I am walking down the runway in heels and makeup, modelling a size-eight jumpsuit that was sponsored for the event. As I pose at the end of the runway, my friends cheer my name and shriek in delight. I walk with my head held high to the sound of applause and good-natured laughter.
I win Miss Popular and a lot of Facebook likes.
Every freshman year at University, pageant season comes around. It usually comes in a package: Selection, photo shoots, and voting done via likes and shares on social media. It’s exciting when you see pictures of your friends (or yourself!) popping up all over your social media feed.
Being adored and affirmed by the people around you is always fun. It’s fun when friends and family (even that distant aunt) give you likes on Facebook and nice comments. It’s fun when a stranger comes up to you and says, “Hey, I voted for you!” It’s fun when all you hear is applause, and you are deemed funny, witty, and worthy by all the people you want to impress.
But it’s not so fun if you let other people define everything that you are and everything that you are not.
At their roots, beauty pageants are popularity contests. And many of us may be participating in “beauty pageants” of our own without realising it! It’s tempting to behave or look a certain way in order to be affirmed by the people around us. But when we rely solely on validation from others, we are placing our security and self-worth in the hands of humans, not God.
Where's Your Security?
The problem with placing our security in people is that it is easily lost — people are fickle! On the other hand, God assures us that He loves us on our good days and bad days (Jer 31:3; Rom 5:6). We can’t always have the same confidence in people.
While God loves faithfully (Ps 136:2), people love conditionally. If we yearn for the love of people, we may find ourselves constantly striving to please them in the way we look, dress, or behave, and this can get extremely tiring and make us unnecessarily miserable!
Not many know this, but the night before my pageant appearance, I barely slept a wink because I was so worried about what people would think of me. I was worried that I wouldn’t be funny enough and beautiful enough in their eyes. I was afraid of being judged. When we don’t place our security in God’s hands, we risk losing the confidence and self-esteem that comes from knowing our identity in Christ.
The best part about God’s love is that we don’t need to do anything to earn it. Remember: you are already somebody important to Him. God sent His one and only Son to die for you. If the King of all heaven and earth already loves you so passionately and freely, do you really need to strive for anyone else's love?
But God Looks At The Heart
Unfortunately, society’s definition of beauty is flawed, as it tends to value external appearance over innate qualities and strength of character. There is a skewed emphasis on looks, body, and sexuality that leads us to mistakenly believe that how we look is the most important thing about us.
In Manila, there are “beauty factories” that train girls to become pageant queens. Aspiring candidates train for at least ten hours a day in high heels (at least seven inches high!), trying to perfect their walk and come up with the best poses.
Going further, there are child beauty pageants like the one featured in the reality TV show Toddlers and Tiaras. Young children put on full-face makeup and tasteless costumes to perform routines that seem highly inappropriate for their age. The fact that such pageants (and reality TV shows that make entertainment out of them) exist shows our preoccupation with a superficial, overly sexualised, and inherently unhealthy standard of beauty.
The tricky thing about beauty pageants is that they may affirm your talent for strutting down a runway or striking a pose, but fail to reflect your character and convictions —what lies in your heart.
Miss USA 2006 took to a life of sexual promiscuity, drugs, and alcoholism after she won the title. Miss Delaware Teen USA 2013 gave up her crown due to allegations overa sex video. These pageant queens prove the fallibility and superficiality of the judging criteria.
The truth is that rather than our outer appearance, God values what’s in our hearts (1 Sam 16:7), and no beauty pageant will be able to judge that.
Be Who God Created You To Be
It has been a year since the pageant. I realise that all my fears about not looking “good enough” were unfounded. I had shown up to the event with dark undereye circles (oops!), but my friends embraced me anyway because they cared more about who I was instead of how I looked.
Many a time, we put ourselves down by thinking that we are not good enough or beautiful enough in the world’s eyes. But these are lies that we have allowed the devil to feed us.
We are no mistake! He intentionally created us, and all our days are written in His book (Ps 139:15–16). We only need to walk the ‘runway’ for an audience of One, and He is God.
Who are you walking the ‘runway’ of life for, and are there any ‘beauty pageants’ that are hindering you from being who God intends for you to be?
This article was first seen in Issue 23. To read more about beauty, purchase a copy here.