It’s not really a huge debate anymore that the media’s depiction of beauty is one that is unattainable. Show anyone the cover of People magazine or Vogue and they’ll say, “Yeah, of course that’s Photoshopped.” And of course comparing yourself to a fake image of an ideal is ridiculous. Countless bloggers, social media personalities, celebrities, and even just everyday people have voiced this already. It’s obvious, especially when you’re relaying this information to someone else. “You are beautiful because you are you,” you can readily say…to other people.
But to yourself? That’s another story.
How can you see yourself as beautiful when you aren’t like the people in the magazines, on the screen, even on Instagram, for crying out loud? The people on Instagram aren’t celebrities. They’re normal, like you…but somehow they’re beautiful. Other people are different. Other people can be beautiful, they just need to believe it. But you? You know yourself. And you’re not like that. You can’t be. You’ve seen the way you look when you wake up in the morning – you’ve seen the way your look in every moment that’s not a selfie.
It is so hard to accept the same level of love and admiration that you freely give to others. However, this self-love is so important to have. A large part of the difficulty in grappling with this comes from the wild standards of beauty in our culture.
The phrase “beauty standard” is accurate in that it recognizes that there is, in fact, a “standard” -- an arbitrary equilibrium that people are expected to reach. Many “beauty tips” are simply methods of masking our stronger features. If you’re short, wear vertical stripes and heels to appear taller; but if you’re tall, opt for maxi dresses and flats to look shorter. If you have a square face, wear round glasses, but don’t you dare do that if your face is round. Back pocket decals can serve to add volume to a flatter butt, but if you already have junk in your trunk? Don’t even think about it.
And whatever standard society is working toward isn’t even constant anyway. Would the curves of the '50s be as sought after in the heroin-chic populated '90s, or the butts of today as coveted for in the '20s when boyish figures dominated?
I remember one of my friends complimenting me on a shirt I own, saying that she couldn’t pull off the high halter neck because of her broad shoulders. Thinking back on it, I wonder – why not? So what if it accentuates her shoulders? Of course, I know the answer is because having features made too obvious is a huge “don’t” in the beauty world. The shirt will make her wide shoulders look wider-- oh no!
In all honesty, she could pull off the shirt if she wanted to. She could pull off shoulder pads if she wanted to! Her shoulders could take over the world if she wanted them to, but that’s just it. It all comes down to her.
There are advantages that stereotypical “beautiful” people have in society, and I recognize that as a smaller, thinner person, I possess some of those. That said, I’ve still struggled with a lot of body issues in the past. I consider myself a small, bottom-heavy person with short, thick legs. My face is round. My hands are fat and sloppy. I have acne, which I pick at, so it scars. I have a lot of dark body hair, I slouch when I stand, my teeth are yellowing. Do I find these things beautiful? In all honesty? No. I actually feel weird calling myself a beautiful person because I don’t think I am,but I don’t feel the need to be.
I actually love how compact my legs are. I love how a lot of my fat goes to my thighs and stomach so I can squish them. I like that my face is round – or maybe I don’t actively like, but I don’t mind it, anyway. My body hair makes me feel like a bear, but bears are real freaking great, aren’t they? I have two thirds of my head shaved and wear heavy eyeliner and not because I think those things are beautiful. It's because they feel right on me. What else? I’m definitely pretty chill, and I like to think I’m funny in a deadpan sort of way. I create things. I’m awesome at sleeping. I know how to deal with my anxiety, I love learning things, and I am so good at managing my time that I’ve never had to pull an all-nighter. I can be all of these things without being beautiful.
And that’s the thing. Who are you, really, in the end? Your life is not balanced on whether or not you are considered beautiful, either by yourself or by other people. Can you even be beautiful? Sure, if you want to be. But you can also be so, so much more.