Should You Change Your Physical Appearance? - Part One


Is there a limit to the length we should go to in order to look “better”?

The other day after I had my hair colored, I thought about the story I read in which a 54-year old woman had a heart attack and was taken to the hospital. While on the operating table she had a near death experience. Seeing God she asked "Is my time up?"

God said, "No, you have another 43 years, 2 months and 8 days to live."

Upon recovery, the woman decided to stay in the hospital and have a facelift, liposuction, breast implants and a tummy tuck. She even had someone come in and change her hair color and brighten her teeth! Since she had so much more time to live, she figured she might as well make the most of it.

After her last operation, she was released from the hospital. While crossing the street on her way home, she was killed by an ambulance.

Arriving in front of God, she demanded, "I thought you said I had another 43 years? Why didn't you pull me from out of the path of the ambulance?"

God replied: "I didn't recognize you."

So after my trip to the beauty parlor, I decided I didn’t look so terribly different that God wouldn’t know who I was.

In any case, it seems that the moral of the story is that God loves you the way you are.

Why Don't We Like the Way We Look?

However, I suspect that many people aren’t really sure about God’s love. Or they may be sure about God, but skeptical about their fellow humans. Consequently, they want to look as good as they can just in case others don’t like them the way they are.

What with the diet, supplement and fashion industries telling us what we "should" look like, it's not surprising that some of us color our hair. Others have face lifts, tummy tucks, breast implants, and liposuction.

When we're told we would look better if only we _____, it's hard not to think a little improvement is needed to make us more acceptable. But does that mean acceptable to us or to others?

I have convinced myself that since my face doesn't have much natural color, I think I look washed out when my hair is gray. My sister has gray hair and it looks attractive on her. On the other hand, people tell me I look younger than I am and I admit I like the compliments. Is it my hair or my face or the way I act? I'll let others decide.

Going Too Far or Not Far Enough?

When do we go too far beyond the simple act of doing something that adds a bit of flair and style to our persona, like coloring our hair; applying mascara, rouge and lipstick; or having a tattoo? When do we negate the person we are meant to be without operations and botox? When do we announce to the world that we aren't okay just the way nature made us, when our bodies reflect someone we were not born to be? Michael Jackson comes to mind. Would he have been less talented if he hadn't had all those operations?

In the middle of writing this post I took a break on my exercise bike and read a little more from Pigs in Heaven by Barbara Kingsolver. This is what she had a man thinking about the female protagonist:

"She's the first woman he's ever known who doesn't give a damn how she looks or is completely happy with the way she looks, which amounts to the same thing. Usually women are aware of complex formulas regarding how long the legs should be in relation to the waist in relation to the eyelashes — a mathematics indecipherable to men but strangely crucial to women."

Since my weight is about the same it been for years, but shifting to the front, I know what he means. I'm trying not to pay too much attention to the mathematics of it, but it isn't easy.

Some Questions to Consider

If you think you have to change your body in order to be liked, or in order to like yourself, here are two questions from the Support4Change article "Body Image: Deciding What is a Perfect Body" that may help you decide whether you're okay the way you are.

  1. What woman (or man) had the greatest impact on you growing up? How much of her (or his) influence was related to her (or his) size?
  2. How much time in your life have you spent thinking about changing, promising to change, wishing you could change aspects of your body? If you could have all that energy back, where would you direct it?

These questions were suggested by the Real Women Project, a website I strongly suggest you visit. Especially look at the thirteen sculptures created in the lost wax process commissioned to provide real evidence of the real bodies of women in contrast to the illusion of Barbie. They are the same size as the popular doll. The limited edition sells for $50,000, so you're unlikely to buy them for a home improvement project.

But the hope of the founders of the Real Women Project is that these sets of bronzes will be used by teaching and healthcare organizations to facilitate experiential learning regarding body image and self-esteem.

[ NOTE: If you want to read another commentary on our focus on physical appearance, see Part Two and Part Three of this topic. ]

This article was originally published at . Reprinted with permission from the author.