What do I think it means to be beautiful?

Miss Jenkins of Rewriting Herstory has posed this question, and I think it sounds like a good thing to talk about, but before I share my thoughts, I want to share hers with you, because they’re inspiring:

“Eventually, I realized that my outward appearance was a reflection of how I felt about myself.
Beauty is a combination of attitude and appearance.
Sure, physical beauty is a noticeable attribute based on appearance alone. But when I think about the people I consider “beautiful,” he or she usually carries him or herself in a way that makes you feel good when you are around them. Even if their outward appearance isn’t billboard worthy, so to speak, people usually enjoy their presence because of something that you can’t usually put into words. They look good partly because they exude a positive attitude and confidence.
It’s about how you feel about yourself.
I used to be kinda miserable. Complaining wasn’t hard for me to do. I could find a reason to criticize even positive experiences. I still have my moments, but I’m working on it. When I look at back it, I was mostly reflecting how I felt about myself. I would constantly criticize myself. I didn’t enjoy simple things, like going shopping with my friends because I hated to try on clothes (and because I was usually broke). I didn’t like shopping because I didn’t think anything could make me look good. I didn’t think anything could make me look good because I wasn’t as pretty as they were. I wasn’t as pretty as they were because something was wrong with me.
I’m learning to do away with those self-damaging thoughts about myself. I’m not weighed down by as many of them anymore. And people have noticed. I have gotten compliments about how much better I look. But it’s not because my wardrobe has significantly changed. I haven’t gained or lost a significant amount of weight. I haven’t had any physical work done. I’ve only done work on and for myself. I’m starting to appreciate what makes me beautiful on the inside and I’m learning to let it show.” —Miss Jenkins

*a round of applause for her accepting her own fly-ness* 

I know that this struggle to see your own reflection as beautiful or to accept other people’s suggestion that you are beautiful runs rampant amongst women who don’t fit the media’s image of beauty MOST WOMEN. Maybe you’re a woman of color. Maybe your size isn’t a single digit (double zeros, you are not included in this sympathy group). Maybe you don’t have long silky wavy hair. Maybe your skin tone isn’t even or you’re prone to breakouts or you’re just “plain”. Maybe you are a human walking around in the real world rather than an airbrushed/Photoshopped image in a magazine. And whatever one or combination of these you are, you subsequently grew up thinking there was something “wrong” with you. You started brushing it off or being embarrassed when someone called you “beautiful,” because they had to be just taking pity on you or trying to make you feel better. I think the thing most women (most people, I’m sure, but “beauty” is generally female territory) are raised to have in common is insecurities that could eat us alive. 

And the cold hard truth is that insecurity is not beautiful. When your insecurities are ruling you, you don’t walk in beauty. You hide your smile behind your hands. You try to dress how you think you’re supposed to dress, rather than adhering to your own personal style. You use make-up to hide rather than to accentuate. Generally, you are afraid to own the things that make you unique. A guy once told me that confidence makes a woman sexy, and I think something similar can be said about what makes women beautiful. I think it’s hard, if not impossible, for a woman who does not love herself to feel beautiful. Maybe she can feel hot, or sexy, or desirable, or cute, but so much of beauty dwells in self-acceptance.

That’s not to say there’s no room for self-improvement in the quest to find your own beauty. Quite the opposite, in fact–I think people who love themselves must always want to better themselves; when you love someone, don’t you want to encourage them to be the person they can be?  If you’re overweight, wanting to lose weight doesn’t mean you hate yourself, or that you think your current body is anything but beautiful. It just means you recognize that healthy is beautiful too. Even more of a sidenote: I can’t stand people who criticize women who “go natural” but still wear makeup or perfume or eat things that aren’t organic–I didn’t say I was purifying my entire existence.

Society tries to say beauty is a physical thing, but I say beauty manifests itself in physical ways. Anyone can look put together. People are randomly born with perfectly symmetrical faces. Lots of people work really hard to have tiny waists, and some don’t have to work hard at all. But I think the people who focus on biological/physical/external beauty like that are focused on something that is ephemeral and will inevitably fade as you get older (even if by the time we’re 80, anti-aging everythings have made 80 the new 30). Beauty like that is…vapid. It’s 2-D. It’s…pretty. I think beauty is the antithesis of pretty. “Pretty” is a qualifier. If your teacher says the class average on an exam was “pretty good,” you are less relieved than if he said the average was “good.” “You did __insert thing here__ pretty well, but…” is a common phrase. “Pretty” might as well be regarded as a euphemism for “not quite good enough,” “close, but no cigar”, or “can be settled for but isn’t the best it could be.” “Pretty” is an insult.

 Coming back to what I’m supposed to be talking about here, I think beauty is walking with your head held high. It’s letting your hips sway however they sway, not trying to put more into it or tone it down. Beauty is smiling wide enough to show the gap in your teeth, or not being embarrassed about having a loud laugh. Beauty is having style, with regards to your clothing, your mannerisms, your words, the whole package. Beauty is individuality rather than conformity. Beauty is being true to yourself, because truth is beautiful. Beauty is showing the world that you love and care about your whole self, rather than just your appearance. That once-over you give yourself in the mirror before leaving the house in the morning to make sure everything is in place is such a minor aspect of beauty, especially because you won’t ever think everything is alright on the outside unless you have all those inner issues worked out.  I think beauty is a state of mind that your physical appearance adapts to represent, not the other way around.

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About alaiyo0685

I'm a kind of quirky, pretty stubborn, way too opinionated, twenty-something, intellectual, introspective, queer, Black, female, in a polyamorous relationship, and this is where I try to figure out my life.

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