I spend much of my time in the company of a beautiful man. Dark flawless skin, friendly eyes, gentle composure. Not only do I think he is beautiful, but on several occasions he will shout to myself or his reflection in the mirror, “is this not a good looking man!” I will admit, at first I was a little surprised by this seemingly conceited behavior, for I come from a heritage that values humility and that those who glance in the mirror a little too long will go straight to hell.
In my grandpa’s day, a minister would not wear a tie, simply because they were not instructed to take pride in their appearance. The general idea of not building you kids up too much, in case they’re chests puff, was a common sentiment during my parent’s childhood. Now we live in an era of seemingly self-absorbed young people, with their “smile detection” cameras at the ready to take self-portraits.
Now, is this self-absorption true confidence of character or simply a cover up for a slight self-esteem dilemma? With our billion-dollar beauty industry, wishing to help us cover up our true selves, it would come as no surprise. Beneath the surface may be a child praying for acceptance within their social circle and larger culture.
The same man, who is so exuberant about his good looks, also has a winning philosophy. To love yourself is to love everything about you, including your flaws.
In Marianne Williamson’s book The Gift of Change she compares ego vs. holiness. She says, “it is not arrogant to believe your infinitively creative, brilliant, potentially perfect, through the grace of God. In fact it would be arrogant to think otherwise because what God has created cannot possibly be less than perfect. True humility is when you accept his gifts knowing they come from him, yet to the ego that is not humility, it is arrogance.”
When I think of the word humility in a Mennonite historical context, I am taken back to a time when Mennonite women had to cover their knees, shoulders and heads as a symbol of penitence to God. The possibility of a full-length mirror in the household was rare. You would probably not hear parents praising their children on their appearance, their skills, or their potential.
Williamson suggests that “supporting others in believing in themselves helps to move the entire world forward and becoming who we are capable of being, regardless of peoples opinions of us is part of our responsibility, both to ourselves and to God. Unless we are supporting the emergence of greatness around us, we are not doing our full part to help heal the world.”
Often we get trapped into believing that we could be more successful, more beautiful, more outgoing, if only we possessed certain qualities. If we were only encouraging and compassionate to those around us about their potential, we might not have such a shallow outlook on ourselves. When we truly find ourselves beautiful and confident, when we can look in the mirror and say, “I love who I am”, only then are we truly accepting ourselves and offering a light to those around us.