Don't Tell Me I Look Good
My appearance is the least interesting thing about me.
Not to brag or anything, but I’m pretty cool most of the time. Not like ACTUALLY cool, more like New Girl cool. (If you don’t watch it, get on Netflix and start immediately.) The things that I’m most proud of myself for have nothing to do with what I look like. Things like being a Christ follower, a loving wife, a caring teacher, and a hard working business owner.
But this is not how I’ve always felt. I grew up, like most girls, being told by society time and time again, through words, images, and actions, that my appearance was the most important thing about me. Think about this… What’s the first thing you say when you meet a little girl? “You’re so cute!” or “You have such pretty hair.” or “What a nice dress you’re wearing!” Are any of these things wrong to say? Absolutely not. I’ve totally said them to my nieces a hundred times. But when this is the experience a child has over and over again, it is inevitable that she will think that her appearance is what makes her special. (If you have a young girl in your life, get her this book on the topic of what truly makes us pretty.) And unintentionally, this was my experience.
And of course the unrealistic societal standards of what “beauty” is surrounds us constantly. Social media, television, advertisements, etc. usually point to one form of beauty. A thin girl of moderate height, with clear skin and long eyelashes. Thankfully, this is slowly changing, but it’s still a huge issue. This likely contributes to poor self image for many women.
Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s talk about the four reasons why I don’t want you to tell me I “look good”.
1. My legacy isn’t physical.
Like I said earlier, there are many other things about me that I’m proud of. If you’re going to compliment me, I would so much rather it be about something that MATTERS. Something I do or a quality I possess that makes the world better. I want my kids and grandkids to remember me for who I was and how I helped people, not for what I looked like.
2. You have no idea what’s going on in my mind.
Or anyone’s mind for that matter. What if someone developed an eating disorder and you’re reinforcing her desire to starve herself? What if someone has a health condition that prohibits her from gaining the weight her body so desperately needs? A woman wrote an article (can’t find the reference, sorry) about how after her husband died, she lost a lot of weight while grieving. She had people keep telling her that she “looked good” which was absolutely devastating to her. Her weight loss was a sign of a REAL LOSS, one that mattered deeply. You never know what someone is going through or what battle they are fighting. Be cautious with your words.
In my case, it’s nowhere NEAR what this woman went through. But I’m sure a lot of women can relate to the battle of being sent into a negative mental state depending on how they look. When someone comments on how we look (whether they have this intention or not),
it fundamentally tells us that our current state of being is better than our former state of being.
We think how we look now must be superior to how we used to look. Which means we need to work hard to make sure we don’t go back to that place where we DIDN’T “look good”. Which leads to number 3.
3. When my appearance changes, my character doesn’t.
If you only hear one thing I say, hear this: WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE DOES NOT CHANGE WHO YOU ARE. If you gain 50 pounds, you’re not a worse person than before. If you put on a ton of muscle, you’re not a better person than before. If you have acne and frizzy hair, you can perform your job just as effectively as someone who has clear skin and perfectly tamed locks. My body has fluctuated so many times, and I can honestly say that getting smaller does not correlate with being a better person. Does that mean we shouldn’t ever try to change how we look? No, but we should definitely investigate our reasons for wanting to change and make sure our mindset is in a healthy place first.
4. We need to stop talking about bodies in general.
This is the one that really gets me. Because for a long time I followed people on social media who would post pictures of their perfect bodies. Then I stopped. Then I started following people who would post pictures of their imperfect bodies. Then I stopped. Are either of these inherently wrong? Of course not.
But I came to realize that either way, it was all about appearance.
Body positivity is a wonderful movement, but at the end of the day, we’re still focusing on bodies. We’re still giving our attention to what people look like instead of who they are. And I’m just kind of past the stage where I want to talk about or read about or look at bodies any more. Do I still struggle with this sometimes? You’d better believe it. But what I really want is to improve my character. I want to know more about other people’s thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. I want to hear about how you are changing the world. And your body is not doing that, your heart and mind are. But of course, we do still need to take care of our physical selves in order to accomplish the things we want to do in life.
Which is why I do what I do.
If you’re reading this and feeling guilty for ever saying this, PLEASE don’t. If you say it to me in the future, that’s fine, too. There is absolutely no judgement coming from me. This is something that is so ingrained in us as a society. We love to compliment each other and I know there is no ill meaning in telling someone they look good.
But before you do, please just consider if there is something else you could compliment them on instead. Like how thoughtful the birthday card they sent was. Or how patient they are with their children. Or how they spoke their mind gracefully. There are endless ways that we can compliment each others’ character, and I’m simply suggesting we start sharing those more often.
Sweet friends, I see your hearts. And they are as beautiful as they come.
Your appearance is the least interesting thing about you.