Don't Let Others Influence Your Sense of Beauty
Photography: Becky Curl
Originally Published on Thought Catalog.
I can’t recall the first time I was ever told I was beautiful, but I remember enough to know that this ideal of “beauty” has followed me almost my entire life.
From a young age, girls are praised for their looks and paraded around like little dolls for all of the world to admire. We get new dresses and bows and pose for countless photos as the flashes pop before our eyes, forever capturing ourselves solely at face value. “What a sweet little girl” and “Smile for me, Sweetie” are words that begin to be thrown at you from your very beginnings, but eventually these so-called endearing terms turn sour and often leave us feeling unsettled and under attack.
At what age, will I finally stop being a stranger’s sweetheart?
With so much value being inherently placed on a woman’s outward appearance, it is no wonder that so many of us grow up wondering if we will ever be enough. One day we are told that we should be stick thin, but then the second we achieve that, we are hit with the sad truth that curves are back “in.” Part of being a woman in our society is constantly being told by the media who we are supposed to be in order to be well-liked and successful. After all, no one likes an ugly girl, right?
We spend sickening amounts of time trying to shove ourselves into the tiny box that the rest of the world has deemed “beautiful” when we were ultimately never meant to be there. And the reality of the situation is that we will never truly be there or achieve the harsh and unachievable standards thrust upon us by society.
I do not know who decided that it was okay to belittle women because they do not fit into one narrow view of what is supposedly “attractive,” but I do know that we all need to snap out of that fairytale world and realize what it is that we are truly doing to ourselves. This madness needs to end.
All of my life I have struggled to feel like I was pretty enough—enough to be accepted by most people and left alone by the harshest ones among us. But you don’t want to be too pretty because then people chastise you for that, too.
There is this delicate balance of being liked enough to fit in, but not going so far as standing out because apparently, beauty like that only causes problems. Every day we are bombarded with mixed messages of who we are supposed to be, and every day it gets more difficult for women to sift through the deluge of self-deprecating thoughts to try to recover some sense of purpose in their lives. Do we even have a purpose if we aren’t beautiful? According to the world we live in, apparently not.
We need to take the word beauty back.
It is not wrong to appreciate beauty; beauty is not inherently bad. It is when we twist a word meant to express fondness and joy into one that cuts and wounds so deeply that we begin to destroy something that was never meant to destroy us. People are beautiful for so many reasons outside of their physical appearances. I truly believe that everyone does view beauty differently, and I do not believe that is wrong.
What is wrong, however, is to criticize someone for not fitting into your definition of beauty.
What I see as beautiful is not the same as what you recognize as beautiful, and I have no place demeaning you because our minds interpret the world around us differently.
That fact itself is beautiful. There are so many unique perspectives in our world, and I wish that we could begin to celebrate them instead of trying to cast them aside. Beauty does not have to be something we fear; we should celebrate it and recognize that all of us have so much unique beauty to give to the world, if only we were given the chance to share.
I can remember many times I was told I was not beautiful. Often I think our minds can bring those to light much more easily than the times we were praised for our beauty. It has taken me many years to get over some of the harsh words that were used to describe my appearance growing up through childhood and high school, and I wish now that younger me would not have been so affected by those words—after all, they are just words.
Yet what so many people do not realize is that words really can do more damage than anyone would think possible. Once someone demeans you, it is hard not to look in the mirror and hear those words over and over again. It is as if they are written across your forehead and down your arms, exposing your flaws for the entire world to see. And unfortunately, you were the last one to find out all of these characteristics and qualities were “bad.” As I have gotten older, it has been a little easier for me to recognize that other people’s perspectives of me are not the way I have to define myself. But every once in awhile, the wrong person will say the right thing and the self-doubt comes creeping back up, longing to be back in the forefront of your mind.
This is not okay.
A woman’s existence should not be consumed or defined by what other people think of her beauty. No one should ever wonder if maybe they would have gotten the job if they were more attractive or maybe if I would have accepted his flirtations, I would have gotten the raise I worked so hard for.
It is so sad that in 2016 women are still fighting for the basic right to be viewed as legitimate, hard-working people, but this is the world we have built for ourselves. And we are the only ones who can take it back.
So start having those difficult talks about how we got here and how we can fix it. And the next time someone tries to tell you that you aren’t beautiful, remember that you have so much more to give the world than a nice dress and a plastic smile.
Your unique perspective is what is going to save us all and rebuild what it is to be beautiful.