The Attractiveness Lie

I am going to interrupt my series on my personal story this week with a post on some of my recent developments in thinking. I flew out to my university yesterday and will not resume that series until later this week or next. In the meantime, I am excited to share this particular post with all of you.

One of the great lies of the culture in which I was raised is that we need to be physically attractive. This lie is one of man’s most terrible and destructive creations, in my opinion.

I was raised in the Christian conservative home school movement. This movement taught its young women that their primary purpose was to be wives and mothers. This idea, combined with the culture’s emphasis on courtship and physical modesty, created a dreadful delusion under which I have lived for some time.

This focus on marriage and family as my chief end in existing twisted my mind in some really unhealthy ways. First and foremost, it taught me that my value lay in my future marriage to a man. This idea stripped me of inherent worth in my own eyes, placing all that worth in my currently non-existent relationship to another human being.

Imagine the terrible uncertainty which this idea created. I could not be sure of my own worth and happiness, because I could not be sure of my future marriage. This uncertainty further encouraged a sense of desperation to attain that all-important marriage, in order to be assured of my own worth and purpose.

But, the modesty/courtship culture in which I was raised simultaneously caused this desperation and encouraged its alarming growth, since I, as a young woman, was told that I was not allowed to actively pursue marriage. Given this teaching, it’s no surprise that I developed the idea that I needed to be very attractive. After all, with no way to actively achieve marriage, what else could I do but make myself irresistible to my potential spouses?

But I was limited in this ability also. Although I was taught to desire to be attractive, modesty condemned this desire as wrong and limited my ability to passively pursue marriage by trying to be attractive. Thus, I was once more left powerless to achieve the ends I so desperately wanted.

Guilt awaited me at every turn. I was told how wrong I was to objectify men while at the same time being told that men were my only possible source of worth and happiness. I struggled with looking at men only as potential spouses while also feeling intense shame for not being able to accept them as human beings.

When these ideas finally came clear in my mind, I was frankly shocked. The only relief was that all of these views were so obviously lies that it was not difficult to reject them, in thought, at least. Emotionally, I will struggle with the repercussions of this destructive upbringing for years.

So, what is the truth that I’ve found instead? My worth and happiness lie in who I am, not in my ability to be attractive and get married. The sense of relief and self-love which I am experiencing as I embrace this realization is really incredible. It’s wonderful to realize that I am a person with inherent value and purpose, apart from any other human being. I don’t have to wait in miserable uncertainty for marriage in order to live a fulfilled and happy life. That life is what I am experiencing right now.

Men are not objects. They are people with the same inherent worth and right to happiness which I possess. I am free at last to enjoy them as friends, since they are no longer my sole ticket to personhood and a fulfilling life.

Many others are writing wonderful posts on this topic. For one excellent source, visit Hannah’s blog at Wine and Marble. For another, see Emily Timbol’s recent article at the Huffington Post. My ideas are not original. They are, however, personally transforming, and, I hope, relevant to some of you. Please feel free to share your own thoughts on this topic. Join in the conversation.

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