Book Review: Am I Beautiful?

“Am I Beautiful?” by Chine Mbubaegbu has been sat on my “to read” pile of books since I attended the launch event for the book last year. I consider Chine to be a friend and I deeply respect her and her work at the Evangelical Alliance. Chine’s book is written for Christian women, exploring what beauty is, some of the ways beauty has been distorted and the many consequences of these distortions on women’s lives.

 

The book is well-written and deeply honest. Unlike some Christian books, Chine doesn’t present herself as some perfect human being that us mere mortals could only dream of imitating, she tells deeply personal stories about her journey of understanding beauty, sharing her life with the reader in a healthy, positive way. She includes some critique of the societal pressures on women and uses Bible passages to explore a Christian perspective on each aspect she explores. Each chapter ends helpfully with a prayer, questions for reflection and a challenge to the reader; this makes it easily transferable to a small group setting.

 

I’ve never been focussed on beauty, either having it for myself or observing it in others. I grew up odd, never fitting in. Being beautiful wasn’t an aspiration or a desire of mine so the book didn’t speak to me personally. As I read, I felt like an outsider; not identifying with the struggles of going without make-up or mirrors, of being conscious of how I looked in relation to others. I spent a long time hating myself, through most of my formative years and into adulthood I hated myself. Not how I looked, but everything about who I was. I cut myself, starved myself and on occasions took overdoses. Yet, my struggles were not related to feeling not beautiful, but rather feeling utter self-loathing. Rooted in experiences of abuse as a child, teenager and young adult, I didn’t so much see myself as ugly but rather as utterly unlovable. Reading the experiences of Chine and other women didn’t resonate with me, but they did inform me and give me a deeper understanding of the lives of so many other women.

 

As I read I realised that the depths of my hurts forced me to face them head on. The consequences of abuse left me shattered and unable to function. I was forced to face the demons which tried to destroy me. I couldn’t live until I did. This book showed me that the terrible price so many women and girls pay is not total dysfunction, but rather a level of functionality that is a façade. That women as a class are being conditioned to be constantly dissatisfied with themselves and each other, often not to a degree that destroys them totally, but leaves them feeling gradually eroded. Their lives are subtly distorted, not enough to feel the need for intervention, but too much to live totally free.

 

The book showed me how so many of my friends and the women I interact with are feeling. The ways they are always paying to have something stolen from them each and every day. It left me feeling grateful to my parents who wouldn’t let me watch television, wouldn’t allow me to fit in. Trained me early to feel comfortable walking against the whole of culture.

 

Though this book didn’t speak to me directly, I know so many women it will help. I am so grateful to Chine for baring her soul and taking the time to write this book. After reading it, I immediately wrapped it up and posted it to a 15 year old Christian girl I know. Each chapter that I read I thought of women and girls who would benefit from reading it and I’ve already begun recommending it to people I know. For those struggling to answer the question “Am I beautiful?” this is a brilliant book to read!

 

You can purchase the book here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Am-I-Beautiful-Chine-Mbubaegbu/dp/1780780605

 

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Bearface

Ah! Children In Need. That time of year when everyone embarrasses themselves for charity by doing something that in any other circumstances would be mortifying and/or social suicide. However, this year the stakes have been raised, the challenge is on, the embarrassment factor has reached epic proportions. This year for Children In Need, on 8th November, women can truly do something off the chart mortifying to raise money. They can go out without make-up on. That’s right, women of the UK, forget silly outfits, or dressing up as a camel. This year, if we are brave enough, we can go out “Bearfaced” to raise money for children, with a tiny paw-print on our face, to show that this hideous ugliness that is our actual face, is not something we normally display, but…for the children (said with tears in one’s eyes) we can bravely make such fools of ourselves.

 

In case you hadn’t realised, my previous paragraph is dripping with sarcasm.

 

It is a damning indictment on our society that not wearing makeup is considering so embarrassing as to be worthy of being a fundraising activity. It is troubling that a charity which supports children in reaching their potential, often in very challenging circumstances, is promoting this message. Women and girls across the UK are having their self-worth stolen by aggressive marketing, beauty products, toys, TV, films and the music industry. We are then convinced to buy back said self-worth through purchasing the right products and makeup, “because we’re worth it”. Bearfaced makes explicit the messages throughout society which say that women can never “come as they are”, that we are for ever destined to change ourselves to measure up to an unreachable societal standard of beauty that is manufactured by an industry invested in making money, at the expense of people’s health and wellbeing.

 

So if you see me without makeup on the 8th November, please don’t think I’m taking part in Bearfaced. It’s actually just my face being…well…my face.