In a culture obsessed with physical looks, body size, and what we see reflected in the mirror, are you seeking beauty or are you seeking pretty? Because there is a vast difference.
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What is the difference between pretty and beauty? For many, the words are one in the same. They both describe the way something looks, that it is pleasing to the eye. But what if there was actually a large difference in these words. A difference that can change the way you perceive yourself and what you strive to be.
I'll admit, when I was given the opportunity to review Beauty Begins by mother-daughter team Chris Shook & Megan Shook Alpha, I wasn't extremely excited like I have been for other books. I don't tend to get caught up in the standards society has for beauty so a book about "making peace with my reflection" seemed like it wouldn't be a good fit for my life and personality.
I am so glad I was wrong! This book is filled with wisdom about what true beauty means. It's not simply about what we see in the mirror or the number on the tag in our clothing. Because that has NOTHING to do with beauty or the beauty they speak about in this book. Yes, they touch on physical appearance but physical appearance is under the "pretty" definition because what is considered acceptable changes over time and from culture to culture. Think about the curves and voluptuous figures that were sought after in the middle ages and even in the early 1900s and again in the 1950's and 1960s. It's a striking difference from the paper thin figures that society insisted was thin in the 1920s and 1990s. Now a fit and athletic build seems to be the new "it" body. What is considered "pretty" is ever changing.
But beautiful? Beautiful is something that is recognizable no matter when or where you live.
Recently I (Chris) was driving home from the grocery store. As I rounded the corner, I was stopped in my tracks by real beauty. I had to pull the car over because I was looking at the most amazing sunset I had ever seen in my life. It was absolutely stunning with every color you can imagine--oranges and yellows, pinks, purples, and blues. Immediately I thought, Anybody in the entire world who saw this sunset would do what I'm doing--watching with wonder and amazement. In any country, in any culture, at any age, any person on the planet would recognize the beauty of the sunset.
Why is that? Why is it that the standard for pretty can change from time to time and place to place but beauty seems to be recognizable anywhere?
As I watched that sunset, it hit me. I saw it so clearly that for a brief moment it was as if I was no longer looking through the distorted mirror of our culture. I realized that real beauty begins with God. Therefore, something is beautiful because it has God's fingerprints all over it.
There it is. Beauty is from God, not from man. As we look in the mirror are we seeing what society is looking for or are we radiating the beauty of God within us? That is what this book aims to turn our focus to as women. Away from the damaging lies of the culture that wrinkles, a few extra pounds, last season's style, or a few gray hairs are unwelcome. That we need to banish these things to be accepted, but we are already accepted by a God that created us in His image.
One of my biggest concerns before reading was that this book might shun things like working out, getting our hair done, or wearing fun clothes. That we shouldn't focus on anything to do with our physical appearance because it's not what matters. I didn't get that vibe at all. Instead I took it as a self-reflection exercise - do those things get in the way of your relationship with Christ and with being a reflection of his love to others. If not, continue doing what you love! But the moment they start interfering with your relationship with Christ or turning your focus off others and into selfishness then you need to take a step back and figure out a way to re-prioritize. I love getting my hair done in funky colors, not because I think it makes me look awesome or because I'm striving to be something but because it's a way for me to express my personality and it's actually a great ice breaker to get to talk to people!
I really appreciated the format of this book because the chapters are quick reads but contain deep truths about the culture we live in. The selfie obsession, the mirror addiction, the daily battle -- all topics that we hear about and understand. And even if we don't struggle with them personally we have friends, family, daughters, sisters, that might. At the end of each chapter are great discussion questions that make this book ready for a group read or for personal reflection and I found myself pondering the questions as I read through the book.
Because this book is written by a mother-daughter team there were great insights into this special relationship. My daughter, Mercedes, is only four but I can already see how I can use the information and the tools in this book to develop her relationship with her own body and help her focus on what makes her beautiful, rather than pretty. I can model the behavior I want to see in her. I can teach her to find her worth in Jesus instead of the amount of likes she gets on a social media post. I can show her that real beauty is found in our life in Christ rather than anything else. I'm looking forward to reading this book again as Mercedes grows and even reading it with her so we can discuss the questions together.
From Amazon: In Beauty Begins, Chris Shook and Megan Shook Alpha share with you their own experiences and struggles with appearance and body image, as well as equip you with the wisdom to distinguish what’s artificial beauty and what’s real. After reading the heartfelt encouragement, insightful challenges, and undeniable truth in Beauty Begins, you’ll never look in the mirror the same way again.