that you now live in an image obsessed culture.

Even the YWCA agrees: “Every woman in the United States participates in a daily beauty pageant, whether she likes it or not. Engulfed by a popular culture saturated with images of idealized, air-brushed and unattainable female physical beauty, women and girls cannot escape feeling judged on the basis of their appearance.”

Our image obsessed culture has taught you that physical beauty and fashionable clothing are the keys elements to being a girl.

Our modern culture has driven the focus of millions of girls towards one pressing question: “How do I look?”

Girls of all ages are now consumed with themselves and their outward appearances.

Their minds are filled with questions like these:

– What do my friends think about me?
– Does she like my outfit?
– Are my clothes in style?
– What does he think about me?
– Will they think I look fat in this outfit?
– Do I look sexy in this?
– Is my makeup pretty?
– Are my pimples really obvious?
– Am I okay, or do I need to change something?

How many of those questions do you ask yourself everyday?

These questions are simply a sign of a deeper heart issue. We have become slaves to the standards and opinions of others. The approval from others is the driving force for why we’re consumed with our outward appearance.

When we allow other people to define our worth and value, we give them a power over us that only God was meant to have.

This is a very dangerous road because the opinions of the culture change with every new season. This will cause you to live in a constant state of fear and insecurity.

If you’re tired of never measuring up, you need to change the focus of your heart.

Instead of constantly asking yourself the question, “How do I look?” you need to ask, “How can I be more like Christ?” You need to exchange your “me-centered” heart for a “Christ-centered” heart.

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man?” (Galatians 1:10a).

Over the past few years God has been convicting me about my self-focused heart and showing me that I valued the opinion of others more than God.

My identity wasn’t about who I was in Christ, it was about who I was to my friends. 

God cares for you and me so much more than our friends ever will.

If you’re having any doubts about your identity in Christ check out 1 John 3:1b: “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

Or read Psalm 139:13 which says, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.”

God created you exactly the way you look (in your mother’s womb!) and loves everything about your outward appearance. Yes, putting on makeup and dressing in style can be fine, but being consumed with fitting in, pleasing others, and looking perfect is not fine.

You can’t help that you live in an image obsessed culture, but you can help how you respond to it.

You will never be happy with the way you look until you live for the approval of God and not the world.

I hope the next time you look in a mirror and ask yourself that little question, “How do I look?” you will see yourself as a child of God and a valuable creation of the King.

  • In what ways do you feel the pressure of living in an image obsessed culture?
  • Do you find yourself “dressing” for the approval of those around you? If so, does it satisfy your heart’s longing?
  • How can you shift your focus from asking “how do I look,” to instead asking, “how can I become more like Christ?”

Photo credit: www.flickr.com | 5056567570 

Girl with wild hair

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  • Katie

    Good stuff, great truths! I find that I don’t necessarily “dress for the approval of those around me” so much as I’m afraid that I won’t be as pretty as other girls on campus, worried that my clothes look stupid, and I’m worried that other ppl will see me as fat :/ lol I don’t necessarily allow the “image obsessed culture” to dictate what I wear, however, I allow what I think other think of how I look mess wit and occupy my mind waaaaayy too much.

    • Elizabeth Williams

      That’s me! I’ve never allowed what other people think to dictate what I wear, but at the same time, I definitely worry how I look and what others are thinking. I guess that’s about just as bad?

      • Katie

        ha ha I was assuming it probably was 😉 cuz I *certainly* do that, the “I’ll wear what I know is God-honoring and appropriate, but I’ll worry if I look “good enough” ((whoa. according to whose standards ‘good enough’!?! >:( lol)) the entire time” 😛

  • Elizabeth Williams

    I don’t see how you found the time to write this with having to finish up the book, but I’m glad you did! I am one of those who has always worried about what other people think, and I can tell you that it’s so not worth it. I have thought that I would feel better about myself if only I had this outfit or if only I could do my hair a certain way or if only I had x amount of friends, but none of the helps. You still find yourself empty and longing for something else. Only now that I’m allowing Christ to define me and my worth am I finally starting to feel better about myself.

  • Allie

    I´ve been there, but it´s a bit different. Im my group people grew up dressing modestly, some people may think we´re extremely conservative. That´s the rule, if you´re not modest you don´t “fit in”. But sometimes I´ve found myself trying to be modest just to be accepted instead of being like Christ.

    I live in a world obsessed with “godliness” and tht´s good but, sometimes… maybe all the time I feel so unworthy, because I know how much I fail, and see many other incredible girls, and how others admire them… What would be your advice for a girl like me? Am I being just selfish and proud? I know that Christ loves me, but why is it so hard? What’s wrong with me?

    • Allie I am glad that you live in a world where modesty and godliness are important to others. This will help you in your walk with God and to be more Christ like. I feel it definitely poses different challenges of “doing” things for the wrong reasons. Please remember that Christ did it all for you, there is nothing more that you need to do. Titus 3:5 “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.” Remind yourself daily what Christ has done for us, preach the gospel to yourself everyday. The rest will all fall into place. Ask God to give you the right motives to dress modestly and to pursue righteousness.

      • Allie

        Thanks Tammy!
        I think I need to do that until my heart start believing what it truly means what Christ did for me!
        I know I´m enough in Him, but sometimes it´s hard to think that maybe I´m single beacuse I´m not as good as “such and such” or that I need to be more ______ or less_______. I always think that I should be doing something else, or something different…. and sometimes I have wrong motives. But, you´re right I don´t need to do nothing more….

        • Elizabeth Williams

          Sometimes we can do the right things but for the wrong motives. I know this all too well! I agree with Tammy’s advice, amd pray that the Lord would show you how to have the right intentions. And yeah, I know exactly what you mean about feeling that you would be better if you could only be like ???? or whatever, but I’ve found that that is definitely a lie of Satan’s that he uses. And it works all too often!

  • Mariana França

    Those texts are always so great! May God bless your self and that He continues to use your words to say what He wants! Thank you very much! It´s so good to be remided of our identity in Jesus! 🙂

  • Heidi

    Thank you so much for the post. It came right when I needed it!! So often I feel myself worrying about what people will think about me and it really holds me back from being who God made me to be. This was just very encouraging post! Thanks so much!

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