As I read these words that had been discretely scrawled onto index cards aloud to my women's Bible study, nothing about them surprised me. I'd asked the women gathered that night to answer this question: "If there was one thing you could change about your body, what would it be?" The fact they were dissatisfied with these physical features was not at all newsworthy.
What I did notice in a fresh way, however, was that every single mention was ornamental, rather than instrumental. For instance, I knew that one woman in our group needed knee surgery. Another lived with a chronically bad back. And yet, because we live in a culture that has conditioned us to consider our body's appearance rather than its function, many of us overlook our needs and strive to meet culture's desires.
Culture's premium on physical appearance
Constance Rhodes, author of Life Inside the Thin Cage and founder of Finding Balance, confirms, "We live in a culture that puts a premium on physical appearance. It can be easy to fall into the trap of focusing on how we look on the outside." The really wily nature of this trap is that—like the precious women from my church—even when we're aware of it, we're not immune to our culture's insistence on the appearance of effortless perfection.
Today most women, and many girls, are aware of the damaging effects of being bombarded daily by images of "perfect" women. We've been assured by health teachers that any real woman with Barbie's proportions wouldn't be able to stand upright. Our eyes have been opened by the Dove Real Beauty Campaign video, "Evolution," featuring a plain young woman being made over and Photoshopped to perfection. And some of us have been appropriately outraged that medium- and dark-skinned women around the globe are being sold the lie—as well as pricey skin creams—that their skin is "too dark."1