What Does Beauty Really Mean?

    Today I’m excited to join some of my favorite bloggers to talk about beauty. Nope, not the latest makeup, or magic hair care products… but real beauty. If you’ve been joining me on my blog for the last few months, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve started to explore the topic of society’s perception of beauty. I wanted to open up the discussion to other beauty bloggers as well as their readers to hopefully start unveiling what beauty really means.

    So what does beauty really mean? Let me ask you this:

    How do you feel about the color green?
    Is it your favorite color? Not really your style?
    If you love the color green, would you assume everyone should like or want to like it?
    If you don’t like the color, do you feel bad about it? Will that be the only color you can see yourself happy liking?

    That all sounds downright silly, now doesn’t it? But having a favorite color is just as subjective as what defines beauty. Yet, many of us have predetermined ideals set in our heads of what it means to be beautiful, and strive for that one definition.

    twiggy
    60s Fashion Icon: Twiggy

    One physical characteristic of mine that kept me from feeling beautiful while growing up was my weight. I was always teased for being the fat kid. Looking at the women depicted in mass media, which undoubtedly has heavy influence on how we judge our reality, there’s really only one body type represented. According to media specialist Rachel K. Ward, PhD, the ideal body type was created in the late 1950s when clothes started being mass produced using ready-made patterns. The 80s, however, was the rise of the supermodels: when models were really considered to be celebrities; with their multiple international campaigns, they started to define a universal beauty ideal.

    yosemite8
    Me at age 9.

    When I was about 9 or so years old, I decided to cut my hair really short. Upon returning to school, I was teased for looking ‘like a boy’. Still fat and now without my long hair, I was completely deviant of the feminine standard of beauty. I couldn’t wait until my hair was finally long enough to pull into short pigtails. I hid under a hat for a long time after that, and I still put off getting regular haircuts to this day.

    Meage8
    Me at age 10, still hiding under a hat.

    We aren’t born knowing these standards of beauty as truths; they are learned– and at a young age, as seen by schoolyard bullying. Why do we strive to fulfill and perpetuate one single definition of physical beauty? The homogenized perception of beauty is dangerous. Women go through extremes to attain the looks and bodies of models who don’t even look like themselves in their campaigns, anyway! With the rise of Photoshop and retouching, models do not even depict the beauty they are selling. In fact, as soon as I learned how to use Photoshop, I edited the hell out of my MySpace selfies. I made myself look thinner, I gave myself a digital nose job… I was, like, fourteen. I was fourteen and terrified of people noticing the bump in my nose, noticing my belly, noticing my double chin. Nobody told me to embrace the things that made me different. Everywhere I looked enforced the idea that these things were wrong. Things have only gotten harder with the age of the internet and the media overload that is available to young girls.

    Unfortunately, the world of cosmetics is not innocent of reinforcing these ideals. Notice how many products are marketed to fix flaws, always reminding you that there’s something wrong with the way you naturally look. There are so many ways to change your appearance through makeup, surgery, shape-wear… and it’s a multi-million dollar industry. The first step to overcoming this overwhelming message is to be aware of their intentions: to sell product. To beauty companies, if everyone thought they were perfect the way they were, they’d lose a lot of money. Sad that they play on our insecurities for profit, eh?

    Me in 2014. No makeup, no filter, no problem.
    Me in 2014. No makeup, no filter, no problem.

    Trying to live up to someone else’s standards is no way to determine self worth. No woman should feel guilty, shameful, or alienated for looking different than the next person. I get it, it’s really difficult to change your point of view when you think you’re up against six billion other people. But you’re not living your life for them, are you? Sure, the world of beauty products is fun and makeup is an amazing creative outlet. But don’t use it to “correct” anything. There’s nothing wrong with you! Love your body, love your face, love everything about yourself, because you’ve only got one life to live and it shouldn’t be spent comparing yourself to anybody else!

    It took a long time for me to realize that no body is the same, or meant to be. It took a long time to build up the confidence to wear a bikini to the beach because I want to be evenly tanned, dammit! If someone doesn’t like the way I look: great, move right along, nothing for you here. I won’t lie to you and say that I’m completely free of insecurities. Believe me, after years of being bullied, the damage is done. But I’m finally realizing that there’s no rule book for being beautiful.

    Beauty is a matter of opinion, and creating a standard for every single woman to adhere to is not only harmful, but just stupid. Reminiscent of an old Twilight Zone episode… don’t you think?

    And of course, your inner beauty can outshine any physical characteristic you’re insecure about. Bottom line, physical looks aren’t the end all and be all of what defines beauty. When someone truly finds you beautiful, they’re looking at everything, inside and out.

    Oh, so you’re probably looking for the answer to my question. What does beauty really mean? Well, it literally means:

    beau·ty

    1. the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest).

    (Source)

    As far as specifics? There are none. Whether you’re describing someone’s personality or looks, beauty is 100% opinion and different for everyone. I see beauty in those with confidence, those who hold their heads high, proud of the person they are. I see beauty in physical characteristics that makes a person unique. I see beauty in the expression of a person through makeup, hair color, or hair style. Define it yourself, and don’t worry about what an industry says you should think.

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    32 COMMENTS

    1. Girl, I feel like you wrote this article for me! I too have fought self esteem problems from childhood. I wasn’t the overweight child, I was a child in a small town whose parents couldn’t afford to buy the up to date clothes, makeup etc. I was made to feel inferior at school for this reason. I too cut my hair very short in junior high and the haircut along with acne you can imagine the rest of the story. The name of my blog was chosen to remind me I am unique and beautiful as myself.

    2. Aw, Miranda. What a great post. I feel like you could make this message into an awesome thesis or dissertation in the future. Having been a chubby kid who struggled so very much with my body image and eating disorders, I can totally relate and think this is something many young un’s need to know about. Have you heard of Jasmine Star and her twin sister Bianca Juarez? Jasmine is a wedding photographer and Bianca is a pastor. They both have blogs and talk about their struggles with weight as kids – this post reminded me of one of Bianca’s most recent blogs. http://www.inthenameoflove.org/battle-of-the-bulge-again/

    3. you are beautiful! i wish i looked like that with #nomakeup #nofilter. i was teased a lot as a kid too – i was just awkward looking. but now i get a ton of messages on fb from the same guys that would tease me in school saying i look so much “better” – i never know if it’s a compliment or insult haha.

    4. Beautiful post my dear! Beauty is defined by society and culture. In Asia, white skin is associated w/ being beautiful that’s why whitening products are popular. In Mauritania, young girls are forced- fed with goat milk and all kinds of stuff because “bigger is better”. So the standard of beauty is encompassing. At the end of the day, every woman should be comfortable with her own skin, shape, color, etc.

    5. This is beautiful Miranda. I love reading posts like this… because I not only know what drives the person I have grown to love, but also what inspires them. You are such a wonderful person and I am so happy to have met you. Now being a plus sized gal, I have been experiencing these kinds of stereotypes and it’s not fun, uncalled for and just wrong. Thank you for sharing this – love it!

    6. This is an amazing post, Miranda! When I was in elementary school, I was called “The Big Show” (WWE wrestler – the dude was like 6’8) because of being chubby. I had the hardest time ever getting over that and assumed that because they thought I resembled a wrestler, that’s what I must be. Over ten years later and getting into beauty blogging, it has opened my eyes to what beauty really is. It’s getting up in the morning without any make up on and being happy with the skin you’re in. Thanks for this post, girl! 🙂

    7. You wrote a beautiful and touching story. I remember my mother cutting my hair to a pixie in high school and I lost all confidence in myself. It took a long time to regain that confidence. Our self esteem shouldn’t be so tied into our looks so we need to make sure it doesn’t happen for future generations.

      • It’s true! Funny enough my mom had at first advised against my short cut, having had a pixie cut herself and been bullied. But I really wanted it so she didn’t stand in my way… I’m grateful she let me express myself and make my own decisions about my appearance but I joke that I wish she just said no to the cut, haha

    8. I’m very happy to see this post. Every woman deserves to feel comfortable in her own skin, and nobody should be in charge of telling us what we should all consider beautiful.

    9. The common thread on all of our linked up posts so far seems to be “confidence” – we can’t all be wrong! Great post! ♥

    10. Loved reading this. I think – and I’m being honest – you looked cute as a child. I had short hair till age 21 and loved it and was given grief at school for being skin-and-bones-thin, but my idea of beauty has nothing to do with hair and more to do with how happy a person looks. Worse, I come from a country where being “fair-skinned” is prized. If you ask me, supermodels look so dour and glum, I wonder where the “prettiness” comes in!

    11. Kids an be idiots and it’s terrible that you felt so down about yourself. Your beautiful now so forget them. More importantly you got a real handle of what true beauty really is and that’s all that counts in the end.

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