Do we need to know we’re beautiful?

Guys and gals, please do me a favor and wiegh in on this. Throughout my life I’ve gotten messages from various sources about how empowering it is for women to know they’re beautiful and how it’s so important to keep up a healthy self-esteem. But, because I think philisophically applied to practicality, I got to wondering- why.

Why is it actually important to have this aspect of self-awareness? Is it for ourselves, so we will be more satisfied with who we are? If this is part of the reason it hasn’t been working very well, because everyone knows that even the most beautiful women who have been told over and over how beautiful they are still search for ways to become prettier. Is it for others? I’ve noticed that when women feel beautiful, they become more beautiful. So often the run down middle aged woman just needs one compliment from a younger man and you will see a change over the next couple of weeks where she puts on more makeup, dresses more attractively, and decides to do something about that spare tire around her waist. Is it to “empower” women? What power would this be? The power to seduce men, to be more assertive, to get things done?

I have my own answer for this but I want to see what everyone else thinks first.

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32 Responses

  1. I think that every person needs to be affirmed, encouraged, and nurtured by others in order to thrive. We’re created to be in community with others and sin gives us a jaundiced picture of ourselves. I think it was Nietzsche that first pointed out that even people who are totally free from moral constraints and don’t feel guilt will still feel shame because our broken nature makes us feel broken and ashamed. We can’t expiate ourselves and give ourselves the honor that we need; we need something from outside to validate us.

    This gets twisted when someone finds their validation in other peoples’ opinions about their beauty, or a job, or even in a good relationship with their significant other. All of them are meant to help, but ultimately none of those things can really clear your shame.

    Madonna once talked about how she constantly feels pressure to reinvent herself and do something new and incredible, because otherwise she’ll be a nobody.

    So we need that affirmation from others (and most especially from God.) When we know what we were created for, we are empowered and inspired to be who we are meant to be.

    Tim Keller preached a really good sermon about this; I can send it to you if you’d like.

  2. Would someone who is not selfish feel the need to be validated?

  3. Alex that’s strong words. Care to expound on that?

  4. In my experience, many people are beautiful. There are various levels of it. Everyone has some beauty, but not everyone knows or thinks that they do. Insecurities settle in, and many people feel that they have to validate that they’re beautiful by offering their bodies. When someone comes along and acknowledges the beauty of person x who doesn’t feel beautiful unless someone acknowledges it, person x is more likely to fall under that someone’s spell. However, if someone already knows that they are beautiful, they are not insecure concerning that aspect. If someone comes along and tries to woo this person, they would take it as a compliment and nothing more.

  5. I mean is the desire to be validated self centered?

  6. We need to know we are beautiful because we are the image of God.

    “John Paul II suggested that our ordering of creation cannot be separated from the circumstances of our creation in the image of the Trinitarian God. Man, as a being created by “the divine Artist” is like a work of art by which “artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being.” Our being in the likeness of God is manifest in how we, like the Trinity, are oriented towards others in family and in community for love, and how our relationships with others are defined by and reflect the persons of the Trinity.” Taken from ‘A Civilization of Love’ by Carl Anderson:

  7. From what I gather from that, it seems that we have to know we are beautiful in order to validate God’s existence through what is visually seen.

    Does God have a body? I don’t have a good resource to finds answers that my faith have on theological topics. However, I have read that when God “created man in his own image,” it did not mean physically because he has no physical body so to speak, and the statement meant that we resemble God because we have special souls.

    “The soul is a spirit, an intelligent, immortal spirit, an active spirit, herein resembling God.”

    I don’t know how this conflicts with the upper church denominations’ view.

    source: http://bible.cc/genesis/1-27.htm <- both commentaries at the bottom make specific mention of the soul

  8. Interesting – we followed a similar train of thought yet ended up completely opposite in our conclusions.

    Do you think that God is insecure and needs to be told that He is beautiful, in fact, beyond all beauty?

  9. Alex– I think that even unselfish people would feel a need to be validated/told they are beautiful because the desire to be validated isn’t necessarily a selfish one.

    Since God has always existed in His holy community (the Trinity), I don’t think He’s insecure. Rather, we were created so that we could enjoy His beauty.

    Matt, I think that us being created “in the image of God” refers mainly to our creativity, our spiritual nature, our capacity to love, etc.– in these ways we “reflect” the glory of God and His “image.”

  10. Mathew,

    could you please answer the question as to whether or not God feels a need to be validated?

    I do not understand how such a desire is not self seeking. I want to feel good about myself, me, and so I go seeking approval. Even the desire to be loved is, the Apostle Paul tells us, fallen. For we should seek that “love which seeketh not its own”. In other words, if we are in a relationship with someone, and part of that relationship is motivated by a self seeking feeling, whether it be physical OR psychological (such as the desire to be validated, feel pretty/handsome, etc.) then that is not love. What is love? God is love.

    It would also be worthwhile to examine your statement about why we are created. What is our purpose? You say that it is so that WE can enjoy His beauty.

    This view of our purpose is completely self seeking. It is all about OUR happiness, OUR enjoyment; The fact that it is not physical happiness but something loftier does not mean that it is not self seeking.

    This is not of course to say that we will not be ecstatic in our union and at the ineffable beauty of God. But it is not our primary purpose of existence. We are created for the glory of God, to worship Him, which is to be united to Him, and to become like Him (or as David says, to be “gods by grace”).

    I’m not writing this to bash you, but rather because your view of why we are created negates any notion that we are called to become, like God, completely humble and selfless. Instead what it says is, we should our own self satisfaction and enjoyment not from earthly things but from heavenly things.

    The grand act of creation also tells us something about love, which is that it is in the nature of love to reach outside of itself. The Trinity, blessed be He, was not sitting in ecstasy enjoying His own beauty – the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father. And because God is love, He reached outside of Himself (not that there was anything outside of Himself, I mean that metaphorically) and created us.

    If we are concerned, then, about what other people think about US, about RECEIVING validation, then are we acting in accord with the divine image?

  11. By the way, I think it’s important to distinguish between giving a compliment on the one hand, and desiring to be complimented on the other. I am not advocating the abolition of compliments ;).

    Nor am I saying that people that want validation are rotten people. I’m saying that the reason we need to be validated DOES have to do with insecurity, and DOES have to do with seeking our own happiness, and that in God neither of these qualities is to be found.

  12. Last time – promise

    – and that the reason these exist in ALL of us is that we are fallen.

  13. One thing I’d like to mention…

    I don’t think that being made in God’s image (AND likeness, everyone keeps dropping that word) only refers to the spirit. It’s very clear that humans were meant to be body and soul, inseperable…most of the pain of sin and death comes when our soul and body are pitted against each other. Peace and love flow when our bodies and souls work together (I can cite you any number of instances for this…you only get restful sleep when your conscience is not bothered, the most fulfilling sex is when you are spiritually united to another person, etc, and vice versa). We are not two separate parts, but one that because of sin is at war with itself.
    So…I think I’m going to call mystery on this one…it’s a mystery how our physical being was made in God’s image, since we always think of God not having a body…but then again He DID have a body, in Jesus….MYSTERY….
    So, if we believe that our physical beings were also made in God’s image, that makes our physical appearance all that much more important. There were very many heresies that claimed that the body was evil. Anything God makes is beautiful and perfect. But we mucked everything up.
    Is that the answer? Maybe when we compliment someone, what we should be trying to do is give the person’s soul a glimpse of what their bodies were supposed to be before the fall- perfectly beautiful.

  14. No pedicures, being made in the image refers to qualities of the soul – not that our bodies aren’t fallen too, and you are quite correct in confirming that we are body AND soul, and it is impossible to be whole when they are disconnected. But the image refers to the soul’s qualities, not the body.

  15. Also, the likeness is something that is acquired through spiritual growth, not given like the image.

  16. in other words, we are given certain attributes (such as those Mathew talked about) which reflect the attributes of God, but theosis/deification is something which never ends.

  17. Referring back to “the question as to whether or not God feels a need to be validated?”

    In an effort to gain more perspective and to stimulate conversation, I’m going to play a little part of a devil’s advocate.

    I’ve heard people say God is a jealous God. I’ve also heard from various people that our purpose is to serve and worship God. Does wanting to be loved fall under the same lines of wanting to feel validated?

    Surely wanting to be validated and wanting to be loved can be construed to be the same thing.

  18. Alex,

    To answer your question about God’s validation– I think describing it in terms of his “validation” is not proper, but to say that He desires our worship– yes! He does.

    You raise an interesting point about what I said about why we are created. I’d start by pointing to this article by John Piper: http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Articles/ByDate/2007/2509_How_Is_Gods_Passion_for_His_Own_Glory_Not_Selfishness/

    And then I would say this: perfect love and desire for the glory of God will involve enjoying Him. And when we become like Him, then we can enjoy Him perfectly. But ultimately we are created for God’s pleasure, and His pleasure in us is made complete when we delight wholly in Him.

    The best analogy (unsurprisingly) is in the marriage relationship– if two people bury their desire and love for one another in the other’s joy perfectly, they will delight in the other’s delight. I think that heaven is that happening between us and God forever.

    Getting back to the original question, I think that the desire for validation reaches backward from before the Fall, even– because we were created to be in community. We cannot make ourselves know that we are valuable and we cannot validate ourselves; others (especially God) have to do that. I have a hard time saying that this in and of itself is selfish because it is such a deep and beautiful human longing. I think there is a selfish way to express it, but the holy way to express has to do with us reflecting the image of God within us– just as it completes the circle of God’s goodness to praise Him for His wondrous works, so it is good to praise Him and recognize His goodness in others.

  19. Huzzah for marriage analogies! It seems that this is so clearly the way God relates to us.

    I’m still not convinced that the image and likeness of God is purely soul…Basically my intuition tells me that the bond of unity between body and soul is such that God created us as one entity, not creating part of us in His image and part of us not. But I havent done any reading at all on this, so maybe that’s an argument for another post (unless anyone cares to share insights).

    By the way, you guys rock…I thought I had all the answers to this question, but I see now that I was wrong. You’ve given me so much to think about!

  20. Mathew,

    God desires our worship not for Himself but for us. Do you think you can actually give anything to God?

    Secondly, you still have not explained why the desire to be validated is not selfish. Are you seeking to validate yourself? Then it is selfish and you are not focused on God. This has everything to do with a Protestant view of salvation which is completely legalistic and so I don’t think we’re going to come to an agreement here.

    Pedicures,

    The fathers emphatically deny that the image refers to the body. I would suggest learning what the attributes of God are and how those are reflected in us, along with how it is that the soul and body relate to each other to form one entity, the human being.

  21. Alex,

    We can only give to God that which He has given to us, and I think He is pleased when this happens. God is glorified when we worship Him.

    I don’t think that the desire to validate oneself is necessarily “selfish” in a negative sense because, like I said before, we don’t have the power to make validate ourselves. Others (and especially God) have to do that. I think that it is an oversimplification to think that it is automatically bad when you are thinking about yourself and desiring something for yourself (you seem to imply that this is the case.) If we want the good things within us that God has gifted us with to be validated, I think that would be good.

    God created us with the desire to know and be known; the bad desire for self-validation either says, “I need to be validated to feel important; I am the center of my own universe and must be validated.” The good desire for self-validation says, “God is the center of the universe and He has created me; I need Him to speak to me to affirm the goodness of what He has made because I can’t do that for myself.”

    Ultimately, our validation will be found in God, and it will be found in worshiping Him and becoming more like Him. I believe that God created us with this desire to lean towards Him and be drawn to Him, but Satan corrupted it by putting other gods that we would be drawn to for our validation.

    I don’t want to get into the salvation debate here by any stretch of the imagination, but I don’t see your jump in thought to the Protestant view of salvation. How does this relate to the discussion about self-validation?

    Weighing in on the body/soul thing– I think that considering that we believe that God created all matter, I don’t see how anything material could reflect the image of God except in retrospect. Does that make sense? We have hands reflect God’s “hands”– His power to create, destroy, manipulate, touch, and bless others. For example. That’s the easiest one, but i’m sure there are others.

  22. Matthew,
    I think that is what I mean; I don’t take bieng made in the image and likeness to mean a mirror image of God, rather that our bodies are manifestations of God’s attributes. You said it well. But in this way I do think that I can say our bodies are made in the image and likeness of God.

    Alex,
    I feel like behind your point of view is the idea that humans are nothing and are pure wretchedness. This is as much heresy as saying that we are demigods. We can give something to God, the only thing he asks of us- ourselves. We simply give back what he has given us. How is this not a valuable gift? It’s not like our gift is going to add anything to God but it will add to our bond with Him.

    It’s like a parent, who gives his child paper and finger paints. The child will make a messy picture, mixing all the paints, until it is an ugly, brownish greenish yellowish smear on the paper. But the child goes up to daddy and holds it up and says “Daddy, I made this for you!” It’s not that the gift itself is great but it was this act of love that the Daddy appreciates.

    I think it also pays to remember that true virtue is always found in the middle of two extremes. True humility is found in between a false view of our wretchedness and pride. Remeber, Jesus said “Love your neighbor as yourself”, which presupposes a proper love of self.

  23. It seems that the basis of the general arguments is if God needs to be validated.

    This seems like the message being portrayed is “if God does it, so should we.”

    Is the assumption I am making, correct? It seems flawed in my perspective. I see how it is something good to follow, but drawing that conclusion seems very naive. God does things we cannot, and us humans do things of the flesh that God doesn’t have to.

    I understand following the example of God, but making it such a simple rule can mislead people to act “holier than thou,” taking it upon themselves to enact God’s will because it’s what they “think” is what God would do.

    We cannot comprehend the full spectrum of God’s capabilities. How can we compare ourselves to that?

  24. El Mattyo,

    I’m trying to not say that “if God does it, so should we.” Rather, I’m saying that the same sort of “validation” that God desires is similar to (but not exactly) the same sort of good “validation” that we experience when someone validates the goodness of God working in us.

  25. El Mattyo,

    I AM saying that if God does NOT feel the need to be validated, then we also should NOT.

    If you want to be a Christian, then follow Christ. Please read the Gospels.

    He commanded us to ‘be holy as I am holy’. IF you do achieve this holiness, then believe me, you won’t be going around with a holier than thou attitude – on the contrary, you will believe yourself to be the greatest of sinners.

    Also, very important – you said that you have heard that God is jealous. The scriptures do use the word jealous to describe God, but it must be understood that this is simply an image used to convey something ineffable to us, like a human speaking to an ant. God is NOT jealous. He does not covet. God is above such things.

    Mathew,

    both your ‘good validation’ and ‘bad validation’ scenarios involve a person feeling that they need to be validated in order to be important. The only difference is in where they look.

    This has to do with your forensic view of salvation because it presupposes that 1) we cannot become like Christ and that 2) God is an angry vengeful God who must have blood in order to be appeased. Therefore, God is not humble, or loving, but self seeking, so that even if we could become like Christ, we would not be selfless but wrathful, demanding tribute and sacrifice from those who have wronged us. Why does being selfless matter at all at that point?

    Cathy,

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Orthodox Christianity has always affirmed that mankind is the pinnacle of creation, that everything God creates is GOOD, and that mankind has a natural tendency TOWARDS God (*this is not the teaching of the protestants who teach that mankind is totally depraved or the Catholics who teach that mankind is born guilty and offensive to God – both of which ARE heresies).

    I think part of your misunderstanding of what I’m saying is related to your legalistic view of sin. To us, sin is missing the mark, which is God. It is like a cancer which must be sent into remission, and the cure is also God. I am not judging people who feel the need to be validated.

    There is one question and one question only that needs to be asked to know whether or not a need to be validated is focused on the self: Did Jesus Christ, whose entire life, all his deeds and words, every breath, were for our salvation, did He feel a need to be validated, told that He was great, that He was doing the right thing, that He was handsome, or strong, or good at math, or any of that stuff? If the answer is no, then neither should we. That doesn’t make us bad, wretched people – it means that we are missing the mark, we are sick, and that we need to go to the hospital (the Church).

  26. Hey all,

    If you’ll allow me, I’d like to rephrase my first statement.

    My Church teaches that insecurity is something that we experience in a fallen world. When the creation is truly united to its Creator (a never ending process), all bad feelings we experience, insecurity, sadness, anger, pride, etc., no longer exist within us, and in fact, we turn into persons who are completely and totally self giving.

    It is not wrong to encourage people, to build them up when they’re down, to let them know that they are loved, provided of course that its done in a way which doesn’t encourage pride in the person. In fact, it may be that in many cases part of their spiritual healing actually involves being told they’re beautiful.

    But since the title of the post was “Do we need to know we’re beautiful” and one of the tags was “insecurity”, I wanted to get at the root of why we feel this insecurity within us in the first place.

    The prayer of Francis, my all time favorite Catholic saint, illustrates what I should have said from the beginning (note: this is a published alternate translation which varies in one sentence from the more popular version – the meaning is the same but I think it is made more clear in this one):

    “Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
    to understand, than to be understood;
    to love, than to be loved.
    For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
    It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
    It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
    Amen. ”

    Please forgive me also for writing in such a harsh manner before – I clearly could have been much more diplomatic and clear in my writing, and I am sorry to any who were hurt by my comments.

  27. No response?

  28. Sorry Alex, haven’t been lurking around cyberspace lately!
    Thanks for apologizing. We totally do respect your comments tho!

    I love St. Francis, he’s my patron saint. And true humility is, as you say, a total self effacement, and it would seem to exclude an excess of thinking about oneself. But I think that it doesn’t exclude PROPER self-love, because otherwise what did Jesus mean when he said “Love your neighbor as yourself?” We have to recognize God’s good work in us, physically and spiritually, in order to have anything to lay down to Him.

  29. It’s cool.

    Proper respect for God’s creation, including ourselves, is tantamount to receiving the Kingdom. In fact, the Lord tells us that if we even call another person foolish, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We cannot look at other human beings, or even ourselves, as bereft of the gifts which God gives us which make us unique.

    I’m actually not totally sure if you’re quite on track with your interpretation of the commandment – maybe. We must always give thanks to God for the work He accomplishes in and through us. Yet there was never a saint who believed themselves to be one. I once read a book which was a dialogue with a hermit who lives on Mt. Athos, and one of the things which he said is that everyone who steps into his cave is holier than him. This coming from a person who was a spiritual giant.

    Truly, he thought himself to be the greatest of sinners – does this line up with having a proper love of self in your opinion?

  30. Here’s a good to the point quote which illustrates what I was saying:

    “The way of humility is this: self-control, prayer, and thinking yourself inferior to all creatures.”
    —Abba Tithoes

  31. I wonder if we can chalk up this issue to our dual nature- our utter wretchedness while at the same time our greatness. Perhaps women who feel the need to be affirmed in their beauty simply want to know that they are more than just their wretched nature.

  32. lol wretched nature? I mean women can be difficult but I wouldn’t say their nature is wretched… 🙂

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