What is beauty?

I don't think I have ever asked myself this question before, which is honestly so strange considering how often the term is thrown around. They say "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and "true beauty is inner beauty," but what exactly is it?

Writing an absolute definition of the word beauty would just seem lackluster or insufficient. There is so much attached to the word, whether it's due to society's influence or the variety of contexts that the term is used in. So, do society and our environment define beauty? Or do we, the individuals, form its meaning?

I realized on my trip to Seoul, South Korea that beauty is looked at in both similar and different ways. In Korea, skincare and overall physical appearance are so strongly emphasized. It is seemingly wrong to not wear nice clothes and makeup, whether you are a man or a woman. In the beginning, I was amazed. It was so nice to see that people put forth such effort in presenting themselves well. It showed that they cared.

Eventually, I started to see the extents to which people cared about their appearances. I remember walking into a skincare or clothing store and feeling like the workers had a clear idea of what they needed to do to "fix" me. It didn't totally matter that I had a nice personality, but suddenly my dry skin and outdated dress were of more importance. Without asking, I was given advice on what I needed to change to be more beautiful.

Now I don't mean to bash Korea or its beauty standards, because trust me, I have a lot to say about its better qualities and the US's pros and cons of beauty standards. With that being said, I think Korea's beauty standards also stem from a need to recognize how to make yourself feel better and more put together, which I agree when it's only to a healthy extent.

Similarly, I think it's also important to recognize the parallels and differences in beauty standards in America. I might say that in the States, physical appearance, down to someone's body parts, is criticized sometimes more than a person's personality or behavior. Well, guess what? Even physically beautiful people can be ugly on the inside. I think when you start picking at the physical appearance, you realize that there is more to a person than what they wear or what they put on their face to seem presentable to others.

At the same time, I don't mean to "glam-shame." While some feel that makeup and certain clothing styles are unnecessary, others may feel is integral to who they are. If that's what beauty is to you, then so be it. Don't let others tell you that your chipped nail polished nails or socks and sandals look is not beautiful.

My point is, whatever it is that makes you feel beautiful is what you should do. You can wear whatever or act however you'd like to if that is what makes you feel beautiful. At the end of the day, I'd be happier feeling my own sense of beauty than putting on a show for others to prove that I fit the societal or dictionary definition of the word. Fitting in is exhausting, and I really don't have time for it.

Don't let beauty define you. Rather, define beauty for yourself by your own set of standards.