Everyone has their own idea of beauty and their own thoughts on artwork; some prefer intricate, complex works and others find peace in the simple. It's the idea of individual expression that gives it its power as art - it connects with everybody differently.
There is a concept in Japanese culture that plays into this idea, commonly referred to as "wabi-sabi". I'm not Japanese, so what I am talking about is based on the knowledge I've gleaned from some research, but the general idea is that the imperfections make the objects beautiful. And genuinely, I think this is amazing.
Much of the pottery that is created to fit this aesthetic is plain; its colors are faded with time, the designs are simple and, in many cases, it may not even be finished. The overall concept is that beauty is incomplete, imperfect and impermanent - a lesson that can easily be generalized to daily life.
The notion that perfection - often found in the forms of mind games or retouching - is beauty is deeply permeated into our culture, so far that it can be jarring to see a normal-looking person on television. Every magazine cover is photoshopped, every interview features people with professional, perfectly-done makeup and every Instagram picture passes through at least a hundred filters. In Western culture today, messy hair is a problem to be fixed, not a sign of a fun afternoon. A few extra pounds are a deal-breaker. Fashion - and ensuring one does not mess up with one's clothes - is paramount at all costs, because everyone has an opinion about it that they broadcast to the world.
It goes beyond the judgment of the moment - it delves into the minds of the young kids, ensuring they too believe that the only way to be "pretty" is to bleach your hair and fake your tan. It rips apart people and shoves the superficial into their faces, screaming that they're ugly if they don't convene to Eurocentric beauty standards, going above and beyond to prove their dedication to their image.
Perhaps we can all take a lesson from the idea of wabi-sabi, either in pottery or in real life, in many cases. Beauty is impermanent for sure - aging is inevitable, your makeup will be washed off, you will not look the way you do today forever. There is no point in creating a person today that you inflexibly idolize since that won't be you in two or three years; focus on loving yourself instead.
Beauty is incomplete; every person is like a perpetual flower, constantly blossoming to their full potential but as each layer of petals peels off, another lies formed and ready to open up. This is why it is so important to love yourself for yourself - you are going to change, but you are still beautiful.
And finally, beauty is imperfect. Stretch marks, eye bags and scars are beautiful because they are natural. They are human and inevitable. They are from experiences that have shaped your mind and that are unique to you. Don't be ashamed of them. You are organic and gorgeous and better than the judgments that try to get you to turn yourself to plastic.
And remember, when life gets you down and you find yourself nitpicking flaws in your own appearance, the things you're criticizing are art to other people.