From a young age, I became, not quite obsessed, but fixated on beauty. I saw and heard the societal conceptions of beauty and how I didn’t fit that. I internalized the mistaken conflation of beautiful with sexy. I even wanted to be a cheerleader or on the dance team, not because I cared about such things, but because I thought I would then be seen as beautiful.
I didn’t understand that conceptions of beauty are cultural and changeable. In some areas, being skinny is seen as bad while being bigger is beautiful. While being golden tan is seen as healthy and beautiful now, having milky-white skin was seen as beautiful since it meant a person needn’t work outdoors. Even in my lifetime conceptions of beauty have changed (don’t believe me? Just look at fashions of the 80s and 90s). That alone should be a clue that I shouldn’t heed societal standards of beauty. Not to mention the impossibility of achieving the standards naturally (seriously, you can’t be a size 0, with hips and boobs that naturally occur in a breastfeeding mum).
Though I need to constantly remind myself of this, I am learning that societal conceptions of beauty do not define me. I am beautiful not because of conforming to such standards, but by virtue of being a unique person made by God. I know it sounds cliché, but it is true. I don’t always see it, but I do hope that I can learn to look in the mirror and immediately say “I’m beautiful” instead of having to remind myself of that truth. I also hope I can teach my daughter to see herself as truly beautiful the way she is, without being changed, from the beginning so that maybe she will be able to avoid seeing herself through the skewed lens of society.