This week's journal prompt from Sometimes Sweet is about exploring our ideas of beauty and where they came from. I think I sound a little anti-makeup but I don't mean to - anyone who sees me on Sundays knows I eschew the messy hair knot and go for a made-up look at least once a week. It is important to me that the emphasis for beauty is on what I believe to be the right things, and not on insignificant, temporal things.
I don't remember learning specific lessons about beauty from my mom when I was young, but I have a sense that I didn’t know or care what society thought about it. I don't know if my mom taught me not to care about it, or if I figured out on my own that things like hair and makeup were unimportant compared to things like character and that illusive "inner-beauty".
I think being made-up in that way just wasn’t a priority for us; we never focused on "getting pretty" and I wasn't allowed to play with makeup when I was very young like other girls in my family were. My mom wore very little makeup and whatever she did with her hair was more about making it manageable than anything else. I didn't watch television for most of my childhood and I didn't have a lot of exposure to social concepts of beauty.
I had what I assume was a typical teenaged girl struggle with my mom about makeup and hair products when I started middle school, wherein I disparately wanted thick eyeliner and big hair and my mom claimed only streetwalkers looked like that, so of course I sneaked makeup and hairspray to school and washed it off afterward. Other than that brief rebellion, I didn't care too much about beauty or what other people thought about it.
I never learned how to apply makeup or "do" hair stuff. Over the years I think I just picked up on what I saw on the people around me. But I never really put a lot of value on it. Wearing makeup or having fixed up hair has become something of a mask for me- I put effort into it depending on my circumstances, but mostly looking made-up and girly makes me feel a little bit vulnerable. I have been in a male-driven industry for nearly 20 years, and having a face full of makeup was more likely to get me not-taken-seriously than anything else.
As I get older, I find that not only do I care less and less about what society thinks of beauty, but I really think society puts too much emphasis on such things. The standards society insists on - large breasts, tiny waist, long legs - leave the majority of women and girls feeling ugly, fat, awkward, and de-valued. This is a message that makes me incredibly angry and sad. Broken self-esteem can set the tone for the rest of a young girl's life and I hate how often I have seen this happen. I am so grateful to know that my beauty is not defined by my size or my makeup or my hair. My self-worth and value are not reflected by my wardrobe or anything else I might do to my outward appearance.
The loveliest, kindest, and best people I know don't all fall under society's narrow vision of "beauty", but they are truly beautiful. Whatever we do to the outsides of our bodies is just decoration and it's really the least important thing about us.
I know a lot of people who have struggled with feeling beautiful. If you have struggled with this idea, have you overcome it? How did you learn that you're beautiful, even if society tells you that you aren't?