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The misconception

Society has over the years defined beauty as physical qualities that are pleasing particularly to the eye. It has placed importance on physical characteristics. That is why industries such as hair, make up and fitness are multi-billion dollar industries because people especially women spend a lot of time and money to try and reach the beauty standard. Yet beauty is more than that.

The definition of beauty

Beauty is defined as a combination of qualities that are pleasing to our senses. So many things besides people or looks can be described as beautiful. So many senses besides sight can take in beauty. An experience like a wedding is beautiful; it’s not just what we see but everything else including the food we taste, the scent from the flowers and the feeling of love between the bride and the groom. Soft baby skin is beautiful to the touch, jazz or classical music is beautiful to the ear.

Societal standards of beauty

What constantly plays out in our environment and on mass communication platforms such as TV or magazines is eventually ingrained into us as the standard. Famous people and those who represent the idea of beauty in Society for example celebrities and beauty pageants can also set and influence standards of beauty.

Nowadays, the idea of beauty tends to gravitate toward eurocentric or western features such as long straight hair, light skin and slim bodies. Similarly, men who are tall, handsome, broad shouldered and muscular enjoy an advantage in matters of romance over short and chubby ones.

The skewed double standards

Ugliness is an unfortunate social construct particularly when used to describe looks. It is okay when describing behaviour because that can be changed. Usually what’s normally described as “less attractive or ugly” are things that one cannot change, inborn body features such as the size or shape of the nose etc, things that cannot go away, or would be very expensive to modify. This can cause depression, isolation and low self-esteem.

On the other hand, one who is given credit for having beautiful eyes for example, garners an exaggerated sense of beauty and a false sense of achievement because he or she did not create the nose; it is rather a natural inborn feature.

5 ways beauty sets us free!

  1. Beauty is skin deep

When referring to beauty in people, we must learn to transcend the physical. It helps to note a combination of qualities that may include behavioural, emotional, spiritual and mental traits which can be pleasing to one or a combination of senses such as sight, touch, hearing and intuition. For example, a kind, caring, peaceful or generous person can be described as beautiful. Mary can look attractive but her narcissistic behaviour can repel all who come into contact with her. On the other hand, Sarah may look different or queer but her warm pleasant nature makes her so beautiful she draws people to her.

I recently coached a young lady who is a student at a local University. She had a fear of public speaking which stemmed from how unattractive she believed she looked.  Among many of her positive traits she acknowledged in the session was her eloquence, ability to research well and intelligence.

I advised her to focus only on her strengths and the things she could change, that way, the next time she goes up to the podium, the audience will be so captivated by what she had to say, so much so that they won’t even notice how she looks! This is a perfect example of finding beauty in other qualities other than physical.

Various media personalities have also in the past said they had to lose weight in order to be booked for jobs. A local television presenter, who had been anxious about how her first episode would go, was very thankful when most viewers spoke about her excellent presenting skills and not about her body. Society has come to the realisation that there is more about a person than just their looks and people are beginning to pay more attention to what someone is doing or saying rather than how they look.

  1. Beauty is diverse. It’s in the eye of the beholder

A beholder is an observer. This means, that which one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another, since we are all different. Each one has their own opinion about what or who is beautiful. This is a great concept because it embraces diversity and the freedom to choose.

All bodies are beautiful. There is beauty in being slim bodied, there is beauty in being voluptuous. Dark skinned people are beautiful and so are light skinned people. The rainbow considered to be one of the best displays of natural beauty is made up of seven different colours.

There is therefore not one kind of Beauty in the world and attempting to find the best or truest idea of beauty would be impossible.  The pressure to conform, achieve and or maintain a certain standard of beauty is therefore fruitless.

  1. Beauty is personal

The problem comes when value of beauty and self-confidence is placed on information gathered from external sources. We all like to dress up and ask someone “how do I look?’ Whilst it’s great to get a second opinion, it shouldn’t mean that our own opinion doesn’t matter. It would seem then that the best definition of beauty therefore is one that is personal, authentic, and unique, one that feels good to the individual and happy and content individuals.

  1. Beauty is complementary

There is nothing wrong with altering how one looks. If it is done in the spirit of self-care, enriches and complements your life experience and resonates with who you are, and you are totally comfortable with how you look and feel after these changes. For example exercising to be fit and healthy or going into surgery to reduce thighs that make walking difficult.

If however you are wearing butt pads just to fit or you are lightening your skin because you want to be famous or you feel inadequate if not wearing fake lashes or weaves then the problem is deeper than you can see and you cannot medicate inner wounds externally. No amount of external additions or changes can fill you up inside, you may need to do the work necessary to bring you to a position of self-acceptance and self-love.

  1. Beauty evolves

The definition of beauty also depends in which era you lived, for example in the 90s, plump women and potbellied men were a symbol of good living and wealth. Nowadays beauty means to be physically fit. We see lots of women striving to be slimmer and men working on their six packs. Therefore, the idea of beauty is what works for you in whatever way and at whatever time that you say it does.

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