What the rest of us have in common with an underwear model

picture of cameron russellI have never met a woman who hasn’t struggled with body image. Never. Not all the time in every way, but always in some way at some time. And that includes me.

And wider statistics seem to bear this out. 78% of 17-year-old girls in America don’t like their bodies. Even by the age of 13, over half of girls in America don’t like their bodies.

This obsession with body image that plagues most modern women is what made this TED Talk by Cameron Russell so fascinating. Russell is a model – and a very successful one at that. She is known for her work in Victoria Secret, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Ralph Lauren, etc. Her TED Talk is definitely worth the nine minutes it takes to listen. After watching this, I came away really liking Russell. She gets a lot right, and I admire her for being brave enough to say things publicly.

Perhaps the most striking moment is Russell’s admission, “I am insecure.” She even confesses that she’s never publicly admitted that. One of the most beautiful women in the world, who’s famous and rich because she’s beautiful, has struggled with body image. She feels insecure. Maybe that’s disheartening, because we think if she can’t be secure, then what hope is there for any of us? Maybe that’s comforting, because we realize no matter what we look like, everyone feels this way. But for sure this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Why should it not surprise us that a beautiful model admits to feeling insecure? Because there’s no way she—or any of us—could ever find security in our body image. Not when it’s based on how we look, or more accurately, how we think others look at us. Physical beauty will always be fleeting. Cultural standards change. Individual tastes change. But even more, our bodies change. We all get old, and beauty fades.

When our identity, our security in who we are, is based off of something that can’t last, we will always end up feeling insecure. It’s a never-ending cycle—when will it end?

Only when we base our identity off the one thing that won’t change: Jesus Christ and how he sees us. God’s good news is that really we aren’t beautiful. Sin makes us ugly. But Jesus, whose appearance wasn’t that attractive (Isaiah 52:14), looked good in the way that counted. He was without sin and died to take my place. And his death and life is now mine. Christ lives in me, that’s my hope, that’s what makes me glorious and beautiful (Colossians 1:27). And that’s a beauty that will last, that won’t fade away as I get old, or cultural standards change.

I don’t pretend to think this is easy. Yet when the world tells us that beauty is defined by a physical rubric, I want to consciously remind my friends, my daughter, myself, of the biblical definition of beauty. We are beautiful when our heart is rightly oriented to God, and this is not based on our height, or our hair color, or the size of our thighs. And because of this, there is no reason to be insecure – Thank God, literally, because our identity in Christ is not one we have to worry about losing.

 

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