The Dove Campaign, Real Beauty, and Spiritual Practice

Some of my friends really really like this latest video from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. But when I first saw it, I couldn’t help but think, a “forensic” artist? Oh, so they got an artist who usually draws pictures of people who are missing or dead, and that’s supposed to be a positive thing??

Once I got over that, and now that I’ve seen the video a few more times, I still can’t quite give it an unqualified thumbs up. While the aim seems to be a message of affirmation for women to think positively of themselves and their appearance, the focus isn’t actually on building a more positive self-image, but on an artist’s rendering of how others describe them.

Certainly in this video, the women tend to describe one another in a positive light, but are other people always that positive, and is that really the point? As this parody suggests, other people are not always the most charitable or reliable witnesses.

What’s more, given their line of skin care, hair care, and related products, Dove might understandably focus on outward appearance, but real beauty is more than skin deep. There are so many other qualities that make a person beautiful or handsome: intelligence, wit, a gracious spirit, an interest in other people, compassion, a sense of humour, to name just a few.

Instead of obsessing over what I see in my mirror, and instead of seeing myself primarily through the eyes of others, my spiritual practice for today is to pay attention to how God sees me, to ground my sense of who I am in the words of Scripture.

I am part of humankind created “in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (Ephesians 2:10). “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). Beauty is not only outward appearance, but “the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4).

In Scripture too, I see that “beauty” is a quality ascribed to the Lord. Instead of focusing on the beauty of human appearance, I note the emphasis in Psalm 27:4-5:

One thing I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after: to live in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will set me high on a rock.

The Lord is my Shelter and my Protector, the One who lifts me up and sets my feet on solid rock. Now that’s real beauty.

More links:
What is “real beauty”? A response to the latest Dove campaign by Bethany Stolle
Dove’s beauty campaign and the danger of always looking at ourselves by Karen Swallow Prior



Categories: Spiritual Practice

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2 replies

  1. Great perspective. Most of all, thank you for the reminder to focus on the Lord’s beauty rather than our own. As always, that changes everything.