We exist in a time where information is more easily accessible than ever before. Along with information, we are often bombarded with opinions, and at times it can be hard to discern the difference. One of the areas this difficulty arises in, is in defining beauty. Not only are we often presented with fake images as the truth, but we are also presented a fixed notion of what can be considered beautiful in the society we live in. This becomes increasingly problematic when what is considered beautiful is influenced by businesses who seek to profit from people’s insecurities.
Dr. Gail Dines concisely puts this idea across as “If tomorrow, women woke up and decided they really liked their bodies, just think how many industries would go out of business.” It may appear quite simple when you consider that all industries depend on demand for the growth of their businesses. But unlike in the case of food, these industries seem to create an artificial desire and pump in their products to try to fill that void. These industries are built on the insecurity of women, and they position themselves as trying to help women attain happiness and success. They do this by equating a particular standard of beauty with prosperity and affluence in all aspects of life, be it career or romantic. Often this standard is one that is unattainable, allowing a constant stream of purchases in the hopes of improving their lives. When the idea of beauty remains something unattainable, basing one’s self worth and happiness on this idea is damaging. It may seem impossible to truly be satisfied with oneself.
Instead of chasing this idea, maybe the answer lies in redefining beauty. To pushing its boundaries beyond what society tells us, to include our own definition of beauty. In this, lies a choice. We can either accept the definition of beauty presented to us, and continue to be dissatisfied with our appearances and critical of those around us. Or, we can choose to see the beauty that exists around us. We can choose to see beauty in confidence and smiles. We can choose to accept that society’s definition of beauty is not the only one. We can make our choice based on what we want for ourselves, not on what others want for us. But one must remember, that beauty is not the ultimate goal. Colorism is not only a problem because it values one shade of skin over others, it promotes the idea that people, and women in particular, should base their self worth in their physical appearance. Health, knowledge and kindness are far better parameters on which to measure self worth. So, it seems to me that if we want to be more satisfied with ourselves and self confident, there is a twofold task before us. We must redefine what beauty is to us, to include more than unattainable standards, and simultaneously recognise that our worth does not lie in our physical appearances.
I started to think about this idea of redefining beauty when I first joined college. One thing I hadn’t expected, was how this turned out to be an entry into an immensely positive community. I remember having conversations with my friends about how beautiful the people around us were, and not beautiful in the way society conventionally defines it. These conversations with my friends helped me see that when I started looking beyond conventional beauty in the people around me, I started to feel more beautiful as well. I believe that developing this sort of positive dialogue, by complementing the people around you instead of commenting about them, and looking for beauty rather than looking for flaws, goes a long way in building your own happiness.