I was inspired by the above photo, which I took, to write the following post on beauty. Since it is #MentalHealthAwarenessMonth and beauty/beauty ideals are heavily important in their effects on mental health and one's self-esteem and perception of self, I think this is a timely post to publish.
You will never be beautiful enough for everyone. You won’t ever be able to satisfy all the hungry eyes in this world with your appearance. And, would you really want to? Beauty is so fleeting, so transient, so ephemeral. We all want to be beautiful, well, most of us anyway. But what does that really mean? Does it just mean that you have a pretty face and body that the rest of society has deemed as 'goals'? And how does it feel ‘being' beautiful?
I don’t think it feels like anything actually, because being ‘beautiful’ is quite empty really - it’s a hollow concept that takes you as you are, a figure and body that you just so occupy, and reduces the entirety of who you are as a person to nothing but a shell for the eye to admire.
We are bombarded daily with reminders of the importance of being beautiful. Countless magazines and industries (i.e. cosmetics) remind women how important their image is and how they must look great 24/7, because if they don’t, then people will think less of them. Others will think of the woman as a slob or as someone who doesn’t ‘care’ about her appearance because after all, one'ss appearance is crucial.
Now, with the advent of social media platforms such as Instagram, we see numerous accounts of gorgeous models and personalities that have acclimated millions of followers primarily for their looks and lavish lifestyles. That is not meant as a harsh jab at them because I'm sure they are also beautiful people on the inside, but the overwhelming reason as to why most people follow them and aspire to be like them is for their looks.
Beautiful is, in and of itself, a beautiful word. It rolls off your tongue softly and it feels beautiful to say. Telling someone they are beautiful and watching the way their eyes light up, their lips curve into a smile and how their face softens is beautiful too. ‘Being beautiful’ is not bad but again, what does ‘being beautiful’ mean? That's an answer we have to ask ourselves individually.
We’ve been taught that being beautiful is fundamental to success and happiness and that being beautiful is an indicator of your worth and value to society. When you’re beautiful, everyone likes you. In all the ads you've ever seen, in all the movies and books, the beautiful people are those who make copious amounts of money, have a great job and partner, and are the happiest. So, naturally, we associate beauty with all these various facets of life. Yet, beautiful people are often less happy than the rest of us and that is because beauty does not equate to happiness and never will be able to. The same applies to money and luxury goods as well, and other factors of that nature. Why? Because just like beauty, those are all external, material pursuits. And happiness is internal.
In the past few years, we’ve seen a huge jump in the amount of ads and campaigns that feature plus-size models; similarly, there are far more body-image conversations taking place today than ever before. But, at the end of the day, these campaigns and these social sites still remind us of this ‘need’ to be beautiful - of this need to be pleasing to the eye. Of this need to have it all and be all, particularly for women.
Our bodies are nothing but a shell for our souls. Beauty is transient and uncontrollable; sure, you can control it to an extent (i.E. plastic surgery) but you are constantly growing older by the second and changing and evolving. You will not look the way you do now two weeks from today. You are not the same person you were yesterday. Maybe you still like blueberry pancakes, so in that way yes you are the same person, but physically, you are not. Beauty trends come and go and if you subscribe to each one, you’ll not only exhaust yourself but also lose yourself in the process.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wanting to be beautiful necessarily (#waytocontradictyourself), especially since we constantly feel like we have to be beautiful to feel worthy, but I do think that it’s a fruitless goal to chase. Once we’re pretty, what would that give us exactly?
Absolutely nothing but a thousand compliments, which while appreciated, would really make us feel no different. As overly-cliche and simplified as it may seem, beauty really does come from the inside, even if society does not see it as such.
I saw this mirror (in the photo above) and i wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I’m sure many of us have seen ‘you're beautiful’ (or ‘your beautiful’) in bathroom stalls or walls (on neon-colored post-its nonetheless) or written in spray paint on some brick wall in some alley somewhere; we've either felt a little bit better about ourselves after seeing it or scoffed at the ‘lame’ attempt that feels somewhat dismissive kind of. Mocking even. I won’t lie and say I scoffed at this mirror. In fact, I think I smiled at the 'sweet' attempt and felt briefly better about myself. But then I thought about it and wondered what that meant - what does ‘being beautiful’ really mean?
It is nice to be told ‘you’re beautiful’ or that 'you look beautiful’ but it doesn’t say much about you as a person and so I believe that we should strive to be beautiful in the way we think about others, beautiful in the way we care about others, beautiful in our actions and words, beautiful as a being, and most of all, beautiful in the way care about ourselves and treat ourselves.
The thing about ‘being beautiful’ is that it does not tell anyone anything about you at all; instead, it merely takes your vessel of a body and places it on a pedestal to be admired and fawned over, diminishing your personality, characteristics, capabilities, and accomplishments until those are merely add-ons to your looks.
Being beautiful does not tell me about all the hardships you’ve faced and fought and have beaten and are still fighting to beat. Being beautiful will not tell me about all those times you looked out for others or stayed up late to console a friend or loved one just to make sure they felt even a slight bit better than before they started talking to you. Being beautiful won’t tell me about how tired you are from all the stress of the world falling down onto your broad shoulders, beating you down mercilessly - yet you still persevere. Being beautiful will not tell me about all the kind thoughts you think of others like how you like the way your mother’s eyes crinkle when she smiles, or how cool you think that young girl's (that you see on the subway) brightly colored hair is, or the way your friend laughs when he tells you a really corny joke. Being beautiful does not tell me about all the secrets you keep buried deep inside of yourself because you are scared and embarrassed to tell others, in fear they’ll see you differently, see you badly. Being beautiful means all the scars on your cheeks and along the curve of your spine and on both of your knees, from the time you fell off a bike and from the other time when you fell on the ground from running too fast, should be erased and hidden since scars are not seen as beautiful but as physical deformities. Being beautiful will not tell me about the countless doctors you’ve gone to, searching for an answer as to why you’re sick and feel wrong, only to be told point-blank your face ‘you’re fine’ even though you don't feel fine. Being beautiful will never tell me about all the depressive thoughts you have battled to silence each and every day for the past several years even when you can feel them suffocating your brain and don't know how to make them stop.
Because being beautiful will never tell me how scared you are to eat certain foods or how often you count numbers in your head despite math never being your favorite subject but once you fell deep into the grasps of an eating disorder, math was suddenly the only subject you actually wanted to do. Being beautiful will never, ever tell me or anyone else about all the times you’ve held yourself back from jumping off a roof and killing yourself - eyes watery, throat dry and heart beating fast - because the pain was too much to bear. And finally, being beautiful will never tell the world that you still wake up every morning in hopes that it will all be better again.
There is so much about ourselves that being beautiful will never tell or show. We are more than a beautiful face and body.
Now I’m sure there are several contradictory statements throughout this piece and I've made peace with that (ha). This will always be a topic of conversation near-and-dear to my heart that I will probably revisit in the future. However, with that being said, the topic of beauty, at least to me, is a tricky one to discuss because of how multi-faceted it is and how to approach it in a clear way without being dismissive or offensive.
We all want to be beautiful but on the other hand, deep-down inside, we know there is much more to us than our appearance and we know that chasing beauty will never make us feel better (at least not for long). My goal and wish, and for you as well, are to be a beautiful person. When I say that, what I mean is that I hope you let your inner light shine and radiate from within you and you let that be what people refer to when they tell you that you are beautiful.
You can control how you treat others and yourself, but you can’t necessarily control how you look; so, let your kind words, actions and thoughts reflect who you are because you are beautiful, just not in the way you initially think you are.