I grew up in Southern California where beauty is the key to unlocking virtually every door in society there. If you are not the right size, shape, or type of person life is very difficult and this is true in many places in many cultures. Therefore, in my mind I had this mentality ingrained in me that being pretty and attracting attention from my looks gave me value. This value made people act nicely to me, I got jobs, I was assisted, and even made friends. If you are ugly or frumpy you are unpopular, you are an outcast, and therefore isolated and sometimes bullied. These types of negative things make you feel less valuable in society.
However, after becoming religious I realized that God values me and others who value God's opinion and definition of value. Women have a particularly difficult time in figuring out what our value is. On one hand we have a feminist movement that has taught us that succumbing to "traditional" gender roles is an offense to every female. On the other hand we have a Western media worship of the goddess figure of youth and beauty. Many women fall in the vast canyon in between these two plateaus of social definition of how a woman's value should be measured.
Therefore, in studying Torah and swimming in the teachings of Judaism, my values have evolved and my goals in life have adjusted. No longer do I feel the need to be perceived by people as "pretty" and I no longer feel like I should be ashamed of enjoying living in a traditional gender role of wife and mother. These things are privileges! What a blessing it is to have an amazing life partner to grow old with; someone who is there for me and our children no matter what. That is very valuable. For those of us who are blessed with children should be free to proudly enjoy the era of motherhood because we are shaping the lives of future generations. The experiences our children have will influence their entire lives for sixty or seventy years! That is what I call a long-term investment! Not everyone finds a life partner or has children and that only means that God has a different plan for them!
As a woman my value is not in my looks or my ability to attract men; my value is what I declare it to be. My value is the soul within me. No matter what job or role I fill, my soul is shining and guiding me. My soul seeks the attention and attraction of holiness.
Let's say for a moment that our looks and our physical obsession is a lot like an appetite for food. If we only ate sugary and extra fatty foods we would become unhealthy, especially if we expressed no restraint in our hunger for binding on sweets and fats. Our souls are hungry but in modern Western society we tend to only feed it empty calories and therefore we are spiritually starving. We need to feed our souls nourishment or we shall fill this hunger with junk food or even sell our souls for what might seem like a good meal. This is much like Esau who traded his birthright for a pot of stew. We need to value what is right and see ourselves through the lenses of God's definition of attractive qualities.
These types of qualities are much less temporary such as looks or sexy figures, but more long term like loyalty and righteousness. I used to value myself according to what people complimented me on and I sought out compliments without even realizing it. Today, my goal is spiritual beauty and soulful health which eventually positively effects my physical health and radiates something much more valuable than an aesthetic defined by others. I challenge you to take a good look within yourself and see what your worth is? We ought to often look within and clean the crumbs out; those crumbs of all the cakes we've indulged in and go on a spiritual diet. Can we help others more? Can we learn more? Can we grow more? How do we measure our worth; our value? In Torah we find the treasure chest by which we can become wealthy. AT one point or another we come face-to-face with our own mortality and it's a lot like stepping onto a scale. If we binge and do not care for exercise or restraint of appetite, our weight will be unhealthy. Or as another example if you wait until your retirement age to invest in your pension, you will have very little when it's time to stop working. Begin investing today, there are many peaks and valleys but over the long term you will develop spiritual wealth if you continue to invest. Don't follow the fad diets, follow sound and wise spiritual nutrition guidelines. It takes a while to change our eating and exercise behaviors and this is true as well for spiritual religious exercise and behaviors but if we know our value to God, if we could even glimpse it for a second, we would desire this far above the newest iPhone, Audi, or video game. All of these things are fun, but they are much like the sweets and fats on the food pyramid: taken in small increments and not the bulk of our intake.
May Shalom and the peace of Heaven rain on you and nourish your soul.