When we were little, our teachers encouraged us in art class to make a doodle of our very own faces. If we consider ourselves a happy child, we carve a smile on our faces. If we consider ourselves physically attractive, we draw long eyelashes or color our cheeks extra red. We learned that self-portraits help us discover how we perceive ourselves, identify the characteristics that we thought form who we are and how we are. It has become a way for us to confront and understand our beauty better.
Self-portraiture was already a genre of art accepted and practiced in different parts of the world even as early as the 1400s. Artists and photographers were paid a huge sum to create portraits for honorable people so they may hold a representation of who they are. The craft took these artists hours to produce. The reason for sculptures in parks, photographs of influential families in newspapers or paintings of the queen in palaces is to memorialize their position, achievements, and significant experiences. Portraits as such served as an inspiration to society.
The purpose of self-portrait is to represent something meaningful about ourselves. When we realize the beauty that we have within us, we become capable of inspiring others. In other words, what we absolutely believe about ourselves determines how we live, and more importantly, how we influence others to live.
However, much has changed since then; the true sense of beauty got lost somewhere along the way.
Today we take portraits through what we call a selfie. It became a trend in the early 2000s and turned into pop culture over time. Technology made it easy to take a photo — quick as a blink and effortless as breathing. We grab our phones from our pockets, open the camera app, find good lighting and snap a shot of ourselves. Unlike the days of old, it does not cost us a single cent and it is downright simple that even toddlers know how to do it. Selfie became an automatic activity that it sometimes intensifies to a point of addiction. You mindlessly do it when you’re alone at home, when you’re at an event, eating out, traveling, or even before going to bed. Most of the time when you’re bored, you resort to it.
What we absolutely believe about ourselves determines how we live and more importantly, how we influence others to live.
What is the reason for a selfie? You might be wondering why I had to make a big deal out of a small, harmless thing. But what we almost always forget is that habits build our character. The Bible tells us that “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) This topic isn’t something to brush off.
I look around me today and it seems that everyone developed a high sense of self. You see a photo of a young woman carrying shopping bags, at the gym in front of a mirror, on a street in her crop top, denim jacket, and boots. Many times I ask myself, is it because there’s no cost for taking a selfie today that people capture moments that have no value? What kind of beauty are we showing people? Is it beauty that seeks to inspire or beauty that seeks to be idolized? (Philippians 2:3)
Back in high school, when the concept of selfie was fairly new, everyone seemed to love taking photos of themselves here and there. If you were uncomfortable being in front of the camera, there was a question of how well you embraced your beauty. Meanwhile, when you call others “vain” for being so bold in taking selfies, it affirmed them. It was as if vanity and beauty shared the same meaning. At one point, I thought vanity was a healthy expression of self-love. (2 Timothy 3:2-5)
What kind of beauty are we showing people? Is it beauty that seeks to inspire or beauty that seeks to be idolized?
It’s funny how the world makes ‘vanity’ sound like a good thing. If you search for its definition in the dictionary, you will find there two meanings that seem like total opposites. The first is “excessive admiration of one’s own appearance or achievement.” The other definition is “the quality of being worthless or futile.” You see, even the world is confused that it disguises meaninglessness as fulfillment. Perhaps this is why the Bible tells us to test everything first. (Romans 12:2, 1 Samuel 16:7)
I have many friends who aspire to become an “influencer” and I, too, have that same dream. However, people focus more on how to influence rather than on what to influence others. We run after the social media likes, the comments, the online shares, and views. Sadly, we have forgotten about the substance of our content. What good is expressing yourself when your message is empty? Weren’t we told as a child to keep our mouths shut if we do not have anything right to say?
The most beautiful women don’t stare at her face in the mirror all day. She doesn’t take a photo of herself so she may worship her image at night before she sleeps. (Ezekiel 28:17) She doesn’t fish for praises but gives praise to the one who is good. The most beautiful women are those who fear the Lord. (Proverbs 31:30) She looks out for the welfare of the people that surrounds her and invites them to spread beauty around them, too. True beauty grows outwardly. Notice when you look at the sunset, the flowers or the waves, their beauty shouts the glory of God who made them. It’s the same for us, our beauty must go beyond ourselves.
Embracing who you are begins with knowing who made you. (Psalm 139:14) Your beauty has nothing to do with what the world thinks because the beauty that it adores is cheap. The world lines up women in sparkly evening gowns and sets criteria to judge each one of them. God spared you from all that.
When you are assured that you are created and loved by the Greatest Artist of all, you wouldn’t crave to be noticed or fantasized to feel that you are worthy. You become worthy because of the blood of Jesus that covers you. You don’t have to try to live that life you display online. The cure to poor self-image is not loving ourselves more but serving God and our neighbors better until we forget our need to be important. The love of Christ, even when you are imperfect, makes you beautiful more than anything in this world.
If portraits are representations of ourselves then what does your image ultimately represent? What do people think, feel or see whenever they are reminded of you? My hope is that more than the flashy lips or the OOTDs, people would see Christ’s reflection through you. (Psalm 90:17 KJV) Let us repent for the days that we put ourselves above the beauty of God and in all our ways seek to thank Him who sealed us with perfection.