My college art professor taught me that beauty is equal to light which is equal to truth.
A lot of buzz has been going around regarding Dove's latest video, Real Beauty Sketches. You know the one about women not seeing themselves as beautiful as other people see them. I couldn't exactly pin point why, but I wasn't really blown away by the video. I don't know... I guess because I found it a little too contrived among other things. Then I read this article speaking out against this video and found myself also nodding along saying yes...yes. For those that don't want to read the whole article right now, the gist of it is that first, Dove does make a good point in letting us know most of us are too hard on ourselves--it's true we could stand to see the good, even the outward good or beauty, a little more readily. However, the fact that most of the women in the video fit into a pretty narrow definition of beauty doesn't really help expand our definition of beauty. But it is her final thought that really gets me. In Jazz's own words, "At the end of the experiment, one of the featured participants states what I find to the most disturbing quote in the video and what Dove seems to this is the moral of the story as she reflects upon what she's learned, and how problematic it is that she hasn't been acknowledging her physical beauty: "It's troubling," she says as uplifting music swells in the background. "I should be more grateful of my natural beauty. It impacts the choices and the friends we make, the jobs we go out for, the way we treat our children, it impacts everything. It couldn't be more critical to your happiness." Did you hear that, ladies? How beautiful you are affects everything--from your personal relationships to your career. It could not be more critical to your happiness!" That is a troubling message indeed.
Interestingly enough I had come across this article on CNN a few days prior to watching that video and saved it knowing I'd want to share it with you all sometime. As I watched that video and read the article speaking out against the video, I kept coming back to this article about a girl named Penny.
This is Penny. She was born with two different birth defects that have left her face disfigured. In the words of her sister, Penny is truly beautiful. She's always seeing the best in others and never has an unkind word for anyone. As I watched that Dove video, with it's mixed message, feeling my mixed emotions (I like to be beautiful! I don't think beauty is wrong. But essential to our happiness? I don't think so...) I thought about Penny and about the real beauty in this world and how real beauty, if it were a more desirable and sought after trait, would actually be life changing and world altering.
Beauty = Light = Truth.
I would be a hypocrite if I didn't acknowledge that I spend my fair share of time trying to look beautiful--make-up, hair, cute clothes, exercise. The truth is I do feel better when I look more put together. Showering, getting dressed and doing my hair and make-up daily were some of the key elements in helping me fight off post-partum depression after the birth of my first daughter. I believe that our physical selves and spiritual selves are so closely intertwined. BUT I believe this is more in how we care for our bodies than in fitting a worldly definition of beauty. That being said, I'm still more vain that I'd like to admit. So there it is... the internal conundrum.
But back to Penny. Please read her story. Please read about her sad and lonely childhood. Read about Penny not having friends and being made fun of, even humiliated. Read about the pain she suffered because of how she looks on the outside. And then read about her resilience. Read about Penny's choice to see the good in the world around her. And read about her desires to educate others about individuals who are born with malformations (in fact the whole article was written because Penny wrote to CNN about their own ignorance regarding pictures they published--amazing.). Read about her gratitude and her good heart.
In my book, that is real inspiration. That is real beauty.