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Unfiltered Beauty: Embracing Your Face Without a Filter

By: Guest Blogger

I angled the phone. Smiled. Clicked capture. My sister had just purchased a new smartphone, and I wanted to try out the camera. It had more filters and options than my own “next door to a dumb phone” device, which, of course, meant better selfies. I tried out every single filter, loving the results.

I clicked an icon in the corner, which brought up three more options. The first was called “slim face.” Curious, I moved the bar all the way to the right and watched in awe as my face narrowed before my eyes. My cheeks hollowed until it looked like I was sucking on lemons. I laughed, and moved on to option two: “large eyes.” I slid the bar over, feeling my eyes widen as my eyes widened. I blinked a couple times, then tried out option three: “skin tone.”

While I found options one and two amusing and bordering on ridiculous, this one struck a nerve.

My mild acne scars vanished. My freckles disappeared. Even the tiny mole on my chin lightened. The girl on the screen facing me had the skin of my dreams. She looked like me, but she wasn’t me—because she was better than me, prettier than me. She was flawless where I wasn’t.

But she also wasn’t real—she didn’t exist outside of my selfie screen. She wasn’t the woman God created. The girl staring back at me was perfect with her filters, and touch-ups, and lighting corrections, but she wasn’t the girl I wanted to be.

I deleted the picture.

Looking at the World Through a Filter.

Technology has changed the world. Nothing has been left untouched in its hurricane sweep across society—including beauty.

Especially beauty.

In 1987, Photoshop—and edited pictures—began to invade the culture. Airbrushed models appeared on magazine covers, billboards displayed images of flawless (edited) beauty. Suddenly, it wasn’t enough to just be beautiful. Even the most gorgeous model could be improved in some way.

Now, thirty years later, the technology of early photo editing software is available on our smartphones and Instagram accounts.

Now, we don’t just feel inferior to the models in magazines, but to our friends and followers. The hashtag #nofilter has erupted as one of the most popular on Instagram, because, obviously, every other picture does have a filter.

We’ve created a new airbrushed society.

We’ve produced new filtered identities—another level of perfection to compete with; one that’s totally accessible if you have the right filter, but never enough to satisfy. But tell me something—who actually designed beauty? Who decided that thin faces and large eyes are what’s beautiful?

Every culture has a different standard of beauty. In America, you’re probably considered a knockout if you’re the typical California bombshell—blonde, beachy waves, and perfectly bronzed skin. But in China and Japan, women don’t go to the tanning parlor. Instead, they buy products that bleach their skin and create a creamy, white complexion. Hair straightening is also a major thing in Japan — as much as the curly vs. straight debate is hot in America. But you can forget all about hair if you live in certain parts of Africa—shaved heads are the way to go. Seriously.

Our culture’s standard of beauty is just that—a standard.

It shifts and alters with each new generation. Movie stars and celebrities lead the mad dash of fashion, but even their influence is fickle. Just check out how many hairstyles Taylor Swift has had. One thing is obvious. Women want to be beautiful. Eve led the way, and ever since the Fall, we’ve been plagued with insecurity and doubts over our appearance.

With each new makeup invention and each new possible filter, another layer is added to our beauty tier. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the merry-go-round. Tired of never being able to measure up, because — let’s be real — I never will.

It’s time for a for a beauty revolution.

True Beauty Doesn’t Need a Filter

Beauty has become dependent on so many things. Perfect makeup, perfect hair, a perfect body, trendy clothes, and yes, the right filter. These things have become necessary if we’re going to feel confident with a new selfie. There are so many boxes to check off. It’s exhausting.

But God doesn’t call us to that.

Every night, when I take off my makeup, I look in the mirror and see the real me. I don’t have flawless skin or mascara-laden eyes, and there’s no filter in sight; but despite my insecurities, I’m confident that this is the girl God created. This is the girl God sees, and the girl He loves. He doesn’t need my cover-ups, because He fashioned me, and He did so flawlessly.

In order to understand beauty, we have to understand the One who designed it.

The same God who created gorgeous sunsets and majestic mountains is the same God who created tiny butterflies and pink roses. His powers of design will not be pigeon-holed to conform to the expectations of the culture. He will not be limited in His definition of beauty or insulted because of the uniqueness of His creation.

Tall or short, dark-skinned or fair, big eyes or small, curvy or straight — He believed He formed a masterpiece with each and every one. And He did. Who are we to say we know better when it comes to beauty than the very One who first thought it up?

Beauty isn’t found in Hollywood’s measurements or a Photoshopped (or filtered) picture. It’s found in the unique DNA handpicked by our God who lovingly knit us together.  Anyone who says otherwise is choosing a counterfeit illusion.

I know I’ll never be able to compete with the standard of beauty the culture defines for me. I’ll never measure up or outshine picture-perfect Instagram photos. I’ll never look as good as a filtered and edited selfie.

But I’m okay with that. Because I’m defined by a different standard. One that doesn’t vacillate with the culture or depreciate with age.

Hear this, sweet sister.

When God created you, He designed something beautiful.

A beauty that can’t be sold in the makeup aisle, or produced in a computer software. It’s not cheap or fading. It might not be spelled flawless, but it’s always spelled priceless. It doesn’t look like everyone else. It’s unique because His standard of beauty is diverse. It’s the kind that doesn’t need a thinner face, larger eyes, or clearer skin to be considered complete.

When God created beauty, He didn’t use a filter. I’d love to hear from you below! 

  • Can you relate to my experience of discovering how much a filter can do? What was your reaction?
  • What do you think about the different standards of beauty across cultures? What affects them?
  • Do you find it hard to embrace your “unfiltered” beauty? How can we choose to be defined by God’s standard?

Sara Barratt is a lead writer and editor for TheRebelution.com, and has been published on numerous other websites, including The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God, and Lies Young Women Believe. Her passion is pointing teens to Christ, and reclaiming truth from the lies of the culture. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and at sarabarratt.com.

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48 Responses to Unfiltered Beauty: Embracing Your Face Without a Filter

  1. Miss Judy says:

    Yess!!! I will confess that I’ve practiced my smile in the mirror… Looked goofy unintentionally too many times.
    As a thirty two year old single woman it is sometimes so hard to see the media standard for beauty. Maybe if i was thinner, prettier, didn’t have a facial birth mark, maybe then i could be be seen as beautiful.

    And when it really comes down to it, i feel it’s a matter of identity. Where does my identity come from. Where is my value found. I have to remind myself that i am a child of God. That is who i am. That has to define me, if not i will look to the culture around me to tell me who i am. Or whose i am. And when i work out, not to focus on outcome as the goal, but on being healthy so i can serve the Lord.

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Hey Judy! I totally hear you…and I love what you said about identity. SO true! You have a great perspective. 🙂 Keep leaning into Jesus! Thank you so much for reading and commenting! <3

  2. L Atkins says:

    This literally came at a perfect time. Thank you so much. I’ve never done the “filter thing” cuz, well, I don’t have a phone, but seeing other people/models through a filter really makes me feel as if I’m not enough. But thank you, cuz you’re right. I never will be “enough” according to today’s American idea of beauty. I’m not flawless, but I am priceless. I needed this, thank you so much!
    I think that other countries ideas of beauty come from what they’ve formed from having to be practical but also longing to make it beautiful at the same time, and the different ways of having to be practical change from country to country.

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Aww, this brought a huge smile to my face! I’m so glad this blessed you and came at the right time! I love how God does that! I pray He continues to remind you how priceless you are to Him. 🙂
      And yeah, that’s actually really cool to think about…I think you’re right. 🙂 I find it so fascinating how some cultures are completely different, yet really so similar.

  3. Nelli Savchenko says:

    Yes
    Thank you so much! Perfect timing for me! I am very nervous of what others think of me because my like pimples and stuff…..but it doesn’t really matter what they think, because pimples don’t matter to God. Thanks again!

    • Sara Barratt says:

      You’re so welcome, Nelli! My pleasure. 🙂
      Oh. Girl. I totally hear you on that! I’ve battled acne too, but you’re right, it really comes down to what God thinks of us and He always says we’re beautiful! And here’s a little secret too….most people aren’t actually thinking as much about us as we think. They’re usually battling their own insecurities. So just remember that, and never forget how beautifully created you are!

      • Nelli Savchenko says:

        Thank you so much! I never really thought about it that way! That is actually very relieving to me! Thank you!

  4. Veronica Miller says:

    This was so so encouraging to read, thank you! I’m really trying to remember that my online “image” isn’t what matters and doesn’t define my beauty. Its so difficult to do in today’s perfection-obsessed society.

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Absolutely! It definitely is. I struggle to remember that too. Thank YOU for reading and commenting, Veronica! <3 I'm so glad it was a blessing!

  5. Annalysa says:

    I needed this a lot today!!! I’ve been struggling with this recently and this was perfect timing! Thank you!!!

    • Sara Barratt says:

      You bet, Annalysa! (such a pretty name!) I’m so blessed God used this to encourage you! All credit to Him. 🙂 Keep seeking Jesus!

      • Annalysa says:

        Aw, thank you!!! 🙂 Just reading this this morning changed my perspective a lot today. Thanks again!!!

  6. Elizabeth Cabot says:

    I just don’t understand one thing: Why is Make Up okay and doesn’t correlate with our God given beauty, but filters do?

    • Bella D. says:

      Hey Elizabeth! I think this an amazing question! Maybe I can give you a bit of insight.

      Makeup that is tastefully applied can help clear up your face a bit and remove distracting things like huge pimples or a burn scar. It can also help you look more awake, more healthy, more like yourself! This is where the contrast to photo filters comes in. They distort your face into something that doesn’t really exist. Can the same thing be done with makeup? Yes, of course!! But makeup can be used in a much more modest, subdued fashion. Photo filters have no purpose outside changing and distorting the way God made you, whereas makeup *can* be used to enhance and glory in the wonderful masterpiece that the Lord has created.

      Hope that helps some!

      • Sara Barratt says:

        Love these thoughts, Bella! Thank you for sharing! 🙂

      • Jessica Kimball says:

        I actually respectfully disagree with part of this, maybe just that one word “enhance”. I think makeup, altho I see nothing wrong with it, does not enhance our face or glory or whatever. I think it increases our physically pleasure of our eyes. If we are wearing makeup every single day of our lives, what is that teaching others? Like I said, I don’t think it’s wrong, but I in a way, if we are using it every day to look more eye-appealing, is that really healthy? Are we subconsciously telling ourselves, and others, that we can’t be comfortable in our raw, un-touched state? I also don’t see all filters necessarily wrong either. Some filters are said to “enhance” the feeling of a picture. I don’t see it as necessarily wrong, as long as we aren’t doing it every single day, building up a different eye-appealing picture of ourself to the world.
        Since this article is more-so addressed to filters instead of makeup, I’ll ask this in comparison. Do you think wearing light make up every day, every time you’re in the public eye is okay? As compared to every time you post. photo, what if you just did a small edit, like brightness or just one filter?

        I absolutely think it’s what we build on the inside. And I agree with you for the majority of this, but I just have a completely different stance on makeup. I think it’s only use is that it increases our physical eye pleasure, and I don’t think it can enhance us in any way, any more than a filter can
        I think both are equally abused, and both can equally be used in a modest manner.

        I think each is an individual choice between you and God, and I think fashion and makeup can be done in a modest manner. but I’ve just been thinking, that I want to show, by example, that we are fully beautiful in our raw state. And I think it’s MORE beautiful to be completely raw, building what is on the inside.
        Thanks for listening ♡

        • Sara Barratt says:

          Hi Jessica! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here! I really appreciate it and I love hearing other girl’s thoughts on topics like these.

          “Both are equally abused, and both can equally be used in a modest manner.” That’s totally true. And you’re right…it’s an individual choice between us and God. It has way more to do with your heart and less to do with if you use filters or wear makeup.

          Thank you for sharing your thoughts and being faithful to what you feel God is leading you to do. And thank you so much for reading my article! I really appreciate it. 🙂

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Hey Elizabeth! What a great question. I’ve thought a lot about this myself too.
      I agree with everything Bella said, and will just add that I used the topic of filters because I really see them becoming an obsession and I’ve felt myself being pulled into them as well. Makeup can be used incorrectly, and can have the exact same effect on us as a filter, but it can also be used in a way that subtlety enhances the features God already gave us. Honestly, I almost think of my makeup as part of my hygiene routine. When it comes to makeup and filters, I think it has less to do with whether or not we should use either, and more to do with our heart attitude. When I first started wearing makeup, I ALWAYS wanted to wear it, and my heart wasn’t in the right place. Since then, I can wear it without feeling enslaved to it. I’m not all the way there yet, but I’m learning that I don’t need makeup OR filters to embrace my God-given beauty.
      I hope this helps clarify things for you. Please let me know if you have any other questions! 🙂 And thank you SO much for reading this and sharing your thoughts!

      • Elizabeth Cabot says:

        Hey Sara and Bella!

        Thanks so much for sharing your girls’ thoughts! I have been struggling with observing a difference between Make up and filters for quite some time and a lot of people just seem to lump together these topics…
        This is very helpful to me!

        Also thank you for your entire amazing article, Sara! 🙂 This is such an important topic that we often forget about or shrug off!

  7. Shanae B says:

    Awesome post! Very relevant for today! Thank you for mentioning the different standards of beauty from different cultures! God’s design is perfect even if we or the world doesn’t think so!

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Amen! So very true! I’m glad you found this relevant. Thank you for reading and commenting, Shanae! 🙂

  8. Bella D. says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post, Sara! It is freeing to know that there are other girls out there who care enough to confront this issue.

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Aww, thank you, Bella! That blesses my heart! <3 It's so great for me to know I'm not alone in this struggle too! *hugs* God bless!

  9. Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for this, Sara! I’ve dealt with a lot of insecurities about my looks here recently with some health/skin issues I’ve been dealing with. Thank you for the reminder that God values the true beauty of our hearts rather than what we look like on the outside! ❤️

    • Sara Barratt says:

      You’re so welcome, Amanda! Honestly, I learned so much writing it, and I’m so glad that other girls can relate to the same things I struggle with. Thank you for reading it, and for sharing your thoughts! God bless! <3

  10. NOTW says:

    Well written and excellent message to remind us that what this world produces is fading away but true beauty lives forever and that’s the love of God that lives in us. Conform yourselves not to this world. Love is true beauty. Love for God and love for thy neighbor. When we put others before ourselves we stop paying so much attention to the culture and ourselves (selfless) but become in image of Jesus Christ. I rather be in image of Jesus then this world. I struggle with skin problems but learning to pay no attention to it or let it get me down or make me feel ugly. The Lord is my confidence and I have Him and He’s all I need and want. God Bless~

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Amen! What a great perspective…I love your attitude. I’m so glad it resonated with you. Keep pursuing Christ…you’re so right! He’s all we need and want! God bless! 🙂

  11. Irish tai n mai says:

    I totally relate to your experience! As someone who’s struggled with acne since ten years old, the “smoother skin” filter was always the most tempting for me. Great insights, thank you so much for encouraging us to remember Who designed us in the first place. ❤️

    • Sara Barratt says:

      I’m so glad I’m not the only one! And you’re so welcome! It was a pleasure to write and I’m just so blessed that God used it to encourage you! Thank you so much for your comment! <3

      • Irish tai n mai says:

        It was a blessing to me ❤️ Thank you for making it a priority to reply to comments. That means a lot.

        • Sara Barratt says:

          Absolutely my pleasure. 🙂 Interacting with my sisters in Christ is one of my favorite things to do, and since I can’t take y’all out for coffee, it’s so fun to at least talk about God, and life, and girly things in the comments! 🙂

  12. Anonymous1997 says:

    I totally relate to your experience. I haven’t struggled with acne, but I’m prone to dark eye circles and thin eyelashes. I still use a makeup app for each profile picture I take, although God created me to be unique. As long as my motives aren’t bad, I don’t see anything wrong with the makeup app. God bless.

    • Sara Barratt says:

      Yes, it has less to do with the app, and more to do with the heart. Thank you so much for reading and sharing! God bless you too!

  13. Chelsea Ejimakor says:

    This is one of the most amazing articles I have read. Thanks Sara.

  14. Chiamaka Oji says:

    Thank you Sara. I love the part you said “In order to understand beauty, we have to understand the One who designed it”. I totally agree with that. You know, God’s concept of beauty is far deeper and all encompassing than the world’s definition and standard. I pray that as we dig deeper into God’s word, He will reveal more of His design for True Beauty and help us radiantly live it out. God bless you.

    To get more insight into True Beauty in a biblical perspective, you could also check out the FREE e-book – Six Sure Secrets of Radiant Beauty. You’ll love it…

  15. Sara Barratt says:

    Amen! Yes, you’re so right…only God can set the standard for our lives! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts! I love your perspective…thank you for sharing it! 🙂

  16. Brin says:

    There’s a poem an older lady wrote that relates to your blog. Her name is Wanda. Here it is: “I looked in the mirror and what did I see? But a little old lady peering back at me With bags and sags and wrinkles and wispy white hair And I asked my reflection, how did you get there? You once were straight and vigorous And now you’re stooped and weak When I tried so hard to keep you from becoming an antique My reflection’s eyes twinkled and she solemnly replied. You’re looking at the gift wrap and not the jewel inside A living gem and precious of unimagined worth Unique and true, the real you, the only you on earth. The years that spoil your gift wrap with other things more cruel Should purify and strengthen and polish up that jewel. So focus your attention on the inside, not the out On being kinder, wiser, more content and more devout Then when your gift wrap’s stripped away Your jewel will be set free, to radiate God’s glory throughout eternity!”

  17. Brin says:

    There a poem an older lady wrote that applies to your blog. Her name is Wanda. Here it is:I looked in the mirror and what did I see? But a little old lady peering back at me With bags and sags and wrinkles and wispy white hair And I asked my reflection, how did you get there?
     
    You once were straight and vigorous And now you’re stooped and weak When I tried so hard to keep you from becoming an antique My reflection’s eyes twinkled and she solemnly replied
     
    You’re looking at the gift wrap and not the jewel inside A living gem and precious of unimagined worth Unique and true, the real you, the only you on earth
     
    The years that spoil your gift wrap with other things more cruel Should purify and strengthen and polish up that jewel
     
    So focus your attention on the inside, not the out On being kinder, wiser, more content and more devout Then when your gift wrap’s stripped away Your jewel will be set free, to radiate God’s glory throughout eternity!

  18. Addi F. says:

    Ah, this is one of those posts that I need to read again and again. Thank you for sharing such truth!


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