Beau·ty, noun; a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, especially the sight.
When I Googled the definition of beauty, the words above popped up. But, I question that this sensation, this feeling, this murmur of question can be summarized into a sentence or two. When you think of beauty, what do you think of? Is it the feeling, or is it the aesthetic? Does it come from your originality, or does it manifest itself through external influences in which you view beauty? I’m constantly bombarded by products and advertisements, engaging me in what I need to be beautiful: this week’s fashion trend, a new brand of makeup, a certain weight-loss plan, a significant other, a silky smooth shaven body, or a canvas of clear skin. Whatever it may be, whatever brands are marketing, I need it to be beautiful. I’m sure you see it too: the influx of advertisements and commercials, generously engaging us in their brand, a necessity for us to have a sense of validation, for us to fit into the beauty standards we’re expected to adhere to.
Of course, this is one of the ways consumerism can thrive and live in the environment that it does; it’s one of the most popular marketing techniques out there – convince people that they need your product to make their life better, receive profit in return. It seems simple and harmless enough, but on a larger scale, it can be extremely detrimental to our everyday lives. Not every brand is like this, but I’m seeing more and more advertisements and brands opening up to including the image of what beauty is in its most raw, organic form: everyone. There is so, so much incredible beauty within everyone. The originality that is you, the organic sense of what you like to wear, every single freckle and curve along your body, every hair and every bump, every piece of clothing you enjoy wearing and styling, the bare-faced and done up face you bear to the world, the curled up, comfortable body snuggled with pets and blankets, the strong, beautiful, handsome body that you call yourself. It is beautiful. But, more than that, you are beautiful. The way you start your morning, the way you giggle when you find something funny, your passion, your drive, your sadness, your tears, your highs and your lows, it is all so. Incredibly. Beautiful. I feel that although there is an influx of acceptance of every gender, every identity, every sexual orientation, race, style, body type, etc. in the body positivity movement, it fails to address the beauty that we are by just simply being, without the aesthetic.
Now, the sense of beauty, at least the one that perpetuates the mainstream media and common ideology in our society, is one of aesthetics, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The acceptance of external beauty and body positivity is so important. I know what it’s like to struggle with body image and a sense of self-worth as related to what I felt I should look like. Those thoughts and ideas still haunt me to this day, but I now understand how to deal with them. I know I’m beautiful; every inch of my body. But, one of the mindsets that have helped me come to this realization and this acceptance of myself is the feeling of beauty. Not only did I start surrounding myself with more positive and accepting influences, practicing self-love, and listening to my body, but I started paying attention to what made me feel beautiful. It’s something I had to really practice and understand; that the tingly feeling that made me smile like an idiot, the feeling that seeped its way through every inch of my body, filling me with gratitude; that was beauty.
When I crawl into bed at night and am grateful for warm blankets and soft, snuggly pets. Running around outside in the summer rain. Knowing that my cells are doing everything they can to fight for my health. Smiling like an idiot while listening to Frank Sinatra on a long car ride. Listening to my body. Fueling my body with nourishing foods. Long, meaningful chats with people I care about. Showing appreciation for myself and others. Helping others. Paying it forward. Giving into my inspiration. Painting. Creating. Drawing. Dancing. Being sore after a long day of walking out in nature. Feeling the cool breeze on a winter day. Wearing my favorite outfit. Loving myself. Drinking my favorite tea. Seeing others happy. Washing off a clay face mask and feeling the warm water seep into my pores. Feeling my muscles release and relax as I soak in an Epsom salt bath. Staying true to myself. Feeling the sun absorb into my skin as I bask in the light. These are the things that make me feel beautiful. These are the things that give me a sense of joy, and make me feel at home in my body. The way I feel that beauty is by doing things that I love, by feeling loved by myself and at home in my body. I won’t lie, there are some days where I don’t. There are some times where I feel more at home in my body than others, there are some days where I look in the mirror and question my beauty. But, it always comes back to the feeling; the feeling that ignites a sense of beauty and confidence within me, and I focus on that.
For a while, I would ask myself what I needed to do to be more beautiful. I would wonder what I could change, what I could wear and do to make myself more likable. After a long period of thinking, changing, growing, maturing, and questioning, I was finally able to feel that I was beautiful. Let me tell you, my body did not change; I did not buy what I thought I needed to to be beautiful. In fact, the moment when I realized my internal beauty was the same moment when I cherished every bit of my external beauty. I stopped wearing makeup simply to hide my blemishes. I stopped beating myself up mentally. I stopped comparing myself to others in the way I used to. Still, I have my bad days, but it’s a process: finding a home in your body is a journey. That feeling of beauty, you can find it. You will find it. You can ignite that effervescent sense of love and gratitude by staying strong and questioning what your definition of beauty is.
One of the most influential scenarios that shifted my mindset was that of my loved ones. I would always hear my friends, family members, and so many people I cherished so greatly depreciating themselves. I would hear them build me up, only to negatively compare themselves to me or others. I would hear them say how ugly they were, how unsuccessful they were, how much they hated themselves and their body. I was utterly astounded at how many people I thought the world of, thought so little of themselves. I couldn’t fathom how so many incredible, amazing people couldn’t see the beauty that was so, incredibly clear to me. I saw how their eyes lit up when they talked about what they loved, how they moved, how kind they were, how passionate they were, how astoundingly beautiful they were, and how much they meant to me…why couldn’t they see it?
In that moment, it clicked. I realized that if I felt this way about them, maybe there were parts of me I didn’t see. Maybe, there were parts of me in which others cherished, that I had no idea about. What if I was beautiful, and I just didn’t see it?
I asked myself, what is beauty?
To this day, I cannot put it into a few sentences. I cannot tell you what to look for in yourself because that’s one of the most beautiful parts of finding beauty. It’s in everything: it’s personal, but it’s so open to anything. Beauty can never be set in stone, it can never be formulated or advertised as a set trend. Although that is what may plague the majority of our minds and our societies now, in its true state, beauty is organic. Beauty is the bustling streets of cities and the serene forests of the world. It is the unexplored and the widely appreciated. It is external and internal. It is the control and the release. It is the confusion and the awareness. It is the anger and the calm. Beauty is a flowing, non-stop communication of love and acceptance. It resides in everything you do, in every little moment of your life, just waiting to be seen. Take a look.