Mirror, mirror on the wall, make me skinny, make me tall.
So often we find ourselves relating to a wicked queen’s vanity. Is it really too much to ask for gorgeous hair, flawless skin, and seven adoring men? The idea of a perfect, beautiful princess may have started from the drawing table, but has it essentially led us to the operating table?
Envy and insecurity have undoubtedly been embedded in our society long before the days of animated fairy tales. Whether it is the number on the bathroom scale or the 200 different concealers that claim to hide those darkened under-eyes, we live in world obsessed with picking itself apart. Focusing on what we do not like about ourselves is such a dangerous and distressing routine, yet with the help of magazines and TV commercials we scrutinize ourselves every single day.
Where do these socially constructed ideas of beauty come from? What defines a beautiful person? Why do we reject one chin or nose shape, yet embrace another? Is it the same everywhere? More than anything, what is the price of beauty and why does it matter so much?
A narrow perception. There is an unnerving template for our culture’s standard beautiful woman. If Cosmo was a dictionary, then you would probably find wide smile, long hair, big eyes, sun-kissed tan, long legs, narrow nose, and 24-inch waist under the description of a pretty woman. The superstars that rock runway shows and grace the covers of magazines seem to be a rather homogenous bunch, fitting the limited notions of beauty we have collectively deemed as attractive. Formed by our natural instincts, we find features like symmetry, height, and feminine appearance to be considered healthy and attractive qualities. Unfortunately, unique and diverse haven’t been societally expressed as beautiful because they do not fall in that limited category. For shame.
You are _________. If someone were to describe you with one word, what would you want to hear? There are so many qualities that make up a person, yet appearance trumps personality a lot of the time. Being beautiful is just one of the so many amazing things you can be. You can be someone who is compassionate, someone who is trustworthy. You can be smart, creative, funny, and kind. Physical beauty has a pervasive influence on our perceptions and evaluations of other people, but like they say, “looks can be deceiving.”
Beauty is pain. Wax, curl, pluck, pull, straighten, twist, cut, lift, shave – the list goes on and on. Going to the extreme to look a certain way can be painful, literally. The money and effort put in the beauty industry is tremendous. Gyms, salons, cosmetics – they are all finding a solution, but to what? Is whiter teeth and perfect eyebrows the answer to finding happiness? We have our minds wrapped around this recipe of steps to be a more attractive version of ourselves. If we lose ten pounds or get a new haircut, somehow, that change will make us happier. This may give us temporary bliss, but a “new you” does not always mean a happier you.
The all-in-one beauty solution. Sick of short, stubby legs? Now giving you 50% longer limbs: introducing Photoshop! It acts as an eye shadow, foundation, blush, tanning bed, and so much more! The best part is no one will know the difference, as long as you never let anyone see you in person ever again. Airbrushed and re-touched photos are notorious in advertising and media, but now we have taken it upon ourselves to mimic such image tricks. What is the harm? If one Instagram filter flatters more than another, what is the big deal? Nothing really, but keep in mind that manipulating your true self, flaws and all, brings a falsehood of expectation. We are so ashamed of our imperfections; we will do anything to hide them. But they make us who we are. That scar is from falling while dancing around the Christmas tree when you were five, that wrinkle you can call your sophomore physics final, and soon enough there will be pop-up grays when we become worried parents. Embrace all that you are, because you will never be satisfied otherwise.
You’re built how you’re built. Some have the deck stacked in their favor, but not everyone won the genetic lottery, and many hate the bodies they inherited. Snap out of it! Those lanky arms you hate so much, well guess what, they are healthy arms that allow you to hug, lift, and throw. Your eyes that you say are too close together are the only way you see the colors of this beautiful world. We are ignorant to believe the way we view ourselves will not affect generations to come. We are teaching our daughters to hate their bodies by how we talk about ourselves. You are never more alienated than not feeling at home in your own skin. Respect, love, and nurture your body, for it is the most miraculous thing you will ever own.
Our reflections are criticized too often and appreciated too little. There is no one kind of beauty. Our worth can’t be compared or measured by an outer shell. It is your body, your life, your business, but make sure you have control over it. Because the truth is you are permanently flawed, inevitably imperfect, and guess what? You are beautiful.