We all have a definition of beauty that is our very own.
Our definition of beauty standards are often derived from our own experiences, the standards of those around us, the standards that are imposed on us by society or simply our geographical location. As if society’s standards of beauty alone weren’t enough to live up to, you also have the cultural standards of beauty that are a whole different ball game. So, how do we redefine beauty standards as we know it?
When you were a little girl, you probably looked up to an older family member like your mum, an older sister, cousin, aunt or friend that was, in your little eyes ‘the epitome of beauty’. For me, this person was my beautiful mum. (the woman was and is insanely beautiful)
As you grew up, that person may have stayed the same for some of you. While for many of you this person is now an older friend or a teacher or a pop star or someone you want to be like and even look like.
Everything you do is now mostly inspired by the celebrity culture. You have no clue who you are, so emulating the people you want to be like seems like the logical thing to do. I know I am generalizing a lot here but we all know this is more or less the case.
There is a standard of beauty portrayed by the culture around us.
So what is the message we keep hearing repeatedly? No matter where you go, there is a constant message that we hear loud and clear.
Hollywood, fashion magazines and the celebrity culture alike have told us that you can only be deemed worthy, if you are a little taller, shorter, thicker, skinnier, fairer, darker, tanner and the list goes on.
We spend our hard earned money trying to look like the people on TV, magazines and the runway. In today’s age, throw in social media because that is the breeding ground for influencers these days. There are a vast array of platforms, all constantly telling us that we’re lacking something and sadly we often fall prey to this lie. As a result, we constantly find ourselves striving to look a certain way and achieve a certain standard of beauty for the fleeting false sense of self worth, a boosted ego or sometimes simply to feel accepted.
I grew up and spend much of my childhood in Eastern countries.
Growing up as a tan skinned brown girl in Eastern countries meant that my standard of beauty mainly boiled down to these two things: the colour of my skin and how much I weighed.
The lighter your skin colour and the skinner you are, the more beautiful you are. This was something fed into my little brain as a young kid. It is all I ever heard about, from TV commercials that promoted a skin brightening cream called ‘Fair & Lovely’ (so many childhood memories spring to mind of being tortured with this stupid cream) to friends and family talking about how they wished they looked as fair and skinny as so and so, to me doing everything I possibly could to attain this standard of beauty. I believed I needed to be lighter skinned and I wasn’t even that dark to begin with. I believed I needed to be smaller but I wasn’t huge, I just wasn’t super skinny. *face palm*
Ironically, after moving to England, the standard of beauty changed.
Here, the tanner you look, the more beautiful, exotic, healthy and ‘well traveled’ you looked.
Score! It felt like I had won the skin lottery. While everyone around me spent their free time on tan beds, invested in sun tan products and spray tan, I could for the first time say “I woke up like this, baby” *smirks* People would often tell me things like, “dang you are so lucky to have perfectly natural, tanned skin” or “dang you look so exotic”. Although I was confused and amused for a while, I began to not only appreciate my skin colour but also learnt to be thankful for my ethnicity and my multi-cultural upbringing. Having grown up in different parts of the world had really broadened my perspective on how I viewed the world and I am forever thankful for that.
In my college and university years, my goal was to be skinner so I honesty did everything, followed every fad diet known to mankind and voila, I got skinnier! I could fit into the clothes I wanted to, appeal to the boys and for a brief moment, I believed that I had somehow achieved it all. Then I got really sick with a deadly infection that entirely changed my outlook and perspective on life. I was on so many medications at this time that had caused me to gain weight rapidly. It was out of my control and I despised it. However, I was determined to take my time to heal and so I did. It was also around this time that I began to slowly but surely embrace myself, my body and everything about me and redefine beauty standards.
While this is very much an ongoing process, I realized that if I am healthy, eating right and exercising then I am not too concerned about the number on the scale at the end of the day!
Does that mean I don’t ever struggle with body image issues or insecurities? No, no I sure have my fair share of those but I don’t let that dictate my life anymore. Instead I simply shift my focus to getting healthier. We all have our own set of issues and insecurities that may have rooted from a multitude of things and life circumstances so the last thing we need is someone telling us how we need to look. Also, we do not have to change to merely confine to society’s standards and expectations. We need to examine ‘the why’ behind our need for transformation (if that is the case) in order to sustain and maintain it and then do it at our own pace.
Healthy does not have a skin colour or a weight attached to it.
Healthy simply means, your body, mind and soul (emotions) are in good condition. You are eating nutritious meals that fuel your body, you pay attention to what you feed your mind on and rest and you take time for yourself to process your emotions instead of bottling them up. And this takes time, so let it. The process of healing takes time and we’re not going to hit the mark every time. We will fail at some point but that is okay as long as we keep going. Health is a life long journey, not a destination.
With the ever changing standards and growing needs & false promises made by the beauty industry, it has never been more imperative for us to examine and be cautious as to what we believe when it comes to our self worth and beauty standards.
That requires us to redefine beauty standards because beauty is not a one size fits all thing.
Beauty is personal and it is unique to each individual. At the end of the day, we all have a choice to make. Are we going to let this multi billion dollar industry that feeds on our weaknesses, define our beauty or are we going to redefine beauty standards ourselves? This is not to vilify the beauty industry but to call out their oftentimes unattainable standards. We are all on a journey of learning to love ourselves, so extend kindness to one another and most importantly ourselves as we learn to grapple with our own needs and understand ourselves while redefining beauty as we know it.
Personally, I have grown to like myself and my body. I like it just the way it is – all natural. *wink* This is not to diss anyone that has had any work done to their bodies. By all means you do you boo but I am learning to be content and enjoy every season and stage of my life and my body and I want to invite you to do the same.
Tell me friend, what are your thoughts on this topic? How do you think we should redefine beauty standards? Leave me a comment below.