THE CULTURAL STANDARD OF BEAUTY, EXPLAINED

By: MIGHTY PURSUIT TEAM

For all of our existentially-minded friends out there, have you ever wondered how our culture arrived at the current standard of beauty? Like why is what’s considered sexy… sexy?  And why do we spend all of our energy trying so hard to achieve this arbitrary standard of sexiness? Okay – maybe we’re being too vague. Let’s get more specific. For dudes, maybe this means chiseled pecs, an eight-pack and biceps with a slight vascular budge? Those Channing Tatum, Michael B. Jordan and Jacob Elordi vibes? The v-shaped “Movie Star Body”? And for ladies, maybe it’s perky boobs that border between a B and C cup, complemented by an hourglass figure that features a slim waist and big behind? A look that has a legacy of Marilyn Monroe, Playboy and Pamela Anderson, now carried on by the likes of Kim, Beyonce and Kylie?  And that’s just our bodies, nevermind the laundry list of qualifications that is required to be considered someone with a beautiful face.  Of course, not everyone has these exact specifications. The cultural standard of beauty varies, ever so slightly. But generally speaking, the people we find on shows like Too Hot to Handle and the Bachelor all fit a similar archetype. And although at prior points in history the standard of beauty might have been one-dimensional in terms of race, in recent decades it’s expanded to become more universal. The cultural current of these standards is so strong that there was over $14 billion spent on plastic surgery in 2021 alone. Some of us have developed such deep dissatisfaction with the way that we look, that we’re willing to pay up to $10,000 for a boob job and $12,000 for a nose job.  Not to mention lip injections, face lifts, butt implants and botox. Not everyone goes as far as to get plastic surgery, of course, but body image issues still persist for most of us. We want to fit this standard, however arbitrary it is. Asked by author Peggy Orenstein to describe the ideal guy in NY-Times besteller Boys & Sex, younger men (part of Generation Z) responded with comments like “ripped”, “athletic” and “strong…physically”.  The cultural ideals of beauty and sexiness continue to stretch across generations. But these types of insecurities don’t develop in a vacuum.  For example, let’s say we lived on an island all by ourselves and it’s all we knew. Would we still have the same disgust over how we look? Probably not. But yet, why do we spend hours obsessing about this everyday?  Existentially speaking, why are small noses more beautiful than big noses? And yet we find the reverse with boobs and butts. Bigger is better.  For men, why eight-packs over flat stomachs? Or chiseled quads over chicken legs? Many of us would simply answer these questions with… because it just is But for something as important as body image, which messes with our psyche and self-esteem on a daily basis, we need to go beyond the surface answers. To not just simply accept what is, but rather unpack how we got here and what we can do about it.

STAGE I: THE OUTBREAK

Think of the rise of the modern beauty standard like the spread of an infectious disease. As shown in this Buzzfeed video, we see that beauty has evolved throughout time, yet there’s little evidence that was accompanied by widespread body image issues. Consider these changes in history to be like a contained virus, like Zika in 2016 or the Swine Flu in 2009. Yes, these infectious diseases caused disruption, but the masses were not affected. As we’ve learned from COVID, to create a full-blown pandemic you need the perfect cocktail of conditions. And when it comes to the modern-day beauty standard, those conditions started developing after World War II.  At the time, the film industry was booming. The concept of celebrity took on a whole new spin, as millions of people could visit a theater to watch a select few on a screen. Even though celebrity had existed throughout history, this level of access was never possible. Ben Parr explains in Captivology that, “There’s a term for this unique interaction between public figures and the public: the parasocial relationship… a relationship in which one person knows a lot about another person, but the other doesn’t know anything about the first person.” In these types of relationships, scientifically speaking, Parr adds that “we love – or hate – certain figures, especially celebrities, and use them as placeholders for who we are or who we want to be… [we] aspire to be as successful or beautiful as these figures.” The parasocial relationship was one of the first conditions that contributed to our beauty standard pandemic. Actors and actresses like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn rose to fame, their lives (and looks) examined on a microscopic level.  Simultaneously, another man by the name of Edward Bernays rose in influence. Nicknamed the father of modern-day advertising, Bernays observed how well propaganda worked during wartime and wondered if it was possible to employ the same techniques for American business and politics. Here’s his words in the now-infamous book Propaganda. “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country... We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of… in almost every act of our daily lives… we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who pull the wires which control the public mind.” Bernays was among the first to employ advertising techniques geared at making you believe that something was missing in your life, which could only be satisfied by a particular product or service. Previously, advertising had been very “vanilla” in the sense it only spoke to functional benefits and did not try to manipulate you in any sort of way. Quite literally, this new take on advertising was infectious. A man named Hugh Hefner quickly employed Bernays’s advertising philosophies and launched Playboy.  In a 1993 interview with the Today Show, Hefner himself explains that the first issue of Playboy was an expression of what he thought life should be like, “It really was a wishbook. Playboy, clearly, was a personal wishbook and quite quickly became a handbook for the urban man.” Monroe, called by some as the original sex symbol, was featured on the original cover of Playboy in 1953. Coupled with her rise in the film industry, Monroe’s look gave birth to the modern-day beauty standard in America.  Hefner called this look “the girl next door.” Plum lips, a curvy figure, big features and yes, whiteness. Sound familiar? There was no stopping the outbreak at this point. A narrative had been developed with advertising and media. The girl next door was who men should want to be with and who women should aspire to look like.  Because these events unfolded at the genesis of modern-day advertising and film, the infectious conditions were perfect for this narrative to gain widespread influence in American culture.

STAGE II: EPIDEMIC

The outbreak gave way to an epidemic, armed with the ability to transmit propaganda at a speed unseen in human history. In 1950, just 9% of American households had a television. By 1960, that number rose to 80%. This was a key development, as the parasocial relationship transitioned from the big screen to the small screen. All of a sudden, you’re seeing a select few faces not just outside the home in a trip to the theater, but right inside the confines of your home. Simultaneously, ad spending quadrupled between 1950 and 1970. Now of course, it would be some time before the modern beauty standard permeated through most TV shows and ads. But think of this like the news coverage that surrounded the COVID-19 outbreak. In February 2020, it was A topic of discussion, not THE topic of discussion. In 1962, the first James Bond film hit movie theaters and with that, the Bond Girl. The scene featuring Honey Ryder in a beige bikini emerging from the water would live on in infamy.  Ursula Andress, playing Ryder, became an international sex symbol. Andress was more slender than the curvy Monroe, and was influential in the rise of the modern-day “supermodel” look.  This was no small development, as the Bond film generated  a 60x return on its $1 million budget. Andress said of the role and scene, “[The] bikini made me into a success. As a result of starring in Dr. No as the first Bond girl, I was given the freedom to take my pick of future roles and to become financially independent.” Over the course of the next fifteen years, Andress would be featured in Playboy seven times. See a theme? As we see this epidemic unfold, Andress’s comments hint at an uncomfortable trend that started developing in the film industry. At times not-so-subtly, it was communicated to women: the more you strip, the further you'll go. Because sex sells, particularly to men, the Hefner playbook made this power-dynamic evermore pervasive in broader culture. Modern-day sex symbol Emily Ratajkowski speaks of this power dynamic in her 2021 New York Times bestseller, My Body:

“I so desperately craved men’s validation that I accepted it even when it came wrapped in disrespect. I was those girls in that room, waiting, trading my body, and measuring my self-worth in a value system that revolves around men and their desire.”

Coincidentally, the first boob job in America was conducted in 1962, the same year the first Bond film hit theaters. Additionally, prior to this period there are very few documented cases throughout history of eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.  This doesn’t mean there is a definitive connection between the rise of advertising, eating disorders and body image issues, but a curious correlation between the three remains. Similar to how the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected certain people groups, we see our beauty standard epidemic adversely affecting women as opposed to men by a margin of 30 to 40 years. The v-shaped physique that has become the standard of male beauty did not start to develop until the 1980s. Behind the scenes, a photographer by the name of Bruce Weber ushered the birth of the male supermodel. Prior to this period, sexualizing men was a fixture of gay porn, not mainstream.  But in the following ten years we’d see Marky Mark pose for Calvin Klein and the first shirtless television ad with Diet Coke in 1994. By the late 1990s, Weber would work with Abercrombie & Fitch to bring the ideal male body type to mainstream. Shirtless men with sculpted abs could be regularly seen standing outside the storefronts of every mall in America. Abercrombie would go on to develop a polarizing culture that intentionally only hired those who met their hot-or-not standards.  In 2021, Esquire had a fantastic feature documenting the evolution of the male beauty standard through the James Bond body, detailing how it morphed from the rather flat-chested Sean Connery to the highly-sexualized look of Daniel Craig.  Around the same time as the male beauty standard started to develop, the ostracization of fat body types also became more common. Author Aubrey Gordon documents this in her book What We Don't Talk About When We Talk About Fat “[In] TV and film comedies… fat men are depicted as bumbling, flawed and unintelligent, but paired with conventionally attractive, thin women. On the other hand, fat men are portrayed as sexless, emasculated, socially discomfiting and repulsive to women… on the rare occasion a fat man is depicted as lovable, his appeal is often both nonthreatening and decidedly unsexed.” We see fat men being typecast in these roles as early as Homer Simpson in the Simpsons, Eddie Murphy in Nutty Professor, Fat Bastard in Austin Powers and Albert in Hitch. Arguably though, the polarizing narratives around fat women have been far more vicious in the media.

The message has been clear: who would ever be attracted to a fat woman?

“Fat Amy, Rebel Wilson’s character in Pitch Perfect, is depicted in a hot tub full of women competing for her attention. Within the context of the film, this is played as a joke: How could so many muscular men want someone so fat?,” Gordon adds. In 2001, the entire plot of Shallow Hal revolves around Jack Black’s character falling for what he thinks is an impossibly thin Gwyneth Paltrow, but only under the hypnosis of Tony Robbins. Later on in the film when the guise is removed, Black’s character is devastated, left only with the option to love an obese woman who he previously thought had supermodel-like looks. On a psychological level, you can’t dismiss the impact these shows have had on our mindset as a society. It’s created lines of thinking like: how could she be with him? Or in the case of Shallow Hal, intentionally being conditioned to show disgust at the true figure of Paltrow’s character. Gordon remarks, “the fat caricatures in these narratives are unquestionably cruel, designed exclusively to mock and shame fat people.” The modern beauty standard might have started with Marilyn Monroe, Playboy and propaganda, but now it’s clear that a “hierarchy of bodies”  has developed and it’s forever poisoned our society.

STAGE III: PANDEMIC

It was March 11th, 2020. You never want to hear this kind of news, but our hearts dropped when it was announced across the airwaves. COVID-19 had officially become a pandemic, changing life forever as we know it. While it’s less clear as it relates to the beauty standard when it moved from the epidemic stage to a full-blown pandemic, certainly it was much sooner for women than men.  Perhaps it was in the 1970s or 1980s. But must highlight two key years that would lethally inject our entire culture with this infectious disease.  When Facebook emerged on the scene in 2004, social media was in its infancy. Internet usage was on the rise, with just 52% of adults having access at the turn of the millennium. The concept of having an online profile was new and exciting.  And Facebook was able to succeed where MySpace failed, putting the highlight version of our lives forever on display. Just four years later in 2008, Apple unveiled the iPhone. Like the aforementioned influence of the film and advertising boom in the 1950s, this accelerated propaganda at light speed. The combination of the two channels, social media and smartphones, has allowed the beauty narratives to stalk us where we go.  This is a remarkable shift in human history. Just 100 years ago, the influence of advertising and film was marginal. TV, the internet, social media and smartphones didn’t exist. Now all six of these channels combine to form a lethal pathogen to our body image. Worldwide advertising spend has now ballooned to a whopping $780 billion in 2021, primarily spent on digital.  These industries feed on our deepest insecurities, promoting products and services to help us achieve these beauty standards under the guise of “health”.   Even as the body positivity movement has risen over the past 15 years, the advertising of a beauty standard has not slowed down. In fact, a case could be made that it's speeding up.  Two of the most popular TV shows on television are The Bachelor  and The Bachelorette. The stars of these shows, all who meet the cultural ideal, are guaranteed a big status boost just for participating. Statistically speaking, contestants start out on the show with an average of 4,400 Instagram followers. By the end of the season? Many have over 1 million.  Remember when we talked about parasocial relationships a few minutes ago? Influencers have put this idea on steroids.  Netflix’s 2020 hit TV show Too Hot To Handle, in which “hot people” had to be around each other for an extended period of time without having sex, created a similar effect for the contestant’s followings. Many went from virtual unknowns to having 500,000 followers nearly overnight.

What does this teach us? Looking like this = more follows, more likes, more fame and more approval. In a world like this, it creates two parties. Hot or not. In or out. Desirable and undesirable. And it shapes the way we look at people.

Social media creates a wildfire-like effect for the beauty standard in three primary ways:
  1. It teaches men not only to objectify women, but whom to objectify. Hefner’s “girl next door”. As influencers post highly sexualized pictures of themselves, women who look like this fill up the feeds of men everywhere on Instagram and TikTok.
  2. In turn, this intensifies women’s insecurities around body-image, causing massive comparison issues every time we see these types of images.
  3. It also conditions us to think that status, power and fame are linked with beauty. It not only makes us desire the look, but to envy the advantages that come along with it.
 But in the end, we find that even those who are considered sex symbols in modern-day society aren’t immune to body image issues. Emily Ratajkowski writes in her 2021 memoir My Body: “As a woman, I’m always thinking if only my ass was a little tighter or my nose was a little smaller my whole life would be different.”

STAGE IV: ENDEMIC

It’s becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 is not going away, as we see it transition from its present-day pandemic status to an endemic. This means like the flu or common cold, it will always be present in our lives. The same is true of the beauty standard. We have to accept that these narratives have become woven into the fabric of our society. What started with an outbreak in the 1950s has now infiltrated every medium possible. In the words of sex educator Dr. Emily Nagoski: “[The world] could have taught you to live with confidence and joy inside your body. It could have taught you that your body and your sexuality are beautiful gifts. But instead, the world taught you to feel critical of and dissatisfied with your sexuality and your body.”  Where has this left us? The statistics around body image issues are staggering. While reports vary, it would be accurate to say that most people experience some level of distress over how they look. Both men and women. This is also starting to happen at younger and younger ages. One report showed that 53% of girls are “unhappy with their bodies” by age 13. As we mentioned earlier, more and more people are turning to the wellness industry and plastic surgery to get an extra edge on their appearance. You also cannot ignore how this has influenced the mental health crisis currently unfolding in the United States. There’s an alarming amount of anxiety that is created via social media just by comparison alone. Time will only tell how damaging these effects will be.

THE SCIENCE OF ATTRACTION

“Why is a healthy, natural attraction to fat bodies so difficult for us collectively to believe? Why do we so readily accept that thin bodies are universally desired and lovable, while so certainly rejecting the same prospect for fat bodies? Is there room to love the look of fat bodies without dropping into the sinister territory implied by fat fetish? Can fat bodies be desired without becoming pathological?” In our hot-or-not culture, Audrey Gordon brings up a valid point. Why is it so taboo to be attracted to fat bodies, while it’s so normal and even socially-advantageous to be associated with the thin? You might be shocked to hear that it wasn’t like this for large periods of human history. In fact, during the Italian Renaissance in the 15th and 16th centuries, plus-size bodies were actually the sexual ideal. The same bodies that are mocked in modern-day film.  Can you imagine a reality where Gisele Bundchen and Melissa McCarthy switched places? Where the masses fawned over Mindy Kaling instead of Kylie Jenner?  Well, it happened in the past. To understand this, we must understand the science of attraction. Which goes to say, have you ever considered why you're attracted to what you're attracted to? Renowned sex educator Dr. Emily Nagoski, who has taught at Harvard on human sexuality, gives us the scoop in her book Come As You Are: “The process of learning what is sexually relevant…works sort of like learning a language. We’re all born with the innate capacity to learn any human language, but we don’t learn a random language, right?”

In other words, we don’t come out of the womb with predetermined sexual fantasies. Humans weren’t programmed to be attracted to a woman with a Kardashian-like figure or a man who looks like Ryan Reynolds.

Our cultural environment taught us this. It taught us fantasize about the “MILF” or to sensationalize sex with the bad boy. Nagoski equates this to learning English explaining, “If you grow up surrounded by people who speak only English, there is no way you’ll get to kindergarten speaking French. You learn the language you are surrounded by.” If we are repetitively shown a particular body type, with the underlying message this is what sexy looks like, over time that will condition the masses into being attracted to those bodies. “You learn the sexual language you’re surrounded by. Just as there are no innate words, there appear to be almost no innate sexual stimuli. What turns us on (or off) is learned from culture,” Nagoski adds.  If this seems too hard to believe, all it takes is a quick search of the most-trafficked categories on porn websites to see the truth. For example, in 2019, “lesbian” ranked as the top category in the US, “hentai” was no. 1 in Russia and “anal” was at the top of the list in Morocco.  How could these be so different? Different cultures, different influences, different fetishes. No innate stimuli. Going a step further, there’s actually a significant amount of scientific research behind the process of being conditioned into actually believing that something is true. First identified in a study done by Villanova University in 1977, the illusory truth effect describes how when we hear the same false information repeated again and again, we often come to believe it is true. One cognitive research journal explains, “Repeated information is often perceived as more truthful than new information...and it helps explain why advertisements and propaganda work, and also why people believe fake news to be true.” Once you understand the science behind attraction, it becomes much easier to understand the widespread cultural indoctrination of the current beauty standard and subsequently, the widespread devastation it’s caused to people’s sense of self-worth.

LIVING WITH THE VIRUS

As we come to a close, this leaves us in a dilemma, unsure of where to look for hope.  The odds seem stacked against us. Unhealthy narratives come from every angle. Should we all just move out of our apartments, get rid of our smartphones, delete social media, trash our TVs and relocate to a remote place in the world, closed off from the rest of society?  Or perhaps if you’re a big proponent of willpower, why don’t we just stop caring? Why do we need the affirmation of other people, anyway? As we consider our options, the words of Lisa Wade in American Hookup echo in our ears.  “There really is nothing quite like knowing that someone wants us. We are told to love ourselves, to love our bodies, but this is no substitute. The pleasure of being desired has to come from the desire of someone else. And there's no doubt it can feel amazing.”   Why does this topic matter so much?

Because we want to be wanted. It’s really as simple as that.

If we are to transform how we relate to our bodies and eventually shift the culture around us, the conversation must start here. At the root of body image issues is a desire to be loved. We go deeper into this in our blog on attachment theory, but in short, the need for love is hardwired into human beings from birth. When we are deprived of this, it causes all sorts of distortions from a young age. Dr. Nagoski puts it this way, “When people ask me, “Am I normal?” they’re asking, “Do I belong?” The answer is yes. You belong in your body… you don’t have to earn it by conforming to some externally imposed standard.”  Some would propose then that the solution to body image issues is found in the body positivity movement. For others, satisfying the need to be wanted comes from pursuing the beauty standard. Consciously or unconsciously, we slowly start modifying our appearance until we achieve that “just right” feeling and the affirmation we so deeply crave. But for us, we see only one movement in human history that is capable of 1) satisfying our need for love, 2) giving us a healthy sense of identity and 3) transforming the culture around us.  How do we know this? Because it’s happened before. Long before the modern (and sometimes dysfunctional) church became an institution, there was an organic grassroots movement simply known as the way of Jesus that swept over the ancient world. As a people of every sex, race and age, outsiders marveled at how they loved each other. Alan Kreider, author of The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, writes: “...outsiders looked at the [early followers of Jesus] and saw them energetically feeding poor people and burying them, caring for boys and girls who lacked property and parents, and being attentive to aged slaves and prisoners. They interpreted these actions as a “work of love”...moved by [their] embodied love for each other, people may have asked about the possibility of experiencing this themselves.” Against all odds, this movement grew from being non-existent at the time of Jesus’s crucifixion, to comprising millions of people by the early 300s. With no marketing, power or influence, this has confounded scholars. Here’s how Kreider puts it: “We tend to assume this growth and to forget how surprising it was. Nobody had to join the churches. People were not compelled to become members by invading armies or the imposition of laws; social convention did not induce them to do so. Indeed, [the way of Jesus] grew despite the opposition of laws and convention… every [Jesus follower] was by definition a candidate for death… [they] knew that as members of a “dubious group”, were vulnerable to being “turned in” by their neighbors or by others who wanted to see them deprived of privileges.. nevertheless the churches grew.” As it related to body image issues, here’s why the way of Jesus is so compelling:

1) Inherent Self-Worth

The way of Jesus says that in the beginning of history, humans were made in the image of God. This means we were born with an inherent sense of worth, that neither had to be earned or is dependent upon the affirmation of others.  Nothing could make us more valuable or less valuable than we are right now.  And although coming from a different context, Sonya Renee Taylor gets at this same idea in The Body Is Not An Apology: “Radical self-love is indeed our inherent natural state, but social, political and economic systems of oppression have distanced us from that knowing.” In other words, our inherent state is knowing we have worth.

2) Objective Truth

The one fatal flaw of the body positivity movement is that it’s dependent upon our opinion And while Taylor rightly acknowledges our inherent worth, this easily becomes dismantled by the crowds. What makes my opinion of myself more valid than culture’s opinion? Than the people around us? At times it seems not only less valid, but far less powerful and persuasive. Scientifically speaking, the odds are stacked against us in this regard.  In Captivology, author Ben Parr teaches us about the science of capturing attention, highlighting our tendency to “conform to the crowd because we begin to doubt our own judgment, and we fear the social repercussions of going against the majority.” But thankfully, where the body positivity movement loses stream, the way of Jesus succeeds.“Here’s where [the way of Jesus] gets powerful, with more oomph than any cultural norm or expectation: [with the way of Jesus], you are not the one naming your body good; it’s not your thought repeated over and over again until you believe yourself. You’re taking your cues and following the Father who created the universe. We’re no longer lone survivors standing up to a wicked world that’s telling us we’re busted. We’re not in a bad dream, trying to scream, but no sound is coming out,” writes author Jess Connelly in Breaking Free from Body Shame.

3) Unconditional love

“Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing…none of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love…” - Paul, one of Jesus's original apostles, Romans 8:35-39 (MSG) In a heartfelt plea to Jesus followers living in Rome at the time, Paul gives assurance of the unconditional love of God. Humans may fail and reject us at times, but God’s love perseveres.  This is critical, to have confidence that we are loved and valued. It speaks directly into the deepest needs of the human heart. The way of Jesus addresses our need to be love by filling it with God himself. Creator and creation, reunited in harmony. But more intimately, this love is frequently described in fatherly and motherly ways, as Jesus himself refers to God in prayer affectionately as Abba.

4) Group mentality

In a society plagued by loneliness and isolation, the way of Jesus says we’re in this together. No longer do we have to face body image issues alone, rather we do so as a collective unit. Elsewhere in scripture, Paul calls us to bear one another’s burdens This idea of vulnerability can be scary, but deep-down we all long to form secure attachments, in which we can fully be ourselves. Our desire for vulnerability can be felt in the 58 million views on Brene Brown’s 2010 TED talk. Brown says it perfectly here: “vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity. It is the source of hope, empathy, accountability, and authenticity.” In the way of Jesus, we laugh together, cry together, pray together, grow together and comfort one another. We hold each other accountable to who we say we want to be. We confess the deepest insecurities of our hearts and point each other back to the truth. Together, we play a critical role in helping restore each other’s body image.

5) Creating a counterculture

And lastly, the way of Jesus is subversive. By its very nature, it puts forth a beautiful counterculture that we all live in collectively, a new set of standards designed to restore the world to its original design. A world where we maintain our child-like wonder about our bodies and body shame does not exist. In the words of Sonya Renee Taylor, “we did not start life in a negative partnership with our bodies. I have never seen a toddler lament the sizes of their thighs, the squishiness of their belly. Children do not arrive here ashamed… babies love their bodies!” This counterculture is defined by sacrificial love, affirms the worth of every human being and pushes for justice in a redemptive manner. This is particularly relevant, especially when it comes to fat justice and those pushed to the margins because of their bodies. The way of Jesus also recognizes that words and labels hold power. We can either use them to tear down or together, use them to build others up.   It is the culmination of these factors, in addition to many more, that make the way of Jesus so compelling. Yes, the odds may feel stacked against us with body image, but those odds are returned to our favor with Jesus.

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