Monday, July 08, 2013

You Are Beautiful. . . Or Does it Even Really Matter?

The sign beckons me from a parking lot in Santa Monica.  You are beautiful, it says.  And for a moment, I agree.  I am beautiful.  And so are you.  And you.  And yes, even you.

It's such a, well, beautiful sentiment.  We should all acknowledge how uniquely beautiful we are.

For years, I've worked within this framework, encouraging women to focus on what aspects of their appearance they like.  For some, even finding one or two features was a difficult task, but I was patient and resolute.  For me, it was important to recognize that appearance isn't a black-and-white issue, and that while you might not like your stomach, your eyes, well, they're kinda pretty, no?

And, zooming out a bit, aren't you really just a beautifully complete creature, a perfect constellation of limbs, organs, fluid, and cells, parts that fit and function in a miraculous way?

More recently, though, I've found myself shifting frames.  If you feel beautiful, that's quite an accomplishment given our current cultural context.  Good for you.  You've outwitted them.

But if you don't, that might okay, too.  Because, I'm interested in taking that current cultural context and slamming it into an empty parking lot wall.  Why must we put such a premium on beauty? You're not so attractive?  Okay.  What do you have going for you that likely, in the scheme of things, matters significantly more?  Beauty may get us through this world more quickly.  I'm not going to argue that.  It's like a theme park fast pass for life. But, if beauty is what you want out of life, and that's how you'll evaluate your time on earth as it nears it's end, then it's possible you have some larger challenges than the shape of your nose or the size of your thighs.

The ladies behind Beauty Redefined offer up some words of wisdom that reflect this change of course.  You may argue, "No, that's not true," but isn't that just another sign that you've been brainwashed like the rest of us?

So, what do you think?  Should we continue to stress "You are beautiful," or instead radicalize the discourse a la Beauty Redefined?


ruby-tuesday said...

I think it's great to celebrate beauty
And we are all beautiful in our own unique way
But I think it's not healthy to hang your happiness on what your body and your face look like
There are so many other much more interesting things that make us beautiful
Confidence is beautiful
Having a good heart is beautiful
Smiling is beautiful
Being a good person is beautiful

I think beauty radiates from within
Have you ever noticed that someone could be physically beautiful but because they are mean spirited they begin to look ugly
Or the opposite
Someone may not be conventionally pretty but because they have a good heart it shines out of them x

I Hate to Weight said...

Yes, great points! am i compassionate, am i kind, am i generous -- those are the qualities that would make me beautiful.

but yes, i buy in to the whole thing -- i want to look "good", i want others to think i look "good". i want to feel good about the way i look.

ah, what i world where beauty was defined by spirit. is that possible?

i do have a friend that will not comment on someone else's appearance, because she thinks appearance has no value. i admire her and think it's great practice. the "prove you;re not a robot word" is "t shallow". interesting

RecoveringClaire said...

This post reminds me of a youtube video i watched a few months ago. Well worth a watch!

There are so many others things that make us 'beautiful', such as intelligence and confidence.
How all of that looks when it is packaged inside a body, makes no difference.

David McLean said...

The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.

Anonymous said...

I think this is so interesting, and this line from I Hate to Weight's comment struck me: "I want to feel good about the way I look." That right there is *it* for me - I want to feel good about how I look, but not in the sense of meeting beauty standards. I can't meet those, after all - that's the point of them. But I want to feel like my appearance reflects me values, desires, lifestyle, and interests - I want to look like myself, beauty be damned. And now I'm pretty sure I'm going to spend a lot of hours over there at Beauty Redefined, so thank you!