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Christian psychologist Lidia Martin analyses the “image-centered” culture in which we live, and how we can put personal care in the right place.
Privacy is increasingly discarded. Social networks come with us everywhere we go, and with this kind of exposure it is easy to get carried away with the pressure of physical beauty canons with which we are constantly bombarded.
A few months ago, one of the biggest stars of Instagram, Essena O'Neill, left the social network. Her 700,000 followers were surprised to learn that this 18-year-old girl had lived under a lot of pressure, by herself and her sponsors, to get to be "perfect" in every picture. “I did not do it consciously, I was obsessed with the 'likes' of others", she said.
There are many like her who fall into harmful dietary practices and even develop social and emotional issues.
Whether it is among teenagers looking for the perfect body or adults who want to erase the marks of age, these cases are increasing.
We interviewed Christian psychologist Lidia Martin, author of the book "Rescuing parents of teenagers”, to know her opinion about the “image-centered” culture in which we live, and how we can put personal care in the right place.
Question. Do you think our society gives excessive importance to physical appearance?
Answer. The importance given to the body is not only disproportionate, but also decontextualized to the real world in which we live and the laws that govern it.
It seems that we live in a time when deep down we believe we can control the passing of time, and the changes and deterioration of our bodies, so that we dedicate the higher energies and efforts to avoid that deteriotation. We carry forward a way of life in which the “here-and-now” is all that matters, and that convinces us of the fallacy of the perfect body.
But it is not only a question of time, which is maybe one of the most obvious ones, physical attractiveness has become much more than a simple business card or the first steps that lead to first impressions.
Physical appearance talks about us, or rather, speaks for us, because it is not uncommon that those with a good appearence do not need to talk to achieve their goals. It seems that one can achieve everything in life if one fits the new beauty standards.
Just look at the market related to the body: beauty salons, treatments, fashion, beauty clinics, diets lasting longer... We realise that all sectors of the population, no matter their age or sex, are involved in the cause. In hort, it is disproportionate and it puts excess energy in the wrong place, underestimating what really matters.
Q. With the boom of social networks, we are more exposed. Are we ready for it?
A. People seem to be more aware prepared for this, but using wrong ways. Image has become our idol. Everything has to be beautiful according to the current canons, and every effort to get it is not enough.
The end justifies the means, not matter if it is our health, relationships or anything else you have to sacrifice. Frankly, maybe now we are more beautiful, but I think we are less happy, although we do not dare to show it on social networks.
We show our best profile, what we want the others to know about us. And we are satisfied with having a number of friends who praise the part of our profile that we want to share. But I fear that we are not preparing that well for the loneliness that social networks bring.
I do not remember where I read recently, the number of cosmetic operations that are being requested with the sole purpose of improving the aesthetic quality of our so precious "selfies".
At the same time, some people already hire personal trainers in order to have the sculpted body she or he wants for the wedding day, to be radiant in the photos. Frankly, and with all respect, I think we have dangerousely lost our way.
Q. What does the Bible teach about physical appearance? Can we take good care of our appearance without falling into idolatry?
A. I understand that he who has given us the body is God himself, so our body is good and we must take care of it. But not for the purpose of worship or deifying it, which is idolatry and ultimately leads us to put the emphasis on the wrong issues and devote all our energies on something that has no power to make us grow, but only to enslave us
The goal is to take care and pamper what God gave us, but placing it in its proper place.
The body is our vehicle for life, our calling card. But we will be accomplices of our own destruction if we let our business card says everything about us, without fighting to have something more to say. We are mind, emotions, thoughts, ideas, dreams, projects, considerations, opinions, worthy creatures, not matter what look we have.
And homogeneity was never, as far as I understand, in God's plans. Quite the contrary, we were all created absolutely unique and unrepeatable. He did not use molds or forced us to live in them. Hence the really sad thing is that we become executioners of our own enslavement by turning the body, not into a vehicle for life, but into a prison whose bars have to be polished every day.