God's Love, Identity, Perspective

Beauty: When the World Has Its Say

+Jeanne Takenaka @JeanneTakenaka

Watching children grow up is both sweet and bittersweet. On the first day of junior high, as Edmund and I stood in line to check in, I watched former sixth grade girls—fellow classmates of my son—step into the line.

Many of them wore makeup, covering their natural beauty, their natural features. Brushing color onto their cheeks and nuancing their eyes to look more grown up, to appear more beautiful.

In some ways, it’s a coming-of-age for young teenage girls. The rite-of-passage of learning how to apply mascara, lipstick. Of discovering how to style hair so it frames the face in the most perfect way.

The world tells us we need to make ourselves beautiful. It sends the message that we must look like the celebrities. Dress like them. Style our hair like them.

That’s the skin-deep level.

And for young girls, er ladies, so many look to the world’s definition of beautiful. Too many won’t hear or receive the message from those who love them most—they are already beautiful.

Many are yet unable to grasp the truth—that which is on the inside is what makes them beautiful. The world poo-poo’s this truth.

The world is determined to direct how we identify ourselves.

The thing is? God has gifted every single person with an identity, a heart imprint of Him. 

The world wants to claim these girls’—and all people’s—God-given identities. 

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not shaming teen girls for wearing makeup. Not at all. I loved the first day I could officially brush color across my eyelids. I felt so grown up.

I wanted to finally be noticed, considered pretty. I was so sure makeup and a cute haircut would get me that.

What too often happens is that young women begin to rely on externals to define their version of “beautiful.” They depend on the mask they apply each morning.

To hide behind.

To create a persona.

The world’s fingerprints smudge everything around us.

Much of what the world calls beautiful, God calls shallow.

What the world says defines us—titles, degrees, reputation—these all come to nothing in the light of eternity.

The world’s intent is to  woo us into its mindset, to blind us to who Jesus says we are. We’re lured into the “need” to cling to the identity the world wants us to take.

The world demands the best of us. It seeks to suck up the innate identity God has given us—our strengths, abilities, giftings, appearance—and use these to enslave us to its ideologies.

To its way of living life.

God has something so much better. He desires our best. Where the world craves to suck us empty, God yearns to fill us up.

Where the world strives to enslave us—binding us with its chains—God offers freedom.

The hard thing is? We must be willing to forsake one identity and step into the unknown. When we know one way of thinking—one way of identifying ourselves—we are comfortable with that. It feels safe, because it’s a known.

God asks us to step out in faith. He reveals the lies we’ve embraced as truth and urges us to release them.

To trust Him.

To walk into an unknown relationship in order to find freedom.

To discover what it really means to be loved.

It’s only when we accept the truth of who God says we are—blemishes and all—that we discover what true beauty is. That we can learn in Whom our identity is based.

I’m not on an anti-teen-girl-makeup campaign. Rather, I’d love to see teens discover during these hard years that their identity isn’t in who their peers say they are. Or even in what they can achieve academically, athletically, socially, or in any other -ly.

I wear makeup. And I style my hair most days. But, I no longer find my identity in how pretty I look. My identity is defined by the Creator of the Universe.

And He says  each of us is cherished, treasured, His beloved. He’s given us gifts to use for His glory and for our good.

Let’s pray for the teen girls—the women—in our lives that each of us will take that step into the unknown and embrace how God defines us. That we strip off the world’s identity for us.

What about you? How did you discover your identity? How do you combat the world’s ways of defining you?

Click to Tweet: Much of what the world calls beautiful God calls shallow 

I’m linking up with #RaRaLInkup, Jennifer Dukes Lee, and Holley Gerth

This song seems to fit the idea of understanding each person’s true beauty. If you have a minute, take a listen:

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26 thoughts on “Beauty: When the World Has Its Say”

  1. Beautiful, Jeanne. Yes! I just “Liked” the Facebook page, Returning the Favor by Mike Rowe. I heard about it on Fox News this morning. He seeks out people who are doing good, helping others and rewards them. It’s so sweet. But these people are just average people … trying to help others. It’s so uplifting. They aren’t what the world classifies as “beautiful” … but they are so beautiful. Even moreso.

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    1. Shelli, I haven’t heard about Mike Rowe’s project. Very interesting! And I love that God’s definition of beauty is different from the world’s. It’s pretty wonderful when people can observe that and honor people for who they are and not how they look, too.

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  2. Oh Jeanne, that’s such a hard age, isn’t it? I remember my own teen years, and that of my daughters … and now I see two of my grandchildren entering that sometimes scary portal.

    May we model what being women of integrity and character looks like.

    Meanwhile, I still need to color my hair … way too much gray for a ‘woman of a certain age.’

    ;-}

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    1. The teen years are soooo hard, and not just for girls. We’re in the early stages of it with our boys, and it can be just as heart-rending. Yes, purposing to be women of integrity and character speaks to those around us—whether they’re our kids or someone else’s. 🙂 I grinned at the coloring your hair comment. 😉

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  3. Jeanne,
    I have to admit it took me a LONG time to grow into my identity in Christ. It was head knowledge and it took going through some very difficult struggles that took me back into His Word where I immersed myself in who I am in God’s sight. Once I began to believe it really only matters what God thinks (and He looks on the heart) that I was able to let go of the world’s image of me and stopped letting it define who I was. I had to decide who’s word I was going to take….God’s or the world’s. That’s when it went from head knowledge to heart knowledge.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

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    1. Bev, it took me a long time too. It seems like this is a process, for most of us. God does have a way of bringing us into situations that reveal the truth of things, doesn’t He? I think you’re right. There is much freedom in coming to the place where we understand that God’s thoughts about us are all that really matters. Loved your insights here, my friend!

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  4. I love that Johnny Diaz song. 🙂 And yes, teen girls are SO susceptible to the world’s lies. Last spring, my daughter (a gorgeous knock out) was crushed when a random guy on Instagram said this: “You are way too ugly to post selfies.” Can you believe? I couldn’t believe the cruelty, and I couldn’t believe it was so hard for her to shake off. This is such an important topic.

    Beauty is so much more than makeup.

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    1. Betsy, that song is one of my favorites too. I have seen pictures of your daughter on Insta. I can’t believe someone would say something so cruel—a bald-faced lie. And yet, girls at that age (and often older) are devastated by the opinion of a stranger. Yes, beauty is so much more than makeup. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  5. So true, Jeanne. Thank you for this beautiful reminder that we are cherished and beautiful in Christ. It’s so sad that our teens endure so much peer pressure. So sad that the world tries to suck them empty and demand so much from them. It’s taken me many years to learn of my true identity in Jesus, and I still often slide back into insecurity, seeking fulfillment in the wrong way, like seeking approval from people. We are so empty without Jesus, aren’t we? Blessings and hugs!

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    1. Yes, Trudy. We ARE cherished and beautiful to Christ. That is such a reassuring truth to cling to. Like you, it’s taken decades for me to undo some of the things said to me during my teenage years. I struggle with insecurity too, but God is so gracious. As I continue to seek Him, I’m discovering there’s a groundedness that helps me get through those bouts of insecurity more quickly as my mind remembers the truth that He cherishes me. 🙂

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  6. Dear Jeanne, thank you for tackling a tough topic. Today I was giving a reading test to a 3rd grade girl. She said she and her sister were usually tardy because mom has to fix their hair. For this little girl, tardies and absences from school are translating into getting further and further behind. How do we unteach the lesson that as long as we look good everything will be okay?

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    1. Alice, that’s heartbreaking. Her mama is instilling the message that looking perfect/beautiful/put together is more important than learning, than developing character qualities like punctuality and grace. It’s so hard to unteach that lesson. She will need to hear the truth about real beauty over and over again. Something tells me you may have a role to play in helping her learn the truth about beauty. I so appreciate this story. It’s such a good reminder that, even if unintentional, we tend to teach our children some invalid lessons. Your words are a good reminder to me to be aware of the unintentional lessons I’m teaching my boys. Thank you so much for stopping by!

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    1. Thank you, Susan. You’d think we’d have it figured out by the time we’re mothers and grandmothers, wouldn’t you? I guess these issues are the ones that keep us leaning hard into God. Sending you a hug, beautiful friend!

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  7. What a great post, Jeanne. I have lots of thoughts about all this–based on my own experiences as a preteen and younger teen who longed to be pretty but just felt awkward and ugly, as well as what I’ve observed as a mom of two girls. Our visions of ourselves can be so distorted, can’t they? A frequent prayer of mine is that my girls will see themselves as God sees them, not as anyone else sees them. Despite the influence of social media, I still think that parents play a huge part in all this, from moms who resist the urge to put down their own appearances in front of their daughters to dads who offer steady assurances that their daughters are loved and beautiful. Moms of boys (like you) play a big role, too, by modeling what true grace and beauty look like in a woman. It may not seem like the boys are noticing now, but when the time comes for them to think about dating and marriage, I have a feeling they will remember! Hugs, friend!

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    1. Lois, you are in the thick of the beauty game, aren’t you? I was like you as a teen/pre-teen. I always felt ugly and awkward. And some peers made sure I knew that this was how they saw me too. The prayer you pray for your girls is good. I’ve been praying that my boys will find their identity in God, in how He sees and loves them and not in how their peers see them. I love what you said about parents’ role in the formation of their kids/teens’ identities. You are spot on, friend. Thank you for sharing your wisdom here!

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  8. It is sad that there is so much pressure, especially for teenagers, to focus on outward beauty and to find their identity and worth in that. It can still be hard as an adult to find our identity in the right place, but we need to be good examples to teenagers and encourage them in who God has created them to be.

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    1. It IS sad, Lesley. It’s all around us in the western world. And honestly? It took me until I was in my mid-thirties before I realized I was seeking my identity in all the wrong places. And even longer than that before I could truly embrace my identity as God’s girl, if that makes sense. We adults do need to be good examples to teens in where their identity truly lies. Thank you for sharing your words here!

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    1. Yes, Sarah, it’s true. We don’t just figure out the beauty-identity thing by the time we turn 20. Kind of sad, huh? 🙂 God has helped me see my insecurities and their roots, which has helped me to them over to Him more quickly. May God give you continual wisdom and affirming words for your girls as they walk out this struggle.

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    1. You’re right, Lynn. Clothes are a big status-thing, identity thing. It’s crazy how much value people put in what they wear. Been in that boat, lived out that lie. I remember the embarrassment of not having the “cool clothes.” Mine came from second hand stores until I was through junior high. I’m glad God looks beyond the externals to our hearts.

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