It’s just so cliche to me to hear people saying, “Culture tells you you have to be perfect, but you just need to accept yourself. You’re beautiful the way you are.” I see the good intention in this, but in my opinion, it is not helpful at all.
It provides a quick and shallow response that gives a temporary comfort to a lifelong issue that all people will deal with, some worse than others. Everyone knows that the pressures of culture’s expectations are demanding, so a simple comfort like that will never be able to help in the long run.
The term ‘beauty’ has so many components to it. But to me, it can be divided in two main categories: inner and outer beauty. And each category can be broken down into chosen traits and natural traits.
What do I mean by chosen and natural traits? Natural traits are not given by choice to people, it’s just something people have. In the category of outer beauty, people can have physical traits that they were just born with that their culture considers beautiful. With inner beauty, people may have natural traits such as being sweet or funny.
But chosen traits are the result of many decisions that people make that shape their reputation. For example, some chosen traits in people with inner beauty include being forgiving, generous, and humble. Outer beauty traits that we can usually control and choose are weight, makeup, hygiene, and our clothing.
I’m sure most people would say that inner beauty is more important and is what defines us. It’s so easy to say this and think we believe this, until we ask ourselves (while being truly honest,) “What if this person I know was more/less attractive?”
Would the way we treated them change? If you had interest in somebody, and they suddenly lost all “beauty,” would we be interested anymore? It’s good to ask yourself these questions sometimes to double check that we are actually not treating people certain ways partially because of the way they look.
All cultures have different physical beauty standards. And even just throughout time those standards have been drastically changing.
It is said that French emperor Napoleon stared at the Mona Lisa for hours, admiring her beauty. But now, she may not be considered as beautiful compared to standards now which have changed so much. She didn’t change, but the ideals did.
However for the most part, inner beauty ideals stand the test of time, remaining similar throughout all cultures and all time.
Actress Audrey Hepburn said, “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” In other words: beauty should be defined by how you treat others and your character.
In a sense, some aspects of outer beauty are relatively easy to portray and show. But that kind of beauty fades and standards change. Whenever you find yourself thinking you’re not beautiful or struggling under the pressure, do something kind. Make good choices and treat others well, for you “reap what you sow.”
“Outer beauty is a gift. Inner beauty is an accomplishment.” -Randi G. Fine