As little girls, we learn that being cute, pretty and beautiful = good. The importance of beauty is reinforced as we grow up – from our parents, friends, peers, and the greatest maker of norms– the media. We figure out what the standards of beauty are in society and we compare ourselves and try to measure up against that ideal.
Regardless of how beautiful you are, you are constantly being told by every possible angle that you are not good enough. There is always something that could be improved – there is always another way to appear more perfect. There are wrinkles to be erased, youth to be captured, eyes to be brightened and inches to be lost.
This is what I call the beauty complex. It’s a lose-lose situation – because you can never be pretty enough. If we keep feeding the beast of vanity, before we know it, we have an insatiable appetite for perfection. No matter how thin your body is, tanned your skin is, or symmetrical your face is – that benchmark for perfection is a moving target.
I consider myself a confident and empowered woman. But to this day, I still struggle with beauty. There is one side of me that has a positive self image – she feels pretty and attractive and knows that her worth and validation is beyond her appearance. But then there is the other side – the side that’s never satisfied with her looks. She wants a taller nose, more prominent cheekbones, the list goes on… There is always something that I wish could be better.
I really enjoyed this video created by Dove called Real Beauty Sketches. It shows how women, just like us, describe how they look versus a stranger. Most of the women describe themselves as less beautiful than they are.
I don’t know the answer to the beauty complex. Perhaps the first step is to try see ourselves in the lens of the people who love us. Perhaps the second step is to make an effort to stop being our own worst self-critic. And as a woman in the video points out:
“We spend a lot of time time as women analyzing and trying to fix the things that aren’t quite right, instead we should spend more time appreciating what we do like.”
You are beautiful. You are enough. Let’s try to remember that.