07 February 2008

On inner beauty

Last night the young women in our ward had a glamour night. We had a make-up artist and a hair dresser come and fix them up, and then myself and another photgrpaher in the ward took pictures of them. I was also asked to speak to them about inner beauty.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the LDS church once said in a talk (To Young Women), “I plead with you young women to please be more accepting of yourselves, including your body shape and style, with a little less longing to look like someone else… almost everyone at some time or other wants to be something they are not! But as one adviser to teenage girls said (in Teen People): “You can’t live your life worrying that the world is staring at you. When you let people’s opinions make you self-conscious you give away your power. … The key to feeling [confident] is to always listen to your inner self—[the real you.]” And in the kingdom of God, the real you is as the proverb says, “more precious than rubies.” The world has been brutal with you in this regard. You are bombarded in movies, television, fashion magazines, and advertisements with the message that looks are everything! The pitch is, “If your looks are good enough, your life will be glamorous and you will be happy and popular.” That kind of pressure is immense in the teenage years, to say nothing of later womanhood. In too many cases too much is being done to the human body to meet just such a fictional (to say nothing of superficial) standard. As one Hollywood actress is reported to have said recently (Halle Berry): “We’ve become obsessed with beauty and the fountain of youth. … I’m really saddened by the way women mutilate [themselves] in search of that. I see women [including young women] … pulling this up and tucking that back. It’s like a slippery slope. [You can’t get off of it.] … It’s really insane … what society is doing to women.”

I think it is so important for us to reiterate to our daughters and our daughters' friends that
this ideal image does not even exist… it’s a fabrication, the perfection we see illustrated on the screen and in magazines. Besides that, it is not a good source of self esteem. It is spiritually destructive for them and is exactly what has lead most of us as women to be unhappy with our noses, or our hair, or our bodies.


I found another great talk that targets this issues, given by Susan W. Tanner entitled "The Sanctity of the Body". She says "In the premortal realm we learned that the body was part of God’s great plan of happiness, by which we could obtain a physical body and gain earthly experience to progress toward perfection. We “shouted for joy” (see Job 38:7) to be part of this plan. Why were we so excited? We understood eternal truths about our bodies. We knew that our bodies would be in the image of God. We knew that our bodies would house our spirits. We also understood that our bodies would be subject to pain, illness, disabilities, and temptation. But we were willing, even eager, to accept these challenges because we knew that only with spirit and element inseparably connected could we progress to become like our Heavenly Father (see D&C 130:22) and “receive a fulness of joy” (see D&C 93:33)."

Have you ever thought that our bodies are meant to protect our spirits? And boy do they take a beating... mothers get stretch marks, we all become wrinkled at some point, our bodies literally wear down and become worn over time. We break bones and our immune systems weaken. At the end of our lives we may not be much to look at. But if we’ve treated our bodies as temples - and we know that it is what is inside the temple that makes it a sacred, beautiful place - they (our bodies) will have protected the very most important, the most beautiful part of ourselves, and that is our spirit. 1 Peter 3:4 says "But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom.” The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook [1980], 60).

Think what it must be like to be the only one of God's sons/daughters to be formally rebuked and denied the opportunity to come down, receive and body, return again clean and receive eternal life. Satan will do whatever he can to ruin that opportunity for the rest of us. He'll make some of us feel ugly our whole lives through and he'll tempt others of us to flaunt our assets premiscuously. He'll make more appealing the use of addictions and self-indulgence as coping mechanisms. Anything to defile this great gift which we've been given.

And on the specific idea of inner beauty, Sister Tanner goes on to share, “I remember well the insecurities I felt as a teenager with a bad case of acne. I tried to care for my skin properly. My parents helped me get medical attention. For years I even went without eating chocolate and all the greasy fast foods around which teens often socialize, but with no obvious healing consequences. It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me, “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”

What a difference we'd make in the lives of the young women around us if we told them this, and often. I love to look nice as much as msot any other woman does, but we are their real role models. We are the ones they watch on a daily basis. We are close enough for them to touch and hear. If we're busy obsessing over our appearance, they are going to notice.

I love to exercise, every day if I can. I place great emphasis on the fact that if I don't I just don't feel as healthy. I am slower to stay on task during the day and besides that, I'm just not as happy. I talk to my daughter about why I focus on being healthy, and what that really means. We enjoy eating, but we're thoughtful of how we treat our bodies. It's tough achieving a healthy balance of how much focus we put on this kind of thing. I've answered a lot of questions from her about being thin and eating fattening foods and working out. She's 8 and has obviosuly already noticed the wordly obsession over this. But I hope she remembers what I've taught her, that Heavenly Father made us the way he made us and that healthy people come in all different shapes and sizes. Our only responsibility is to respect our bodies, and we can't do that when we're gluttonous or idle.

Sister Tanner's mother taught her daughter the Christlike principle of selflessness. "Charity, or the pure love of Christ, “envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own” (Moroni 7:45). When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance. This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances.

Our late President Hinckley spoke of this very kind of beauty that comes as we learn to respect body, mind, and spirit when he said: “Of all the creations of the Almighty, there is none more beautiful, none more inspiring than a lovely daughter of God who walks in virtue with an understanding of why she should do so, who honors and respects her body as a thing sacred and divine, who cultivates her mind and constantly enlarges the horizon of her understanding, who nurtures her spirit with everlasting truth” (“Understanding Our Divine Nature,” Liahona, Feb. 2002, 24; “Our Responsibility to Our Young Women,” Ensign, Sept. 1988)

I hope more young girls see the potential they have to be beautiful inside and out. And that the effort they put into nourishing what is inside will show on the outside. The possibilities are endless for our girls, there are few limitations before them and we've worked hard to make it that way.

One of the sweet older sisters that attended our activity last night leaned over to me during the make-iup demonstration and said, "You know, the best make-up you can wear is a smile." And she is so right. One can hardly fail to notice true happiness, and vibrance and surety. That is where the true beauty lies in each of us.

27 comments:

Yvonne said...

WOW! What an absolutely amazing post. Frankly, I think you should submit it to The New Era, so every young woman can read it.

The Young Women in your Ward are so blessed to have been a part of such a wonderful evening.

Lucy said...

I agree about submitting it somewhere. There are a lot of condensed quotes and thoughts in there that would be great for other leaders to access.

I think most women struggle with feeling beautiful. I read so many books and it's pretty clear that one of our human race's fundamental truths is that men are instinctively wired to notice and reward outwardly beautiful women. The ideal has changed through the ages, but the media and women themselves are savvy enough to pick up on the current favorite look.

Unfortunately for our day and age, the current look is photoshopped, edited, nipped, tucked and enhanced, and these alterations not only alter the outward look, but the inner spirit. It is no longer genuine. And it is unbelievably sad for women everywhere who are bombarded with these images and messages of worth. All women want to be valued, by their peers, men, the world, and image after image of these make-believe beauties propagates the problem.

Regardless of the natural man, I love what you said about the purpose of our bodies and the spirits that reside in them. I think this conversation is one that needs to be addressed and reminded of often. I hope your young women walked away feeling beautiful and valued, for all the reasons you beautifully gave.

Amy said...

wonderful. I needed that this morning.

Chel said...

Wow. Can I say awesome?

Can I link this on my blog? I think more people need to read it.

Lei said...

Thank you - I really feel like the talks I referenced really carry across the message well. I'm so glasd I stumbled upon them... I tell you I prayed long and hard for direction on this one. It's not an easy message ot deliver.

Chel - absolutely!

Lei said...

Lucy - on men noticing/rewarding beautiful woman, that's one reason I love that a "man" delivered a talk on acceptance of one's self and reaching for far more than outward beauty.

Cocoa said...

Did you know that both of those talks have been published together in one wonderful book? It's titled Modesty, Makeovers, and the Pursuit of Physical Beauty - What Mothers and Daughters Need to Know.

Having six daughters of my own this is an important truth I want them to know for themselves. I realize that my example, and that of their father's, has a big impact on how they view themselves.

Leilani said...

Is that the book I've seen pictured in so many people's sidebars? I did not know those talks were in there, but I can see why! Sounds like I definitely need to read it.

Lei said...

Sorry - I guess I was signed in to my gmail account when I left that last comment. Now you all know my full name. LOL.

Nicole said...

Lei, thanks for sharing I feel so uplifted.

Misty said...

Yes. WOW! I am totally going to read this post with my (only) 7 year old daughter. It's never too early to combat with good. Thank you again for another thoughtful, inspiring, up-lifting most.

utmommy said...

That is a great post! It's so sad the pressure that is on young girls. My little 5 year old has asked me if I think she is fat. How sad is that?

An Ordinary Mom said...

I have read all of these articles and have been touched immensely by the message they contain.

But not only do we need to teach this message to our young women, we need to teach it to ourselves and all the beautiful mothers and women that surround us.

Michelle said...

A.M.E.N. I wish more women had this perspective, I really do. As a woman, I've had my fair share of "beauty trials" but I'm am getting wiser and realizing what true beauty is. Having my own girls has helped me better understand. I love when you said that our bodies protect our spirits. I've actually never thought of it that way, but you're absolutely right. What a beautiful truth.

Recently I was doing my three year olds hair and made the comment "ugh, it looks terrible. Lets do it again." She remembered this, days later, when we were doing her hair again and she asked me if it looked terrible. My heart sank as I realized my influence on her. Image starts at a young age and how these girls perceive themselves, does sprout from home life.

Thank you for the great post Lei.

JD said...

Thanks Lei I needed that today!

txmommy said...

the girls were lucky to have you. I wish and hope that they will internalize those thoughts.

Good job!

Amanda said...

Great message. Something also needs to be said about dress at Church. More and more I am seeing beach clothing and much to casual wear coming. Flip-flop shoes, mid-riff tops, no hose, pants, all of this casual clothing being worn at Church is showing absolutely no respect for the Lord and his Church and the reason we go to Church. Much too casual clothing is being worn. And into the Temples, I might add. When does this stop.

Yvonne said...

I have a well deserved award for you at my blog.

Nettie said...

What a great post! This pressure we females feel to be beautiful has been around for so long. But, I have seen it become so much worse over the years. The explosion of plastic surgery, increasingly revealing clothing styles, digitally enhanced images in ads. We even photoshop our Christmas photos and candids of our kids to make them more perfect, enhance eye colors, etc....with all that, how can we expect our daughters to not place their image expectations unrealistically high? We no longer accept the natural beauty of ourselves or others. Its so sad.

Zoe said...

beautifully written!! I wish I could have gone to that!! :)

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Whenever I get discouraged about my plain looks and the hairy arms I inherited direct from my Dom DeLuise Look-a-like father, I remember those suffering from hunger, lost limbs, and other maladies and it renders me immediately grateful for my blessings.

I have 4 daughters. I'm glad that homeschooling has allowed them a longer period of time to mature before being thrust into a pit of blue eyeshadow and mini-skirt peer pressure at school.

Dee Light said...

So true!! It is hard for girls to feel good about themselves in our society. Parents need to constantly tell their girls how wonderful they are, that they are God's creation. All the while teaching them that beauty radiates from within.

SweetPea said...

Great post Lei. I think about this often, not only for myself, but for my daughters, and for all my YW. I appreciate the clarity with which you have written this--it's something I'm passionate about too.

Lee said...

Lei, I *heart* you. You posted what I fully believe. I hate that our world is so focused on looking perfect. I hate that women feel they have to do things surgically to be beautiful. Heavenly Father didn't make a mistake when he made any of us. He loves each of us so much and we are beautiful. I whole heartedly agree with you. Thank you for posting something that I feel so strongly on.

My Ice Cream Diary said...

The important thing that I really try to remember is to show my daughter how to love herself by loving myself. Not just by not talking bad about myself but by taking care of myself and being happy.

Darci said...

You are so awesome. Miss you!!!

Melzie said...

I have to admit, I hate my body-- and I'm not ashamed to say it. It's my one form of "hate" that I can not shake. I don't hide that fact- in fact most people love my body- they are called Doctor this or that...

I have a hard time with "inner beauty" knowing what my body is doing to me outwardly... no matter how I cut calories, how many hours I exercise a day....

*sigh*