What is beauty, and how do we find it?
We live in a culture where feeling beautiful has a profound impact on one’s self-esteem and self-confidence, particularly for women. This culture would have us believe that there is a particular “look” that is beautiful, namely thin, young, and blemish-free.
The Dove advertising campaign has helped to shed light on the many ways that the advertising industry promotes this unrealistic view of beauty. There is a constant message that if you are not perfect, you are not quite good enough; you are not really beautiful.
Statistics reflect the impact of these messages: 80-90% of adult women dislike their bodies. 15% of women say they would sacrifice more than five years of their lives to be thinner, while 24% say they would sacrifice up to three years of their life. 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat, 78% of 18-year-old girls are unhappy with their bodies, and the number one wish of girls 11-17 years old is to lose weight. 51% of 9 and 10 year-old girls feel better about themselves when dieting, and 9% of 9-year-olds have vomited to lose weight.
The natural process of life seems to be a problem. Anti-wrinkle creams and botox treatments abound. There are millions of diet products, shakes, and nutrition plans designed to help you shed unwanted pounds. It is as if we constantly need to fight against our bodies and their natural processes in order to achieve the desired beauty, the desired “perfection.” This constant focus on what we are not or what we should be eclipses the beauty of who we are.
When we struggle in this way against our bodies and ourselves we are setting ourselves up for pain and misery. When we focus on what we should be or how we should look, we live with a constant state of fear and dissatisfaction.
What if beauty was more expansive then we think? What if everyone was beautiful simply because they exist?
We can learn to see beauty in everyone and everything, regardless of how closely they fit culturally-dictated standards of desirability. When we learn to see beauty in ourselves and the world around us, we discover that we are more than enough. We no longer have to live with a sense of inadequacy or shame; we no longer have to live wishing that our nose was smaller, our stomach flatter, or our hair fuller. We can begin to live from a place of peace, knowing we are beautiful simply because we exist.
Sometimes, however, finding the beauty in ourselves can seem like a herculean task. We are constantly being exposed to messages that we should be taller, shorter, thinner, fitter, wealthier, etc. It is a constant practice of returning to ourselves and affirming with compassion “I am beautiful; I am radiant; I am divine.”
We can soar on the wings of eagles, but we must learn to love ourselves first.