My Inner Struggle Over Outer Appearance

I do not usually write about clothes or physical appearance on this blog.

You will not find “What I Wore Wednesday” posts around here. It just isn’t my thing.

But lately, I’ve been thinking about clothes, hair, and make-up, a lot more than usual.

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine about Christian women and physical appearance. She shared how she was trying to see herself as God’s creation of beauty. If she truly believed God created her exactly the way He wanted her, she felt she had no business altering her appearance.

And immediately, I felt convicted, and challenged, and defensive, all at once.

Three months after the conversation, I still think of it every time I get ready in the morning. I struggle to figure out exactly what my opinion is about the whole thing. Do I have any business altering my appearance?

There is such a thin line between altering and enhancing beauty. I’m not a big fan of completely altering my appearance, but should I refrain from enhancing, as well?

As my friend talked, I thought about our yard, which was full of large weeds at the time. It’s a big leap, but those weeds are also God’s creation.

Now, I don’t want a yard full of weeds. We have been anxiously waiting for the rain to stop so we could get some sod on our yard before winter. You cannot imagine how giddy I was on the day that beautiful sod finally arrived.

But  God created both grass and weeds. Am I altering or enhancing what He has made when I choose to get rid of the weeds and plant grass?

My friend says that example doesn’t really count – God wants us to care for the Earth, and helping to beautify it is not the same as physical appearance. And she’s right, but sometimes it can help to try to find a comparison which will shed new light on the question.

So, bringing it back to my own physical appearance…

God gave me moody hair. Usually, it is neither straight, nor curly, but something weird in between. I have to put some effort into making it one or the other. If I left my hair alone and exposed it’s moodiness to the world, I’m sure everyone would survive. I might even get used to it.

But I choose to straighten it, because when I do, I don’t have to do much with my hair for about four days, which makes me very happy.

Am I altering what God has created?

I choose to wear a little bit of make-up. I have struggled with my complexion since I was a teenager, and I enjoy covering up the evidence. Whenever the subject comes up, people are surprised to learn that I’m wearing any make-up, so I guess it’s pretty natural-looking.

Am I enhancing or altering?

I’ve never thought it was wrong to put on a little bit of make-up, but one day Kaylia came into the bathroom while I was putting on some eye shadow, and said with a huge smile on her sweet face, “Mommy, can I make my eyebrows pretty, too?!”

My heart hurt as I looked down at her perfectly smooth, chubby cheeks and sparkling eyes, and I could not imagine how anything could possibly make her more beautiful.

Does God feel like that about us?

Is it wrong to have a little bit of fun with hairstyles  or nice clothes?

I can’t figure it out. I never want it to consume my life, and I desire balance.

But God created us to enjoy beauty.

That crazy-perfect woman in Proverbs 31 was “clothed in fine linen and purple.”

Do I get to enjoy the beauty of “fine linen and purple”, or is that going down the slippery path towards materialism and vanity?

I loved this blog post I read recently regarding beauty and vanity:

…I also have my mother’s fear of vanity. Whenever someone comments on how handsome my sons are, I catch myself saying, “I know, it worries me,” instead of, “Thank you,” and I need to stop this. By assigning fear or worry to looks, we give them more power than they deserve.

Why are we afraid? My mum thought beauty could lead to vanity could lead to an eating disorder. So then I got one anyways.

I am learning to celebrate my children in the same way I celebrate a piece of art. I do not fear the beauty found in a sunrise, in mountains, in a cathedral, in a Van Gogh. It’s a beauty that points to a gracious and loving God. So why, then, should I fear it in the flesh?

What does it mean to celebrate beauty in our own physical appearance?

If we’re celebrating it, should we only enjoy it in it’s unaltered form, or is God okay with our desire to dress things up a little bit?

I don’t have the answer to that question, which means…

1) I’ll have to keep wrestling through it


2) I’m hoping you will all comment like crazy, and get some discussion going here, because I would absolutely love to hear your thoughts. I think we could learn from each other. Anyone have some words of wisdom?


10 thoughts on “My Inner Struggle Over Outer Appearance

  1. Oh, Kendra…I am so struggling with this, too. I have no answers. But, I’ll be watching your comment section to see if anyone else has any good advice. Although, maybe we’re not all called to the same thing here either?! I don’t know. I have a friend who struggled dramatically with self image and an eating disorder and when she “conquered” it, she just completely stopped using make-up and fixing her hair and all that outer stuff. She’s still beautiful but she certainly doesn’t spend much time on it. The thing I don’t know is whether she thinks about it less or not. You know what I mean? Sometimes, we “buck the system” (I think maybe that’s a term used only by my Mom, I’m not sure) but we spend so much time doing that, that we end up sort of in the opposite bondage-obsessing about not obsessing, if that makes any sense. I don’t know. I’ve never known how to feel about that. I’ve never been really obsessed with my outward appearance, but maybe I’ve still been giving it too much attention. I just don’t know. I’m interested to see what others think about this. Thanks for starting the discussion. I think it’s really an important one to have.

  2. Great discussion topic! It’s been on my mind a lot lately too. I heard a great clip on the radio a few weeks ago. Nicole Nordeman was talking about her new book she wrote after making the album “Music inspired by The Story”. (Great album, btw!) Each song and each chapter is dedicated to a Bible character. When she was working on Esther, she said she really struggled with the concept that Esther’s spiritual gift was beauty. She talked about how much beauty is almost frowned upon in Christian circles. So it was mind boggling to her, that God would purposely use Esther’s beauty to accomplish His plan. I don’t know if it’s just my definsive side, but I feel like too often we’ve equated beauty with vanity and I don’t think that is right. I think God is a god of beauty and creativity. I think we should not feel apologetic for expressing those qualities. But, how does that work with understanding and accepting the beauty God already made? And keeping a balance with it so it doesn’t consume our thoughts, energy and time? (I say all this after reading a book on 100 memorable dresses and staying up half the night thinking about them:)

    • Oh, such good points, Lorna. Beauty isn’t vanity. A good reminder.

      We recently went to a conference where the theme was MAKE. It focussed a lot on how God is the Creator and he MADE us to MAKE and CREATE. I loved that theme a lot. I’m lost if I’m not being creative. So, maybe our appearance really is just another way to show that need to be creative? I like that view. It’s always such a slippery slope. But isn’t everything? We have to figure out the moderation, I guess. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with the thought of beauty being “bad”, but not completely comfortable either with people who seem completely consumed with youth and outward beauty. There’s a happy medium in the middle there somewhere, I’m thinking.

      • Oh, you are exactly right, Alicia! The balance always seems to be found somewhere in the tricky middle. It’s much safer to stick to an extreme end. Easier, too. But we enter into the discussion and the difficulty when we venture out into the middle.

        And I also love the idea of being made to make. It is easy to see how art, which can be expressed in so many different ways, can move to the body. Oh, that almost sounds like I’m okay with tatoos, which I’m not – I was just reading a book the other day that talked about the health concerns, as well as possible biblical perspectives on it, and it seems best to leave that one alone, in my opinion. When I refer to art moving to the body, I mean more of the temporary kind!

      • Our appearance as an outlet for creativity!-Thanks for putting that into words for me Alicia. I think it’s interesting how I can totally understand that when I am looking at some designer’s magnificent creations or even some people’s individual unique sense of style, but I have such a hard time relating that principal to me when I’m getting ready in the morning.

    • Interesting thoughts, Lorna. I had completely forgotten about Esther, but you’re right – God did use her beauty. And I love it that He used a combo of her beauty and courage! Beauty by itself would be empty, but when a beautiful person also has a godly character, the whole person is that much more of an attractive blessing to others! (And I laughed about the 100 dresses! Thanks for your honesty!:)

  3. This is a topic that, I think, everyone at one time or another has struggled with or at the very least thought about. I am not for or against any one particular opinion, but I do still have an opinion.
    I truly believe a previous comment that said ‘beauty and vanity are two separate things’, but we’ve blurred the line in between so much, we can’t tell the difference anymore.
    God describes womanly beauty as what is on the inside not outward appearances. And I agree, so then is it wrong that I still put product in my hair? Because. like you Kendra, I have neither straight nor curly hair and it often has a mind of its own. Do I do it for beauty or vanity? I think it’s the latter. But I don’t obsess over my hair. I just wear a hat if it’s really bad 😉 And I don’t wear any makeup, partly because it’s expensive and makes my face itchy, but mainly because I don’t care to take the time to put it on. As a teenager though, I tried all the latest trends because I felt an unhealthy need to fit in.
    I think this becomes an issue if it becomes and idol in your life. In other words, if your hair and make up become more important to you than God and takes away time that you would spend with God otherwise. Or if you are putting it on because you care terribly much what others think of you, more than what God thinks of you (which is BEAUTIFUL, btw).
    Perhaps this is one of those topics that is “to each ‘her’ own”. But remembering that God loves us just as He made us and we don’t need to alter ourselves to make Him love us any more. I think it should be the same with people too. Who wants a friend who only likes you when you are wearing make-up, clothes, or hair just to fit in to society’s twisted definition of beautiful?
    We are all beautiful because that’s how God made us. I will still put product in my hair, and occasionally wear tinted, shimmery lip gloss, but it doesn’t change what God thinks of me and that’s where I will look to for value.
    Each person will have their own opinion and do what they feel is right. Just so long as we keep the true definition of beauty as what is in our hearts, not on our bodies.

  4. Ok, today’s topic made me finally get around to reading this page I had bookmarked:
    It has a little bit of a different angle, looking at beauty in the context of marriage, but still some enlightening points. Now, I’ll just have to find time to read the link at the bottom of the page to the next study on it.
    The short summary of the article is this-If we are to pursue beauty as a way of showing honor and love to our husbands, what does that mean for us as Christ’s Bride?

  5. Some good points are made in the comments above. I agree with keeping a balance. I have experimented with going without makeup and felt yucky all day. I just feel better when I am fixed up a little. My hair is unruly when left to nature too. Here is a thought: Recently I was struggling with something and a good friend told me that if it was heavy on my conscience, then it may be something I need to settle between God and I.

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