Recently actress Renee Zellweger unleashed a media ‘frenzy’ when she attended a gala with her new look; she had changed so much that many didn’t even recognize her. Renee denies going under the knife cosmetically, and claims she is simply eating healthier and exercising more, but the only recognizable features now are her prominent apple cheeks. These two pictures show her around three years ago (on left), and the one on the right from a few days ago. It really isn’t our place to judge whether or not she has had a face lift, but since 14.6 million people had cosmetic surgery in 2013, I thought this was worth discussing.
Granted, some surgeries are necessary; if you have precancerous skin cells, a chemical peel will peel away the infected cells. Aging and drooping eyelids can impair vision, and must be lifted, reconstructive surgery for scar and tumor removal is vital, and breast reduction can save a woman from back problems. So about one-third of plastic surgery is necessary for health reasons, leaving around nine million people undergoing surgery to improve their appearance. The average procedure can cost between $3,000 and $10,000, so annually Americans spend the astronomical amount of 45 billion simply to look prettier or more handsome. Ouch!
I certainly understand the desire to be as attractive as possible; I used to have gorgeous copper hair, but as I have aged, my hair has turned a drab brown. I could spend a small fortune every few months maintaining my natural hair color, but it simply isn’t important enough to me to warrant that much time, energy and expense. I do have compassion for those that went gray prematurely, it makes sense to color their hair, as gray hair ages a woman dramatically.
Aging is not for the faint of heart. Aching joints, sagging wrinkles and muscles, bunions, failing eyesight and cataracts; the list is endless. Some people vigorously fight the aging process with excessive exercise, working out hours every day. We should absolutely eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis, but in all things balance is crucial. In fact St. Paul warns in 1st Timothy 4:8 “…while physical training is of limited value, devotion is valuable in every respect, since it holds a promise of life both for the present and for the future”. So while exercise is beneficial and key to staying healthy, prayer is twice as important, since it affects the hereafter, which is eternal.
The definition of ‘vanity’ from Dictionary.com is “excessive pride in one’s appearance, qualities, abilities, achievements, etc.” Vanity is tied in with narcissism, which is an “obsession with ourselves, to the exclusion of other people — both their needs, and their gifts which they want to share with us.” (From Trans4Mind, link below) As we are warned in Ecclesiastes 1:3 “All things are vanity! What profit have we from all the toil which we toil at under the sun? One generation departs and another generation comes, but the world forever stays.” The only thing that lasts forever is our soul; eventually our bodies waste away and when we die our expensive jewelry, name-brand clothing and the rest of our cherished belongings are left behind.
If you are obsessed with your appearance, you might be suffering from the sin of vanity or narcissism. One rule-of-thumb is to look into your heart; does it send you into an emotional tailspin because your nose is too big, or because you are pear-shaped, rather than like an hourglass? I have never liked the shape of my legs, which I inherited from my mother; they are just too scrawny! We all have imperfections, but television distorts our view of ourselves. When photographing models and actresses it is common for Hollywood and magazine photographers to air-brush the pictures to ‘brush out’ flaws and make the men and women appear more beautiful and perfect. The result is a ‘Barbie-doll’ mentality that unless we look flawless physically, we have no worth or value.
Back in 2009 actress Jamie Lee Curtis got tired of the entire charade, and hired a photographer to show her without makeup, sagging muscles and all. She wanted women to see the way she truly looked, instead of the white-washed pictures you usually see. Jamie has become so passionate about women accepting themselves, warts and all, that she has written four children’s books sharing the message of affirmation, that “It’s okay to be you”.
Hollywood is particularly obsessed with physical appearance, and Jamie had to work through that attitude in order to accept her ‘thunder-thighs’ and puffy back. In the article True Thighs, Jamie explains “To have a life beyond the movie business, you’ve got to find out who you are without the stylists, the Harry Winston jewels and the fancy borrowed outfits. You’ve got to be able to look in the mirror and recognize yourself. ” Jamie is open and honest about her ‘nips and tucks’, “‘I’ve done it all,’ she says, breaking yet another unwritten Hollywood rule: Never fess up. ‘I’ve had a little plastic surgery. I’ve had a little lipo. I’ve had a little Botox. And you know what? None of it works. None of it.’” She explained that all the surgeries caused her to look puffy under the camera.
Jamie’s message of accepting ourselves and our faults is crucial for young women today. St. Paul again warned in 1st Peter 3:3 to focus on the beauty within, rather than on physical appearance. “Your adornment should not be an external one: braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or dressing in fine clothes, but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.” Naturally many women take time with their hair and makeup to look as attractive as possible; just be careful not to spend more time primping than you do praying! One double check is to weigh the amount of time and money you spend on your makeup regimen, having your hair styled, your nails done and your body toned. If you are spending more improving your appearance than on your faith or on charity, you may have a problem with vanity.
To accept yourself and your flabby arms and knobby knees, focus more on increasing the beauty inside, becoming more kind and compassionate, caring and understanding. One good measure to determine if you are self-absorbed is to examine the amount of time you spend helping others; do you babysit for young mothers with active children to give her a break? Even if you aren’t a grandmother, there are plenty of young moms who would be delighted to have the help. Do you volunteer at St. Vincent de Paul or help in homeless shelters? One group, Love and Serve Atlanta, hands out shoes, toiletries, socks and bottled water once a month in Hurt Park in downtown Atlanta. Perhaps you are called to donate your time as a volunteer at a hospital, or to lead a bible study. Being involved is a great way to fight vanity.
American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Jamie Lee Curtis: True Thighs