Friday, October 15, 2010

FF: Chasing Beauty; How Far is Too Far?

We love Friday Forums. Anne and I both feel like we've come away from past discussions with significantly enlightened perspectives and, in some cases, changed minds. Today we want to hear your thoughts about the desires we as women have for physical beauty, to what lengths we feel it's okay to go in pursuit of it, and at what point we cross over into the precarious territory of vanity.

We all want to feel good about ourselves, and confidence in our appearance trickles down into many aspects of our lives - but what does that confidence require? An exquisite wardrobe? A lot of make up and hair product? Plastic surgery?

By going to great lengths to alter our physical appearance, are we buying into a cultural trend that has hyper-sexualized women and placed extreme value on physical allure?

For those of us with children, daughters especially, how can we expect our daughters to be able to love and accept themselves for who/how they are if we can't do the same?

We really want to hear your honest opinions and feelings and any personal experience you'd like to share. We know the answers to these questions will vary from person to person; we hope you feel comfortable to add your opinion, whatever it may be. What we really hope these discussions will yield is greater insight and understanding. We will hop in on the comment thread to add more of our thoughts and opinions.

Thanks for being here.
Hope you have a fantastic weekend!


sarahandmatt said...

I've recently been thinking a lot about this. I happen to have in my circle of influence a pair of sisters-in-law. One is married to the other's brother. They are both beautiful girls and have good morals and standards. It is interesting, though, to observe their different takes on beauty. While one is up to date on the latest trends and fashions, the other carries a more classic and timeless approach. One tends to spend her time at country clubs while the other struggles to keep her family of 7 together and taken care of. I want it to be clear--they are both GORGEOUS women, by my standards and the world's. It has caused me a lot of reflection. I find that I respect the classy, timeless and modest beauty more, but sometimes I think I envy the other girl with the more worldly style. But if I had to choose one for my daughter, I know it would be the modest beauty.

Sally said...

Ok, I could seriously write a whole post about this so I will try and keep it short. I have struggled, and I mean really struggled, with self esteem my whole life. In my later teen years I turned towards fashion and makeup to try and fix that struggle inside me. Of course it did not, but it did fool most of the outside world. Then later I started finding out that many of my closest friends had a negative first impression of me. Most assumed that I considered myself better than them, when in truth I was feeling like the smallest person on the planet. Just recently I read a book that really helped me to understand myself and know that there really is nothing wrong with me. I'm great just the way I am. This new attitude has done more for my self confidence than cute clothes or perfect hair ever could. Don't get me wrong, I still like to look nice, but now I do it for different reasons. Mostly so my husband will still thing I'm the hottest girl on the planet! ;)

Mandi said...

Love reading the comments so far. I hope Sally will tell us what book she read!

I've thought a lot a LOT on this as well. I live in an area where it's super popular to be a "gym rat"-- 2 hours every single morning at the gym, kids in the daycare.

I think it's way important to look nice. And maybe 2+ hours every morning is totally no biggie. I guess I just simply feel that life is a constant attempt to balance, and for me, 2 or more hours out of my short and already full day for any one thing (besides playing the with kids) typically seems like a bit too much.

Rae. said...
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families are forever said...

The only thing nice about my eye sight going bad is I do look better in the mirror, less wrinkles, etc. lol

Seriously, wow, what a topic it is so individual! Yet here is the name of the book I have used with my daughters and the Young Women I teach,

"Modesty, Makeovers, and the Pursuit of Physical BEAUTY" (What Mothers and Daughters need to know) by Jeffrey Holland and Susan Tanner.

You are all Beautiful, have a beautiful day!!!

Rae. said...
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Rae. said...

Mandi touched on a good point when it comes to all of this: balance.

For me, BALANCE is the magic word. And that really can mean different things for each person: For example, one woman's attitude, feelings, and life can really be dramatically (and positively) affected by a little plastic surgery while the same procedure for another woman could easily be characterized as frivolous vanity and attempts at unattainable perfection.
I think the bottom line is that how much time you spend, how much effort you put into looking good, and how you feel about yourself are all weighed out on a personalized scale that needs constant reassessment. It is all too easy to slip out of balance and become obsessed, self-doubting, and shallow. But on the other hand, looking and feeling your best is SO important - its tentacles are far reaching into almost every aspect of your life: your self esteem, your marriage, your interaction with others around you.

I am always saddened when I get pregnant and huge and realize how much I staked on my personal appearance, because I get pretty miserable as I grow larger and larger. On the one hand it is healthy and normal to miss my body, but it is also sad that I don't revel in this new beauty. I'm working on it though, it's an area I can definitely say is out of balance.

I'm excited to hear everyone's take on this!


Rachel O. said...

I have a 5 year old daughter, and I think that what is most important is to teach our daughters to respect and take care of our bodies. Our body is the most important gift from our Heavenly Father, and taking care of our bodies means always looking our best, inside and out. And when we do this, don't we end up looking naturally beautiful? I certainly think that we do.

Kari said...

I really like what Rae said.

My mom and I have bad genetics when it comes to skin. Her stomach is covered in stretch marks from babies, and mine is as well. She has told me that she wishes she got a tummy tuck to fix them, and I'm definitely interested in that when I'm done having kids. It really has nothing to do with my fat, even though I definitely have a gut. It's about my skin and the effect it has on my confidence. I now don't like my husband to touch it, and of course it's not a pretty sight. I have thought about the negative effects my tummy tuck could have on any future daughters I may have, and I guess I'm going to have to weigh the pros and cons when the time comes.

I am hypocritical because I roll my eyes when someone gets a boob job, but really, it's probably the same thing. Maybe not. I'm not sure!

ihilani said...

for me it can be summed up by Debra, in Everybody Loves Raymond: "I am a housewife and I love it, but I don't always want to LOOK like a house wife." Since giving birth (my first - she's 6 months) I've tried to make an effort to take care of my physical appearance - nothing over the top...getting out of my pajamas into some real clothes is a triumph sometimes. I've started paying a little more attention to my wardrobe, buying clothes that look good, are comfortable, and say that I haven't forgotten about ME while I give all my time to my daughter. I like to think of motherhood as my JOB, and I want to dress for success. I find that when I give a little more to my appearance, and actually get ready for the day, that I'm more productive, and more likely to give my daughter the best of me.

toddnjoelle said...

This is an interesting topic. I have 3 daughters, ages 1-5. I am terrified for them to be teenagers. I often tell my husband that I want them to be confident, but a little bit nerdy. This might sound terrible, but I don't want all the boys drooling over them amd I don't want them to feel like they need to be popular to feel good about themselves. I want them to feel good about themselves because they have good morals and know that they are daughters of God.
I know one thing that was key for me, is that I had a father who always told me I was beautiful, even when I lost my front tooth. I can't say that I am a beautiful woman, but I like to look presentable and nice most of the time.
I hope my husband and I can teach my girls to take care of themselves and love themselves for who they are. Then like Rachel said their natural beauty will come through.

karis stapley said...

I completely agree with the above mentioned of BALANCE. And the fact that it is an assesment to look at throughout our lives.
In this book I've been reading from Merrille Browne Boyack (very hilarious BTW) called "Strangling Your Husband Is NOT an Option" which is actually about how we can become better, wiser wives. She has an entire huge section devoted to this topic.
A few things she states are -
"As a wife, we need to do our utmost to try to keep ourselves attractive & appealing to our husbnds. They are human. They are normal. They are not attracted to slovenly appearances."

Cultivate A Cheerful Attitude:
"A smile does more to make a woman beautiful than anthing else she does."

Head & Hands: "What is always visible on your body? Head & hands.
Remember, head & hands stick out. Make sure they're easy on the eyes."

She also discusses the importance of taking care of our bodies as a whole such as, Enough Sleep, Physical Movement, & Exercising our brains.

A good "Rule" or item to keep in mind that she states her mom had as "Moms Best Advice # 7 -

"He's surrounded by babes at work. He doesn't want to come home to a slug." Think about it (she continues). Wherever your husband is, he sees woman who take care of themselves. They had to dress up to go to work. They look good. But he comes home to you. What does he find?

Lastly, she reminds us that we don't have to be a "fashion model",
but just to have a "healthy & attractive body" (not perfect body).

Carissa Rasmussen said...

if you focus on what's inside, the outside will always shine! Someone who is kind, compassionate, honest, loving, generous, humble and thoughtful will radiate beauty even if "genetics" didn't give her perfect skin or gorgeous hair. Women who are at peace with who they are are more confident and confidence exudes beauty. if you are confident with who you are others will confide in you. Those who respect themselves will earn the respect of others.

Bloom said...
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Bloom said...

I have loved these comments.
I especially love what Carissa said. I read this interview last night (I strongly recommend that you take the time to read it as well). I've been thinking all day about cultivating the kind of wisdom, faith and goodness Catherine Humphrey (the woman interviewed) has, and how much more noisy and enticing our society is about cultivating skin-deep beauty, style and sensuality.

This, the desire for/pursuit of physical beauty, is something about which I know I'm prone to obsess. I feel like I'm often fighting a mental battle to stay in the right frame of mind about it - not letting "vain imaginations" get the better of me.

This article is something I refer back to when I feel conflicted or out of balance. I don't think I've ever read anything about this particular topic that feels more right.

Tysha said...

When I was a teenager I read something that helped me immensely: You spend time getting to know others (and especially socializing as a teenager, right?) so why not spend a little time getting to know your SELF? So I dedicated an hour or two here and there to spend with myself. The idea was to get to know and become comfortable with ME. Maybe it sounds silly? But I feel like it helped me develop a great sense of self at a younger age. The time I spent varied from reading to going on a nature walk or taking a candlelit bath listening to my favorite CD. I wrote a lot in a journal. I decided to cut out magazines from my life (except for in the dentist's office ;) Believe me, even by never looking at a fashion magazine you will still know all the hot gossip and trends just by walking through the line at the grocery store. I felt more secure in myself not getting sucked into those magazines and comparing myself to others, or at least not to those perfectionized by photoshop in print.

Fast forward. I'm 33 now. Have two babies. And I feel the very most beautiful when I am wearing old jeans, a t-shirt, standing on a northwest beach with sand between my toes and a little bit of sea breeze in my hair, one cheek kissed by the sun, the other, by my husband (who thinks I am beautiful au naturale ;) No makeup. No hair product. Nothin'. Children at my feet and husband with his arm around me. That is when I feel most authentically me, and most connected to the value I find in life and in being one of God's grandest creations.

liz said...

I am a low-maintenance kind of girl, which my husband appreciates thank goodness, but I have realized something about myself lately. I am often judgmental about other women who look good (mostly just in my head) more than I am about ones who are a little frumpy. I think to myself that they spend too much time and energy on their appearance, or that their priorities are wrong. I put my foot in my mouth in front of a new acquaintance recently when I made an off-hand comment about people having plastic surgery and she proceeded to tell me that she has had two breast augmentations (did you know that they don't last forever, especially if you have a baby after one?).

President Monson's talk at the Relief Society meeting has made me more thoughtful about charity and judgment in my relationships with other women. In thinking about this topic, I am reminded that we can only decide what is right for ourselves and our families. Other people make decisions for themselves, and we have to respect their right to do so.

I can't see myself going under the knife, but after five babies, I can certainly understand why someone would want a tummy tuck and/or a little work on the breast area. We all walk a fine line between wanting to have confidence and self-respect, reflected in our appearance, and being overly concerned with the world's idea of beauty. But it's a line we can only draw for ourselves.

Sally said...

Mandi- the book is called It's just my nature and it's by Carol Tuttle. I highly reccomend this book to everyone. It not only helps you understand and accept yourself more fully, but it has also really helped me in my relationship with my husband and kids.

Jonesy said...

I believe the most important things on earth are our relationships with others. What I've discovered is that of all the relationships we have, whether it be spouse, parent, child, friend, teacher, boss, employee, etc., the one relationship that affects every other is the one that we have with ourselves. "If mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" is right on so many different levels!!! That being said, what woman doesn't feel better when showered, dressed in well-fitting clothes, hair nicely done, and maybe even made-up a little(or a lot)? It not only affects how she feels about herself, but the QUALITY of every other relationship in her life!! "Balance" is such a tricky word, because it's usually so unattainable. I just think that looking good, but avoiding extremes is where it's at, but as with everyone else, that fine line is different for everyone.

Joan said...

I feel strongly that it is a matter of intention. Do I put my make-up on in the morning, fix my hair, and put on a cute outfit b/c I want my friends to think I'm pretty or b/c I want attention from the opposite sex? Perhaps (and hopefully) my intention is b/c I walk more confidently, b/c I feel most authentically me, b/c I want to be an attractive wife to my good husband.
Do I get a breast lift and modest augmentation after birthing five children b/c I am repairing my sad/saggy bags of tissue that used to be my beautiful breasts? Does that mean I should get a face lift when I'm 50 b/c I don't look 20 anymore and I'm desperate to reclaim my youth? Do I go under the knife to repair my tired/scarred/saggy belly that once was flat so I can confidently sport a sassy two piece?
The answer to every one of the above mentioned questions is entirely individual AND is not for ANY of us to judge. As women we are so quick to claim we know the intentions of others and to slap a judgment on them. Not okay.
Be mindful of your actions. Be self aware. And ultimately, respect the decisions of others without passing unfair judgment.
With all that being said--I have never had plastic surgery of any kind. Do I plan to? I'm not entirely sure at this point.
Do I wear make-up? YES. I enjoy accentuating my natural/simple features with fun eye shadow and a little bronzer.
Do I try to look fashionable and attractive in terms of my clothing? Yes--but within reason. I don't allocate all my time/money/energy into being the trendiest, hot-mom on the block. But I am confident when I look my best for me and for my husband.
Okay, dissertation complete :) Thanks for humoring me.

KMonti said...

Thank you so much for visiting me at The Noble Wife... I'm posting your link tomorrow (Monday October 18th, 2010) and I didn't quote you, I just passed on your link. Thank you again! I love your blog!

Lindsay said...

First, love your blog.
Second, this is a hard one. I've always liked fashion/getting dressed up to a point, but also consider myself casual at the same time. I try to keep up with fashion/looking nice and truly I would love to be more fashionable and wear the latest trends, but it is hard with kids to always keep it up. At the same time I hate to give into societal pressures in this area. I hate the unrealistic standard we, as girls/women, are put up against in the media as compared to models/movie stars/singers/etc., especially when dealing with weight. I want to make sure my daughter realizes these are not "real" people. One of my favorite quotes is by Audrey Hepburn (I think she is/was one of the prettiest/classiet ladies out there) and in it she said "I believe happy girls are the prettiest girls" (full quote is on my blog, it's a great one!). I think that is so true - no matter what shape, size, ethnicity, clothing style, when someone is happy and is kind to others it radiates and those girls really are the prettiest. That is what I want my daugther to understand and I hope I can be successful at helping her understand that.

Emily said...

I'll be honest, I'm a little disappointed about the comments on this topic. They seem to me like a lot of self-justifications for spending our time and money on things that really can't satisfy. Don't get me wrong, I know how much better I feel when I'm exercising regularly and my hair isn't a snarly mess, (and how much my husband appreciates it.) But going so far as to spend time and money on something like plastic surgery for wrinkles, love handles, saggy breasts, etc...well, to me it seems like misaligned priorities.

I really hope this is coming out as gently and non-judgemental as I want it to. Unfortunately, as Liz commented, I too find myself often being more critical of those with the perfectly put together clothing ensemble and super fashionable hairstyle/coloring job than those with more the more casual I didn't spend more than 30 minutes getting ready today look. Which is definitely something I need to work on. I suppose it's just my insecurity because a low-maintenance look just fits my personality and always has. But I feel like placing such high priorities on our clothing, hair and makeup often creates barriers between women and keeps us from really being ourselves in front of each other.

I don't know if this thought is really coherent....and I REALLY am not out to offend...

Anonymous said...

It doesn't take any longer to put on a cute outfit than it does to put on sweats, so why not be cute? I wear makeup everyday and fix my hair, but I have a routine and usually don't spend more than 30 minutes (including showering/shaving my legs-which I also do every day!). If need be, I can cut this down to 10ish. So those of you who find yourself worrying about the hours I spent neglecting my motherly and wifely duties so I can look fabulous, set your minds at ease!:)

God appreciates beauty and created a desire for beauty in us. But, like anything good, this desire can be corrupted into something ugly and sinful. But as long as you are modest and realistic about your time, budget, and expectations, we should celebrate our position as the "fairer sex".