Are we overly critical? Do many of us fall into a pattern of seeing ourselves in a negative light? Do we talk about ourselves in ways that are mostly self-deprecating? According to this video, many of us do that. And I can’t help but wonder: How did we get here? And how do we stop it?
When I was younger, just before that pre-teen age when kids seemingly begin to be aware of what society says is beautiful and ugly, I was made to believe that I was ugly. And I think I believed it for a long time. Granted, everyone has an awkward stage, right? But the reality of our childhood is that those experiences affect who we become in our adulthood. For the record, I no longer think I’m ugly; I know I am not ugly. But especially as a woman, it seems that we’re not allowed to say we’re beautiful either. We’re allowed to be beautiful and to be called beautiful but to pronounce it, would be a form of arrogance. A woman may be beautiful but she also has to be oblivious about it.
I wonder if our tendency to pretend or live with oblivion about beauty is a factor as to why we describe ourselves and our beauty so poorly. Beyond that, why is it that when we receive compliments about ourselves, many of us are quick to follow them up with comments that undermine the compliments we received? I think the combination of not seeing ourselves as we really are, being taught to not talk about ourselves like we are beautiful, as well as the ridiculous and sometimes morally questionable notions of what constitutes beauty are responsible for our negative conceptions of self.
I do believe that beauty is both subjective and objective. Like art, I think that certain aesthetics please the senses. But it must be controlled for the fact that standards of beauty are culturally informed. And we the people, create the culture. We also see beauty based on our experiences. I think that everyone has the capacity to be beautiful – whether conventionally because of how the culture operates or because of a beauty that contrasts the norms of the culture and creates a curiosity for the senses. But whether beauty is conventional or unusual, I think what we forget most about beauty is how one works with what they have. More importantly, how one chooses to see themself.
We’re constantly drowned with messages of how we should look and what we should fix about ourselves. And I’m not one to tell you being attentive to how you present yourself is a bad thing. But I think we’re so used to hearing what we should be doing to make ourselves appear beautiful, that we forget how to just be beautiful; how to just be natural in our beauty. And this doesn’t mean one should give up make-up or dress sloppily. But it does mean that recognizing that even without additions, there is a pure work of art that is within each and every person by virtue of them being a person.
We need to start seeing ourselves as we really are – not arrogantly and not beneath the beauty that is within us. Beauty is fascinating, it’s attention-grabbing and it’s complex. But think of the most beautiful people you know. Are they really beautiful because of only their outer appearance? Or is it in the way they see themself, the way they carry themself, their confidence, and the beautiful but honest way they talk about who they are? Because that, of all the kinds of beauty that exist, is what we should all be aspiring towards.