My beautiful and insanely intelligent cousin writes about beauty from her perspective.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the conventions of beauty. I think that this thought process is something everyone goes through, in their own way. My art class is doing an interesting project, we’re creating life-sized sculptures…of ourselves. I think that is what triggered me to really think about what beauty is. I mean, I have thought about it before, but I just really really thought hard about it. I have to sit there and sculpt my own face, flaw for flaw, everything that I like and dislike. But…why do I dislike certain features?
For years I’ve picked out different parts of myself that I dislike. It changes all the time. One month I’ll hate my nose, my lips. The next I’ll hate my teeth, the next I’ll hate the shape of my legs, and the next I’ll hate my feet. It’s a vicious cycle, and it’s hard to stop. I have come to terms with my appearance, I do not think I’m unattractive. But I do think there will always be a cycle of bits and pieces of my body that I don’t like, no matter if I’ve accepted my appearance as a whole. This is largely due to the media. Any self-respecting human being understands that the media has an enormous influence on the way we perceive ourselves. “I like the way my eyes look…Oh, but look at the women in these magazines. Their eyes are all very slender, artfully decorated with makeup and filled with energy!”
Well…I guess I do, for one. At least for a few days. Then I realize that my eyes are beautiful, just in a different way than that of the women in that magazine. So…if I am beautiful, even though I look different than the standard “beautiful” woman…what is beauty?
This is a question that has been battled with by people for ages. It seems to be a more prominent issue among women. I won’t deny that men struggle with similar issues as well, but myself being a woman, pardon me for focusing on women for the moment.
I don’t know how to define beauty, but I know for certain that it is a socially, culturally, societally established lie. There is no real beauty, only what one culture or another decides is beautiful.Merriam-Webster dictionary defines beauty in several ways, with one definition that particularly stood out to me. It says that beauty is “the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit”. If beauty is a quality that “gives pleasure to the senses”, this implies that a whole cannot be beautiful, only the qualities of that whole can be beautiful. I do not believe that this is what the definition meant, but it did cross my mind, leaving me wondering if it was possible for a whole to be beautiful, or if only parts were. I then came to the conclusion that of course a whole can be beautiful. If beauty is what gives pleasure to the senses, then some people may not find a particular quality beautiful, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t so. Someone else could find it exceedingly beautiful. There are 7 billion people in the world. Some are too young to comprehend society’s confusing definitions of beauty, (which is how it should stay) some people may not even be able to see it. But I guarantee you that someone finds that feature beautiful. The problem is that society has created this twisted idea that women have to fit a specific mold to be considered “beautiful”. It varies from culture to culture, and in the United States, the typical “beautiful” woman (or at least what I was trained to see as beautiful) is around 5’7”, skinny, large-breasted, with a large, round butt, shiny long hair, all topped with a slender face with almond-shaped eyes, a petite nose, and full lips. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that women like that are not beautiful. They are. What I am saying is that anyone who does not fit these standards is just as beautiful.
I am eighteen years old. I am five foot four and a quarter. I am skinny, by medical standards I am just barely on the charts for my weight, having been classified as “underweight” until about a year ago. That being said I weigh 105.5 lbs as of now. I have a pancake where my butt should be, and pancakes where my breasts should be. My hair is long and brown, I rarely do anything to it but wash it and brush it. My eyes are brown, round, and big. When I say big, I mean that most of my life they have been referred to as “cow” or “bug” eyes, something that I have grown accustomed to.
These are several of the features that make up me. They’re also the features that I was (and sometimes still am) ruthlessly tortured for having. I’ve been skinny my whole life. “You’re anorexic, you’re bulimic. Oh you’re eating? Don’t forget to go throw it up after you’re done, bug eyes.” Somehow, after years of being bullied for my appearance, kids decided that I was a lesbian and began to use that against me. It didn’t really bother me, even though I wasn’t a lesbian, I’ve always believed that being gay is just fine, but it made me curious as to why they felt the need to come up with things that should be considered perfectly fine to bully me about. And I never had an eating disorder. I never had a problem with being skinny. My problem was that kids said these types of things to me, and then went over to the girl that weighed 180 lbs and made fun of her. Then they went to the girl that weighed 110 and made fun of her. They didn’t want the skinny girl, the chubby girl, or the in-between girl. What did they want? Most likely attention, and to fit in. To fit into the molds that were created by..who? Well, who knows? But kids are growing up trying to force themselves into molds that they will never fit into. And when they don’t, they hate themselves.
Why do we feel the need to hate what we were born with, to change what we never can? I guess I shouldn’t say “never”. Modern medicine means you can look however you want to. But if you change the shape of your nose, are you still…you? Well, that brings up a whole new theory of consciousness and a philosophy that I won’t get into. My point is that I have finally come to truly understands what it means to think that everyone is beautiful. Literally, every single human being on the planet is beautiful. That girl in your math class that has crooked teeth, a bent nose and small eyes? She’s beautiful. That boy that’s chubby, with short hair and little ears? He’s beautiful. Maybe it’s not what you grew up being told was beautiful, or seeing photos of in magazines and on TV, but it is beautiful. Just sit there, and think. Close your eyes and picture someone that you wouldn’t necessarily call beautiful by the standards set by society. Now tell yourself they’re beautiful. Don’t just think the words, think the meaning. Forget what your friends would think, forget what you saw in your magazine of the “top ten most beautiful people”. Think about what makes that person beautiful. Everyone is beautiful, I really do believe it.
So I know why I dislike certain features and like others. I’m not proud to say it, but it’s because they fit the standards of beauty that I’ve been taught to like. It’s shameful. We all look the same, really. We all have eyes, ears, noses, skins and skeletons, yet we still manage to single each other out for tiny differences that we pick out. If we were trained from infancy to accept everyone as beautiful, and to disregard the barriers between beautiful and ugly, think about how different the world would be.
Everyone should accept themselves as beautiful. I know, you hear it every day out of some culturally-standard beautiful celebrity’s mouth. “We’re all beautiful.” But it’s true. We actually are. Stop picking out each other’s differences. Stop making a certain feature beautiful and others not. Just let everyone be happy that they are alive, and enjoy your life.