What is beauty anyway?
This one may not be for everyone, but I think for a lot of us, when we feel down, demotivated and like we're not good enough, our worth and sense of self can get lost. We can feel ugly, unattractive or unappreciated. We lose sight of the beauty in the world and any notion of beauty within ourselves. Finding this again can make being who we truly are and a contributing part of this wonderful world a much more appealing idea.
The quest for beauty is a curious expedition. It’s one that may start early for some, shaping into more of a long term mission than intended or maybe it’s one of little significance for others.
As a young woman myself, it was more the former than the latter. Beauty for me meant being good enough; it meant perfection, it meant I could be loved. It came with a range of impossible definitions, each one remaining far enough out of reach to convince me that my own beauty was too.
Somehow my body became the object of my inability to attain appeal. Yup it was all my body’s fault - I was too big and that meant x,y,z about how beautiful I could possibly be, therefore also remaining not good enough, unlovable and imperfect. I know now that this was a clear misinterpretation of what beauty is, yet still had more to work to do in finding out its true definition. It's amazing how I could feel so ugly yet have no real idea of what beauty meant to me.
Beauty messages come in many forms. The world is full of different connotations of that one word. Whether it stems from the media, culture, or even just people’s personal preferences; it can be hard to nail down what it actually means. Yet we still attempt to pursue this unclear ideal and somehow constantly feel miles away from it.
Now, I have no intention of blaming the media, but I will allude to their influence and the power their images hold. Of course looking around, I could find plenty of ammunition to confirm that how I look isn’t good enough. Woman’s magazines, social media and advertising effortlessly catalogue the various areas that I could improve on; hair, skin, nails, weight, teeth etc. Celebrity culture documents the changing appearances of famous faces as though it’s of ultimate importance. There’s a product for every alleged ‘flaw’ we could have. ..What I’m saying is, there’s a lot out there, whether we actively buy into it or not there are plenty of messages filtering into our lives daily.
I could speak of the fashion world too, but I don’t have enough knowledge about it apart from the general feeling that for a long time thin was ‘in’, and thus, I was ‘out’. But even on the other side of the coin; there’s body positive campaigns now claiming the opposite. It’s all about curves or 'full figures'. Then finally there’s the balanced ones who reassure us that beauty actually comes in all shapes and sizes, often portrayed by the image of a diverse group of women having the time of their life in their undies. That’s fine and I respect the pride and confidence, but this still attaches the idea of beauty to the body. The idea that bodies of all shapes and sizes are beautiful, which is undeniable, but is that it? Is beauty merely a shape or size? Is it based on the body we have?
No, of course it isn’t. Nor is it based on the number on the back of your jeans, your perfectly manicured nails or your dyed, washed and styled hair. It’s not whitened teeth or a face contoured beyond recognition. Don’t get me wrong, I get that those things do enhance appearance but I just think there’s so much more to beauty than that. The tricky bit is pinning down what that actually is and starting to see it for myself.
I think what it comes down to is, what’s left when all of that stuff isn’t there? What’s left when my shape is fluctuating and I can’t pin my beauty against a specific size; when my makeup is running down my face and I’m having a bad hair day?
I want to know how I can truly feel beautiful, irrespective of looking a certain way. I want to feel it like it’s just a light burning within me that shines out and while lookin’ well might help, looking like a hot mess can't extinguish that light.
So looking around me, I’ve started trying to capture snapshots of what I see as being beautiful. I’ve started taking note of what makes the world a beautiful place to be and what elements of beauty I might find reflecting in myself. And the more I look for, the more I see.
Beauty in my eyes is honesty, authenticity, laughter, fun. Beauty is a sunset, the moon shining across the sea, flowers in bloom, snow. Beauty is the stars, the shades of green on the hills, movement. It’s the nervous giggle after a bad joke, it’s excitement, passion and being silly. Beauty is that unique quality that makes each of us different. The way people think, how they do things, their outlook on life. It’s strength and courage and determination. I think it’s beautiful when people are kind, when they speak their mind, when they let themselves be vulnerable, when they let loose. Beauty is talent and creativity.
Beauty is confidence, pride, acceptance
and a sense of contentment. It’s comfort in one’s own skin and an ease of being. It’s a smile, kind eyes, manners. Beauty is thoughtfulness, commitment and resilience.
Beauty is holding your head high and walking tall. It's self-respect.
Beauty is getting back up after falling down.
Beauty is getting back up after falling down.
For me, beauty is what makes each of us who we are, our many layers of traits and idiosyncrasies haphazardly rolled up into one remarkable package. Our core humane package, with no frills or BS, just the raw and real person that we are, doing our best with what we’ve got and shining through no matter what.
Since I started seeking my definition of beauty, I’ve found it oozing out in so many places. I’m actively looking for it everywhere, and the world isn’t shy in letting itself radiate.
While I can still take pride in my appearance, slap on the warpaint and get my hair did, I know that that’s not the source of my beauty. That’s not all there is.
Feeling beautiful comes from acknowledging the beauty within us and being really appreciative of what we actually have to offer. So basically after all that, the conclusion I’ve come to is essentially the cliché we’ve probably heard it a million times before - beauty is what's on the inside. But there must be reason it’s been said a million times, right? :)
Everyone has their own ideas of beauty and I think it's worth exploring what it means to you. If you can’t see it in yourself, look around for it and from my own experience, I think it'll become hard to miss.