On the pressure for beauty

This is something that’s been on my mind. I thought I’d think out loud today

Have you ever noticed how obsessed our society is with physical beauty? I’m sure you have. You can’t get around it. It’s brought to our attention as young children and the idea of being beautiful becomes a desire. How much we desire it varies from person to person, age to age.

Obviously, the pressure for physical beauty comes from many outlets… maybe it’s the barbies I played with for half of my childhood… maybe it’s the way I noticed pretty girls got more attention in school… maybe it’s my genetic make-up as a human… maybe it’s the make-up and weight loss industry that gains millions of dollars from us every year.Whatever it is, the pressure is there. We all feel it.

Have you ever noticed that on almost every TV show almost every character is one that 90% of the population will agree is attractive? Look at the Braverman’s from Parenthood. Look at the doctors on House, MD. I think what made love The Office so much was that the characters were much more realistic.

Most of us would agree that this pressure is more suffocating for girls than boys. For some reason we associate getting out of bed and throwing on clothes to be sexy for a man, rugged if you will, but if a woman did the same thing we’d say she doesn’t “take care of herself.” A woman is expected to put on make-up, fix her hair, stay up with the fashion trends, and be thin but not too thin.

I don’t believe the obession with beauty is anything new, but now there are so many ways to make us look more beautiful. It would be a shame not try them, right?

I mean, if I don’t like the way I look…


I can put some make-up on…


Or fix my hair in a certain way….


Or use a filter.

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And if I am fully committed to being beautiful I could do things like spend hours in the gym everyday, buy the newest and greatest beauty product, hit the tanning bed, or maybe get plastic surgery.

No, I’m not implying these things are bad on their own. I just think it’s good to examine our motives. If we want to be more tan or more toned, why do we want it? Is it because we believe we will be more beautiful? If we are more beautiful, will life be better? Will we have more self-confidence?

If you asked me, I’d say yes. Sure, we’d feel a little better about ourselves. Until we notice something else that doesn’t meet the status quo. Did you know that most people who have plastic surgery are people who have had plastic surgery in the past? Why is that the beauty and weight loss industry are making billions of dollars?

Doesn’t it seem like we will never be enough?

From my own personal experience, the answer is no: we will never be enough if we constantly compare ourselves to others. We will never be enough if it’s physical beauty that we find our value in. In middle school I began to associate beauty with being skinny. After being told I would be “so hot if I lost 10 pounds” by a guy friend at 14, I was certain that was the case.But in the end being skinny left me feeling lifeless and not beautiful at all. Then it became about looking “womanly.” Have a curvy body, not look like a child. Oh wait, can I be curvy and fit? Can I make that happen?

In my post “stop waiting to love your body“, I shared my solution to body peace: forget about it. No, not to neglect my body, but to forget about the way it looks. Focus on how I feel emotionally and what I am capable of.

What they say is true, beauty is deceptive. When we crave physical beauty we become jealous. Jealous of those we think have what we don’t. We become consumed. Consumed with how we can improve our looks, often to the point of forgetting what we really value. We become self-conscious. We start to believe that if only we were more physically attractive then we could accomplish our goals.

I doubt this desire or attraction will ever really go away completely in us. We find joy in looking pretty on a date night or buying a new outfit that fits just right. We love to be told we are beautiful. However, I think it’s important to keep the discussion open. How does this pressure to be beautiful affect us? Is it causing us to be more insecure and less likely to feel comfortable enough to take risks? Is it causing us to be discouraged when our work outs don’t seem to be changing our bodies quite like we hoped? Do we spend too much time in the mirror, getting ready or just looking at ourselves?

For myself I have found that with age and a better understanding of society, I’ve definitely grown more confident. I believe and support the message that we can accept our bodies and not dwell on them, but simply dwell in them.

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^Here I am after I came home from a run. I felt so good. My body was feeling strong and I was so proud that I had managed do as much as I did. When I look at this picture, I don’t see my “dream body.” When I look at this picture what I do see is me, my body. Average, but mine. Yet, I see more than a body. I see confidence. I see progression. I see happiness.

Can we begin to look past our the appearances of our physical bodies and look at what they have done? Can we see our whole selves and not just the surface? Can we begin to invest more in the soul dwelling in the body than in the body housing our souls?

I say yes. Yes we can. And when we support one another in this endeavor, we are far more likely to succeed. We can fight the pressure put on us as females to value our physical body more than or minds.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, if you agree/disagree/etc. Let’s keep this discussion open. 



46 thoughts on “On the pressure for beauty

  1. This is freakin amazing! Kate, you are beautiful inside and out. Our society always makes me crazy, because the pressure for beauty so strong. My sister is 12 year old, and she already want skinny body.

  2. This is so beautiful, Kate. You are beautiful inside and out! Your message here is so perfect in so many ways – Your line, “see our whole selves rather than the service” says wonders. Keep preaching, girl.

  3. “Snaps / fist bumps / hugs / props”… any of the other things the cool kids are doing these days. They are all going out to you.

    This is so brave AND beautiful. The thing about beauty, to me, is that is perfectly okay to want to look and feel beautiful. It can transform my mood when I put in a little extra effort to put on nice clothes, put on some makeup etc. But we need to trust our OWN intuition and not seek validation in what others perceive as beautiful. If we feel beautiful, or if a certain way we put our hair makes us feel beautiful, then we shouldn’t care if it is the “normal” or “accepted” picture of beauty. Uniqueness and confidence are the two most beautiful things someone can have, I think. Thanks Kate ❤

    1. What I would love to see is the want for beauty to turn into a feeling of beauty. It just breaks my heart that we hold such a high standard of beauty that we won’t allow ourselves to just feel beautiful in our own skin!
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  4. AMAZING post Kate. Completely agree with everything you said. Our society is so fixated on physical beauty. What ever happened to complimenting someone’s personality rather than how they look?? If someone complimented my kindness or ability to help others over my makeup that day or my body, it would honestly mean SO much more to me. Loved this girly. ❤

  5. Agreed Kate. I think the dialog has to change at the elementary level. Instead of telling our daughters they are pretty, we should compliment them by saying they are smart, clever or spunky. I see this happening and it’s amazing to see. The feminist women who are becoming mothers are raising a wiser generation of girls 🙂

    1. I agree! I’m so grateful that, while my parents told me I was pretty/beautiful, they also told me I was intelligent, hard working, funny, or had done something kind. It’s got to start young!

  6. Wonderful post, Kate. I have little to add except that I fully agree with everything you said. Wanting to be attractive is normal (I mean, it’s in our biology when you think about survival an evolution) but it becomes a problem when that’s ALL you care about. It’s a fine line, for sure, and we could all benefit from less vanity and more focus on other things.
    Thanks for sharing ❤

    1. The biology aspect of it is why I don’t think it’s a terrible thing. I just feel like our society has really warped what beauty means. I imagine at a time it simply meant healthy and lively. I long for that sort of focus!

  7. Love this Kate! Your use of pictures is the best part! Even though you are beautiful in ALL of them!! Thank you for sharing this and thank you for your bravery and honesty. You are amazing! ❤️

    1. Thank you heather!! The pictures really go to show how skewed our perception of “beauty” can be. So many of us our envious of photos that have been professionally edited!

  8. Love, love, love, love, LOVE this post. I had a brother growing up, and my best friend was a tomboy with 2 older brothers, so I don’t think I really “got” the whole beauty thing for a while until I was a junior or senior in high school and then I kind of went overboard. I’m really lucky in that Alex literally cannot stand makeup and forced me to stop straightening my hair. I think having someone love me and insists on seeing me how I REALLY am was so important to overcoming all of it. And then, of course, 2 pregnancies DEFINITELY help you see your body in a completely different light, because

    1. I agree that having a husband helped me a lot. I hate that I didn’t come to the realization as a single lady, but I pray that maybe I can help someone else get there!

  9. This is a beautiful post with so much honesty and TRUTH. As much as I know that God looks at my heart, sometimes I allow the world to dictate my beauty instead of what I know God looks at as beautiful. WHy does the world get to outweigh Christ? IT DOESNT! But that’s the world we live in. Constant pressures, comparison traps, and images of gorgeous women subject us to the flawed thinking that we simply aren’t enough. We are enough – the moment we accept Christ into our hearts we become God’s perfect creation in His eyes. THATS who I want to be beautiful for – not this world, which is going to die and fade away in the end. Some of the most beautiful people I know are flawed physically, yet their inner beauty that shines from their HEARTS makes them undeniably gorgeous.

    1. There is so much freedom in Jesus that allows us to escape the pressures! I am so glad I know Him, and believe that he fully knows me.
      And yes, some of the most beautiful people I know are people that others wouldn’t think twice about.

  10. yes! This is such a struggle! I try so hard not to do this but its a constant daily battle. I too am trying to focus on being healthy and strong and not obsessing on how much i weigh, what my body looks like, etc. But its soooo hard! Thanks for sharing this post–really well written!

  11. I love hearing your thoughts on these topics, Kate! I think it’s completely natural that our physical appearance enhances our confidence, but it shouldn’t ever be our primary source of it. It would do us all a lot of good to work more on being kinder and less on looking perfect, whatever that is. The latter somehow seems “easier” today, though, so that’s often where the focus lies. Thanks for writing this!

  12. Beautiful post Kate! I think our society in general is way too focused on aesthetics. I also think the beauty ideal is unattainable for anyone because that’s how the diet/makeup/clothing industry make their money. They know perfect is impossible but they feed on the population’s desire to have that physical “perfection,” they know people will pay for more and more and more, and in the end never truly to be happy. The key to happiness and self love is all internal, not external, and it certainly can not be bought.

  13. Absolutely beautiful post, Kate. I feel like we’re starting to see a shift towards women being praised for things like strength and intelligence rather than just looks, but there’s definitely still a ways to go.. and I feel like more attention needs to be put on sending the right message to younger girls. I got so much more confident with age, but I really wish that I didn’t waste so many years chasing something that ultimately never made me happy.

    1. Thanks Amanda. I think we are definitely making strides, but we need to begin putting feet to our words. Like if we really believe and support this message, can we live it as well? I think supporting each other and those younger than us can make a huge impact! You’re a great role model!

  14. Thank you for SUCH an honest post. You’re absolutely amazing, and beautiful inside and out. I talked to my nutritionist about how hard it was to see my body changing and she compared it to puberty and how it’s an uncomfortable transition for anyone but in the end you have a womanly body–I’m just going through it 10 years late! It’s sad though that at 15 when my body truly was changing I hated it enough to turn to an eating disorder. I wanted to be something I was not and looking back I wish I had been told that I was perfect just the way I was.

    1. Ugh what I wish I believed at 15! I felt like I was hitting puberty a few years ago once again and it was tough. But in the end I’ve found a much more stable weight that body seems to love. I don’t have to work to maintain, ya know? I realize too that my body will likely change some more and I will do much better not to begrudge or resist it. Easier said than done, but saying it helps!

  15. This post is everything I wish I could say and more! I used to think this ideal, “healthy” body was my way to friendship and ultimately happiness. And as important as one’s health is, the physical looks are just one side of that multi-facted coin. I was sacrificing my mental, emotional & spiritual well-being for the superficial beauty that society emphasizes. I agree that we do have to reexamine our motives and ask ourselves how do six pack abs, thigh gaps, # of Instagram likes, fad diets, etc. actually serve us.

    It’s so incredibly frustrating to live in a world with this pressure for physical beauty but I’m glad that I am learning to successfully challenge these pressures. I think too there are more & more role models that are trying to redefine the standards, not just the standards of the thin ideal but the whole idea that beauty is only on the surface. Thank you for the discussion! 🙂

    1. Such a great insight- when we sacrifice our mental and spiritual health to achieve a physical ideal, we’ve completely missed the point!
      We really have to work to challenge society and its pressures. We will do so much for ourselves to stand up against it!

  16. Oh seriously, I loved the pictures of you and how different you can look by changing a few things. If you wanted to go even further, you could of even edited your face! I was watching a YouTube video of a girl showing how she “highlighted her cheekbones and made her nose look thinner” all with an app, I couldn’t believe it. We are obsessed with physical beauty and perfect bodies, but when we look around, how many people REALLY have that perfect of a body? Usually we are comparing ourselves to people who we have never even seen except online after they have been edited! Our society is unreal sometimes, this was a great post!!

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