Do you believe that beauty is power?
Do you identify yourself as being beautiful?
Do you stress about being beautiful and the way you look?
Beauty, a universal part of the human experience. It has been said that beauty provokes pleasure, entraps attention and impels actions to ensure the survival of our species. That is a lot of responsibility to be placed on a single word with so many meanings.
Our perception of beauty is complicated and the quest for it rules many of our lives. Wanting to be beautiful is not a problem, but the idea that looking beautiful is the most important and most powerful thing a girl or woman can be is a problem, because a woman has a lot more attributes than just the way she looks. Especially if we’re conditioned to believe that what we see in magazines is what beauty should look like.
There are four main factors that affect a woman’s self-esteem and self-worth:
- At a young age (primary school) a girl’s relationship with her father may influence her future relationships with other men and her self-worth.
- As a teenager, the relationship a girl has with other girls and boys along with their judgements and social standards, may influence the way a girl will think of herself in the future.
- A woman’s relationship with her spouse or partner affects her self-esteem.
- And last but not least, the influences of the fashion and cosmetic industry. Multinational corporations have created a one dimensional view of what makes a woman beautiful through their advertising. They learned early on how to wittily exploit a woman’s interest in beauty and attractiveness for their profit.
A woman not feeling beautiful has a major impact on our society. To a woman, not feeling beautiful, means not feeling powerful. It makes me so sad to think that 8 out of 10 women will opt out of an important life event if they don’t feel beautiful. A Dove study showed that only 4% of women self-identify themselves as being beautiful. How much more will a woman be able to do if she wasn’t insecure in the way she looked?
The evolution of beauty
What we perceive as beauty today has deep evolutionary roots. The beauty industry started through the advertising and marketing of soaps and perfumes, and later evolved to cosmetics and hair products. The underlying message of these advertisements was, and continues to be, that it is a woman’s responsibility to herself and to those around her to take control of her appearance and to be beautiful. I get it, who wouldn’t want to look beautiful? The only problem is they took control of the narrative of what it means to be beautiful.
Through television, beauty pageants were transformed into international media events, starting with the Miss America pageant, followed by the British-based Miss World contest. This created spectacles which set expectations and defined aspirations of what beauty should be.
A consequence of the large global beauty corporations that originated in the West, is that the Western ideals of beauty has become the international standard. A great example is the western pale skin and wide western eyes, these characteristics were favoured through media events and became the ideal images of beauty. British colonisation introduced these concepts into the East, South Asia and China which became a desirable quality in women. Fair skin has been commercialised through the extensive use of fair skin models in advertising. A fair complex is shown to be a symbol of nobility and elegance. The influence of the industry has left an imprint in the Asian culture. The advertisements of skin care products which lighten the skin are among the largest in global women’s magazines.
Buying beauty products is not enough. Cosmetics can now sculpt and reshape a woman’s body and face through cosmetic surgery. In Korea, teens are asking parents for breast implants and eyelid surgery to achieve the wide western eye. The industry has the power to change cultures! They are influencing women to be unhappy with their natural features so that they can profit from the insecurities they’ve created.
Another issue with this whole situation is that women are now trying to live up to these expectations of beauty which is not even real. Most images you see in magazines and other mass media are fake. They have gone through processes like photoshop and manipulation, and were taken with smoke, lighting, mirrors and filters. These fake views have become an impossible, expensive and unrealistic goal for most women. And it’s very unfortunate to add that we as women compare and judge one another to these standards.
This leads me to the question: What is true beauty?
Beauty comes in all forms, shapes and sizes, there is no right or wrong. Beauty is in every single woman. It is in our uniqueness, individuality and our differences. There is much more to being beautiful than the way you look. As Carrie Hammer puts it, “beauty lies in our passion, our purpose, our accomplishments, it’s in our role models, not our runway models. Beauty lies in what we do in the world, not what we look like.”
When you are yourself and you are happy with yourself, you start to become beautiful. When you live to be your best version and live to serve others, people will see the beauty in and through you. The paradox of beauty is that the more you chase after it, the more elusive it becomes.
“True beauty is born through our actions and aspirations
and in the kindness we offer to others.”
I would like to encourage all women out there to show us your true individual beauty. Wear the clothes and make-up that make you feel beautiful. If you don’t want to wear make-up, don’t. If you don’t want to shave, don’t. Do what makes you feel comfortable and confident.
Love yourself, don’t live trying to please others, because at the end of the day what matters most is that you are the healthiest version of yourself. Being fake to please someone else will never be good enough, you can’t expect others to accept you if you can’t accept yourself. BE U! BE-U-tiful!
80% of women agree that every woman has something beautiful about her, but struggle to see their own beauty. Let’s all stand together to break the one-sided opinion of beauty but rather embrace our differences. We may not all agree with what counts as being beautiful, and that is okay. Let’s at least stop judging one another for the way we look and instead build one another’s confidence so that more women can self-identify themselves as being beautiful.
It makes me so sad that women stop themselves from achieving greatness because of a low self-esteem. Women are starting to play a major role in our society and we shouldn’t let the judgment of others prevent us from doing so. Let us stand together because we as women have the power to change the rules.