Beauty means different things to men and women. In fact, within the female community itself, beauty holds a variety of definitions. In the pursuit of that idealized beauty, many girls and women have subjected themselves to a motley of “transformations”. They still do to this day.
Here, the word: transformation encompasses a broad definition. It includes but is not limited to diets, makeovers, exercises, weight loss programs, cosmetic surgeries and etc.
The above quote is probably one of the reasons why we pursue beauty with such fervor. Whether you are a man or woman, we are all guilty by some measure in wanting to make ourselves more presentable, thinner and better looking. Some people even strive hard for it until it becomes an obsession. Naturally, men and women differ in their pursuit of beauty. While I cannot speak for the men, I would like to offer my personal thoughts and experiences from a woman’s point of view. But before I do, here is my DISCLAIMER.
Recently, many articles have been circulating in the net as well as in the real world on the subject of the feminine form and how the female gender have been made to “pay” for the “price” of beauty. Many have attributed the blame on the media and various social network/platforms. Some people have even assigned the blame to the male population which continues to objectify women.
After reading all those articles and debates – it is as if we, as women/girls, are so dissatisfied with ourselves that we need to break our original natural mould and re-create something “better” for ourselves. It seems that we like to fool ourselves into believing that it is all for the better. Otherwise, how would we convince ourselves to go through the pain of looking prettier, thinner and of turning ourselves “upside down” or beating up ourselves inside – in order to be “socially accepted” in our circles. Only the individual female knows the real price she has paid in the pursuit of her imagined ideal form of beauty. To the outside world watching, she looks perfectly groomed and well put together. If they only knew the truth!
The sad thing is that I come away feeling as if the female population is so gullible and foolish that we would buy whatever B.S is thrown at us about beauty and we would willingly perpetuate the B.S amongst ourselves.
Question: WHY DO WE INSIST ON TORTURING OURSELVES IN THIS MANNER, TIME AND TIME AGAIN?
We know it does not really solve all of our real problems.
We know it brings only a temporal happiness, because it is all superficial.
Ultimately, the changes are only physical. We are still the same unhappy, insecure and tormented soul trapped inside that shell of a body. We only look different but our internal world is still in shambles. All the “physical refurbishments” we have made does not change the view within.
I would like to share a very honest article from Kate Orazem. She shares a personal story of her pursuit of beauty and it is specifically about size/form. Read the original and entire article here.
What Women Lose In The Fight To Be Thin
I was anorexic and bulimic for many years. I never got bad enough to be hospitalized, but I was a scary-looking person. I’d stop getting my period for months at a time, and there was a constant sly whisper in my head saying worthless, undisciplined, fat. Skinny was my idol, starving my religion; I counted calories like I’d once prayed rosaries. I had a black notebook that I kept hidden behind a bookshelf in my room, and in it, every night, I wrote down four things: my weight, what I’d eaten, how much I’d exercised and how many times I’d thrown up. On good days, when I’d done hundreds of crunches and stuck to my diet of carrots and tea, I would feel virtuous, clean, filled with light. On bad days I’d curl up on my bathroom floor and sob, wondering why I was trapped in this thing, this body I hated, this clinging robe of flesh that I longed to discard.
Relationships seemed impossible; I couldn’t imagine how anyone could ever want me the way I was. And so I spent a lot of time alone, at war with myself, doing quiet, devastating violence to my own body. There’s a line from a poem I wrote at that age that comes back to me sometimes: I want to read my ribs like headlines. I thought there was some secret knowledge that thinness would bring me, some magic in it that would make me more successful, more lovely, more loved. I never found it.
In many ways, I am better now, but some things break and stay broke. I have a vivid memory of myself at 16, facing sideways in front of a mirror and pushing the skin of my sunken stomach into what I was sure was a potbelly. I stood there staring at my wasted frame, seeing, literally seeing, someone vast and bloated and monstrous staring back. How much can you ever rely on your senses again after that? How can you trust your own mind? There are other scraps of delusion that I can’t ever seem to root out. I could still tell you without hesitation the number of calories in a handful of almonds or two and a half Saltines. I still steal glances at my reflection in shop windows and feel horrified at how thick my thighs are, or how round my cheeks. I am healthier and happier now, but I can’t help but think I was prettier then. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m locked in a body that I will never love.
I don’t think I am alone in this. I think I am one of a multitude. I’ve met women my age who eat what they want and couldn’t care less if they gain two pounds over Christmas, but I am convinced they are the exception, not the rule. The rule is that if you are a woman in America, you want nothing quite so much as you want to be a little smaller. The rule is you are always trying to lose.
It’s no coincidence that this plague primarily strikes women (though I don’t want to discount the growing number of men who struggle with disordered eating). As women, our bodies are not entirely our own, and we are not always able to avoid others’ attempts to pass judgment on or make demands of or possess them. Having been made the emblems and objects of desire, we do our best to live up to the role, tithing gym trips and skipped dinners. Whole nations of women spend their hours not reading books or loving bands or making goddamn change but instead agonizing over the inches of a waist.
Sadly, this mad pursuit of beauty is not just evident in America. It is a worldwide “epidemic” – it cuts through culture, races, beliefs and nationalities. Because it is really a social disease and a human affliction.
And if you want to argue that beautiful women definitely have it easier than the “plain Janes”, because you think that only the non-beautiful ones are ignored and subjected to more suffering – please allow me to share the following the quote from the famous actress, Halle Berry.
“Let me tell you something – being thought of as a beautiful woman has spared me nothing in life. No heartaches, no trouble. Love has been difficult. Beauty is essentially meaningless and it is transitory.”
I do not deny that being good looking has its benefits, but it does not SHIELD anyone from any pain or suffering. And it certainly does not mean that beautiful people are not insecure and that they do not have their own share of “personal hell”. Underneath, we are all afflicted with the same issues, concerns, fears and etc.
The Power of Media
If we take the view that the media in all its form (including social networks/platforms) is to be blamed for distorting beauty in a certain way, and for objectifying women – the question still remains, why are we still buying it?
Why have we not turned our backs on the said media?
The media could churn out whatever they want to feed into the social system, but it is really up to us to decide and choose for ourselves. If we really want to make a stand, then stop buying into what the media spits out.
When the buying stops, the B.S will end as well. Until then, it will continue.
When I was much younger, I used to benchmark beauty against those women featured in the magazines and movies. Of course, being Asian, I could never have blue eyes or green eyes and blonde hair naturally. Hence, I was happy to change my hair colour to something other than black and used coloured contacts to change the colour of my eyes. I worshipped people like Marilyn Monroe, Brooke Shields and Madonna. I thought they were the epitomes of beauty. I could not even name a single Asian actress to admire until they started breaking into the Hollywood scenes. For the longest time, I felt inadequate. As if I was never going to be good enough and attractive enough. By the sheer fact that I was Asian, I was not beautiful.
Yes, such was the power of media. I am not denying it.
However, at this day and age, with a higher level of education and better access to even more information than before – we are no longer captive audiences around the world. We can be the well-informed, intelligent and discerning audience. The key operative word is DISCERNING. The greater access and freedom into media comes with the ugly price of pornography and other misrepresentation of beauty. We cannot open the flood gates and expect only purity and positivity to flow in. Hence, being discerning is of utmost importance.
And how do we become more discerning, you may ask. This is where education comes in. After all, everything that we think we know all stemmed from our education first before we became adulterated with “everything else” later in life.
Un-Learn, Re-Learn and Embrace
The high schools all over the world, and particularly, in America, is a vicious “pitting” ground. Everyone or group is pitted against each other. Beauty is like a brutal war game in these places. Hence, “re-education” about beauty for the young can play a pivotal role in establishing a better understanding and respect for all types of beauty. It starts from our education systems, from day one. Without reinforcement from schools around the globe, we cannot stamp out the misconception of beauty. After all, these youngsters represent the future generations of the world. What we have realised later in life should be shared with them in order for them to NOT inherit the same disease and affliction that we have had to suffer.
From the age of 12 onwards, we become more aware of our own bodies as well as those of the opposite sex. At that stage in life, we feel unsure and awkward about a multitude of things. However, there is no real person whom we can confide and talk to. And our parents would be the last people on earth we would want to discuss such intimate details about ourselves with. So, we pile on the make-up, double the mascara and shorten the skirts to mask the currents of anxieties or confusion stirring beneath our skin.
During our teenage years, our priority was to be accepted by our peers and friends. It could become so important that we would be tempted to sell our souls so that we could be included into the “special inner circle” or become the most popular darlings in the school. Hence, we may start doing things that we would undoubtedly later regret. But who could blame these kids? We too were once like them, and we did not know any better. If the education system does not change or modify itself, then they will learn what we have learnt, and no one will ever know any better.
Confucius said, “EVERYONE HAS BEAUTY, BUT NOT EVERYONE SEES IT.”
Therefore, it is crucial to teach the very young at schools and at homes, that beauty lies in everyone. It is vital that everyone is taught to appreciate that beauty does lie in every single person and not judge. More importantly, it must be emphasized that everyone is born with the right to be beautiful. Despite how every single person will have her/his own definition of beauty, there is absolutely no need to be disrespectful and no place should tolerate all the un-necessary rudeness.
Each person should be allowed to grow and blossom at their own pace and time. Not everyone is made the same and that itself is a beautiful thing. Diversity should be celebrated and honoured. If our education systems worldwide can incorporate all these elements into their academic syllabus, then a new mind set will be formed. A new attitude towards beauty in humanity could be established.
THIS may well help our society at large and the global community to be more accepting of one another. Perhaps, even true HARMONY may be a realistic achievement rather than a distant dream.
SO, WHAT DOES IT REALLY MEAN TO BE BEAUTIFUL?
BEAUTY IS A COMPLETE PACKAGE.
It is beyond the face, the body and all things physical.
Naturally, when we are young, we do not see this. We may not even understand it. And when I say young, I mean young in mind and not age.
In a young mind, we see and think of beauty as the most important physical attainment. Therefore, we do everything to enhance our physical appearance, while neglecting the rest.
Ideally, we should have made improvements within ourselves, as well as, our exterior. We should have invested in changing ourselves from “inside out”, and not just concentrate on the outside. Because our “true self” is the one within, and not only our physique. Everything on the outside is just an illusion, an image and a projection of ourselves. It may not be real, and it certainly would not last.
If we had spent all our lives just focussing on building and modifying our exterior beauty, then when that beauty fades in time, we would become most unhappy. Our depression may be inconsolable because we have based everything on our physical appearance, and have even judged others based on their physique.
Here, I would like to share another tale.
One very gorgeous woman, an ex-Beauty Pageant, was married to a good looking millionaire friend of mine. They seemed happy until one day the husband decided to leave her for another woman. This new woman was in no way more physically attractive than his soon-to-be ex-wife, but she was definitely more in tune with him in other ways. The new woman understood him in ways his Beauty Pageant wife could not. The connection or bond between him and the new woman was much stronger because it was not based on physicality. It developed from something much deeper.
And so, the couple eventually got divorced. The ex-Beauty Pageant wife went into a deep depression and it took her a long time before she could regain her self-esteem. Then she tried to get back into the dating scene and wanted to validate herself through getting as much attention from men as possible. She had thought that as long as she had strings of men interested in her, it meant that she was still “in demand”. She equated her worth with the number of men who found her desirable or attractive. Needless to say, she went through a rough journey in order to find her true self.
On the surface, it might look like the husband was at fault and no doubt he must bear some of the responsibility. However, when we examine further, we discover that his ex-wife also had a part to play in the failure of their marriage.
She was always only concerned with her appearance and believed that her beauty would captivate anyone who saw her. She felt that her being beautiful excused her from actually working at their marriage. As she had built her life around her beauty, she was defined by it and imprisoned in it. Therefore, it is understandable how everything fell apart for her when she learnt that her beauty could not save her marriage nor fill all the voids in her life. No one could fill all the emptiness in her life, and no one should. It was her job and responsibility to do so. She has had to learn the hard way.
This is what the husband finally shared with me - “no matter how beautiful a woman is, it is no guarantee that a man will stay with her forever. She could be a Miss Universe and a man could be bored with her in time. When one partner grows and evolves but the other remained stagnant, physical beauty is not going to save the marriage or relationship.”
Today, the ex-wife is a much happier woman. In a strange way, the divorce had set her free from her beautiful cage. She is a much more complete person now. Not just a woman who revolved her life and purpose on physical beauty alone. She understands the difference between inner beauty and outer beauty. I dare say that she is even more beautiful today than she ever was.
There is nothing wrong in wanting to be beautiful and in enhancing ourselves. Improving ourselves is a good and noble thing when it is done in the right way. Meaning, it is not only focussed on changing our physical appearance and only our physical appearances. But it includes enriching ourselves internally as well.
For example, if we decide to go on diet to lose weight, it is carried out in order to be healthier and fitter rather than just to become thin so that we can squeeze ourselves into a smaller size. Then we gain a healthier mind as well as body.
When our motivation is right, our results will also reflect the same. If we did not set out with the right intent or purpose, then we will not achieve the kind of results that will fulfill us in every sense of the word. It will only remain a temporal pleasurable result but the real problems or issues will rear its ugly head again in due course. In this respect, we cannot be completely happy with ourselves.
Therefore, always take time to search within, discover ourselves and question the real reason as to why we would want to do a certain thing. Our problems and issues will not magically disappear because we became prettier or thinner. In fact, other sets of problems may arise to highlight the void that was waiting for us to address and resolve.
The question we must always ask ourselves is not just if we look beautiful, but do we feel beautiful?
When we embark on improvements with the right or true intention and motivation, we will experience the result that COMPLETES US. There will be no more missing pieces of the puzzle to find and fit. We might even feel the “wholeness” which we were really seeking for in the first place. Perhaps then, we could start taking responsibility for every aspect of our lives and assume sovereignty over ourselves. It will not be a one time deal but an on-going process. So, remember to be kind to yourself and your process.
Yes, we have all the tools to make us into beautiful and better people.
And yes, these tools are all within us, just waiting for us to put them into good use.
As ADELE rightly said - “I think no matter what you look like, the key is to first of all be happy with yourself. And then you know if you want to try to improve things that you don’t like about yourself, then do it after you appreciate yourself.”
FINALLY, TO LADIES AND GIRLS OUT THERE – please try and be a little nicer to your fellow sisters in the community. There is really no need to make another female feel any worse than she already does. Trust me when I say that we are all struggling with our own issues behind closed doors.
If there is any shred of beauty in any of us, we will never need to make someone else feel small and belittle them in any way. It is no longer funny or fun when someone else’s feelings get hurt.
Let us rise from our pettiness and not engage in the jealousy game. Being beautiful also means one has to be gracious.
There are truly many definitions of beauty. There is no real benefit to stay entrapped in our own definition when it obstructs us from recognising the beauty in others.
Don’t let anyone tell that you are not beautiful. They are just not familiar with your definition of beauty because they have been so conditioned in theirs for too long. Help them to see and understand your definition of beauty. They need our compassion and patience as well.
From here on, BELIEVE IN YOUR OWN BEAUTY.
BRAND YOUR OWN KIND OF BEAUTIFUL.
To conclude, I shall leave you all with a quote from another beautiful individual, Ms. Audrey Hepburn.
“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.”
As always, please do remember that your beauty can only grow when you grow.
Peace to all!