Some may say I’ve “let myself go” lately. My toenails have been bare for months, my gray roots are showing, and I’m at the heaviest (non-pregnant) weight of my life. Yet, I’m surprisingly OK with it all (most days). I’ve been on a slow but steady journey to undo what I’ve been told is beautiful—the unachievable ideal that I must be actively pursuing lest I be labeled as one who’s given up.
For me, personal beautification began in junior high. One day in class, a guy friend brought it to my attention that I had a mustache. Years later in high school, one boy suggested I “put some color on those naked toes!” Another winner (this one a boyfriend) told me that he and his best friend had decided that I would be the prettiest girl in school … if I wasn’t so white. In each instance (and in countless others), I immediately put together a plan of action to remedy my beauty faux pas. And so I began the pursuit of physical perfection.
Twenty-five years later, I am still affected deeply by my appearance (and the comments I receive from others about it). It is a constant fight to stay in an emotionally healthy place and to hold it all in the light of eternity. For way too long, I have been guilty of paying more attention to the way I look outwardly, with little-to-no efforts spent toward my spiritual life. And I know I’m not alone in this struggle.
However, what we look like does matter. If we stopped showering and roamed around in our pajamas all the time, it would certainly hinder our gospel-productivity. There is a stewardship involved when it comes to our bodies—and the older I get, the more I see and feel the implications of neglecting my physical body.
So, where’s the line? Where does taking care of myself cross over into vanity? When does a holy pursuit to discipline my body for useful service to God turn into a resource-wasting obsession to stay as young-looking and beautiful as possible?
I am far from having this figured out, but I am deliberately taking more and more steps to free myself from the chains of beauty—without completely letting myself go. Here are a few questions I am being more intentional in asking when it comes to my actions in this area.