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.
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.
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.
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?
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·ty1. 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).
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.