Fake tan and self-esteem

The social pressure to look perfect is so great, it even gets to women who seem to be above these superficial criteria of beauty. Check out the list of what women worry about each time they step out of the door: hair, make-up, skin, bags under eyes, teeth, weight, shaving, tanning, nails, dress…..etc.

This issue has struck me recently when a friend of mine said she got a fake-tan because she felt better or something. I think she used the term self-esteem in explaining why she did it. This lady has an extremely successful career, a lovely daughter and husband… She is a very wise, mature, and smart person. I thought if she and I fall prey to these pressures, I cannot imagine the rest…

I don’t judge her. I cannot. Simply because a) I have similar issues, b) I realize how overbearing the social pressure is. We are bombarded from every possible angle to think that these are the only beauty criteria and our self-worth depends on these! We are brainwashed to conform to these from infancy! The way baby clothes are made and the way our mothers dress us up from early on; the only comment people make when they see little girls -oh, how pretty she is!; the way even little kids begin to categorize other kids into the pretty ones and the not-so-attractive ones, every TV ad, every store display, every item sold to make us more beautiful…

The cruelest side of this beauty competition is that you can never win. There will always be a person who has better tan than you, someone who is more fit, a friend who happens to have gorgeous hair naturally, a colleague who looks like she has never been through pregnancy, younger women that look more attractive…etc. If you are in the competition, you will lose.

Now, speaking theoretically on the ideals of faith (and modest dress and ethiquette) prescribed in Abrahamic traditions:

The only thing that matters is your Creator and your relationship with your Creator. Modest dress is a statement, first to one’s self then to others, that you are out of this competition. You are not concerned with looking beautiful as prescribed by the fashion industry. You are not worried about being prettier than other women. You do not want to draw attention to yourself. You do not want people to focus on your looks. You do not even want them to notice your physical features.

That does not mean that you are purposefully trying to look sloppy, dirty…etc. To the contrary, you are trying to fulfill the beauty criteria prescribed by your Creator. What are these beauty criteria? Being:

– clean and tidy

– simple and natural

– modest

– pleasing to the eye in a pure (not sexual) way…

You are seeking to fulfill these beauty criteria to please your Creator. You are not concerned about what other people think of your looks. But these criteria are prescribed by our Creator because they are the most pleasing to the uncorrupted human nature… hence by fulfilling these beauty criteria to please our Creator, we also are pleasing to others (which is only a by-product, not the goal in itself).

Our self-worth depends on what God thinks of us, not what other people think of us. And the good news is God loves us unconditionally. So this need in us to be loved unconditionally can only be fulfilled by realizing that our Creator loves us unconditionally and infinite.

This realization would prevent us from trying to please people so that they like us, love us, are pleased with us, think good of us… which is an unending and exhausting endeavour. It is cruel, it is sad, it is demeaning…. We can never please everyone, nor should we try to.

But again the good news is, when we try to please God with our actions, thoughts, words, and attitude, we also become a better person (by the criteria set by our Creator) towards everyone…

Insha’allah we can all strive to step out of the worldly competition and try to focus on what is more pleasing to our Creator ( = hence what is most fitting to our nature = what would bring us most inner-peace)…

We should also always remind ourself that by wearing modest dress we have only taken one tiny step on this endeavour. Changing our mind-set is the real goal and it is a life-long process…

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