What is to be beautiful? What does beauty look like? The look for these answers seem to drive a lot of lives. A few years ago, I did not consider myself the embodiment of the ideal beauty standard that media presented us (even now I don’t). I was overweight, with crooked teeth and an acne prone skin. Some of those things changed and others didn’t. However, about a month ago, as I was in South Korea, I understood something: humans are obsessed with beauty but they don’t know what it is. Despite the fact that I’m one of them, I learned a few things I think are worth sharing.
Firstly, beauty changes depending on which culture you ask. While I sitting in the kitchen of my hostel in South Korea, Zheng Zheng walked in with her cup and her medicine. Her head was wrapped up, but her cheeks were less swollen than the first day I saw her. I asked her about how she was feeling, and we chatted for a while. “I wanted a smaller face, like yours” she explained as the reason behind her surgery. She even showed me a “before picture”. Yet, where she saw a wide face, I just saw a delicate sweet Asian girl. Nevertheless, that kind girl didn’t know that back home, my face could be considered big and unappealing.
Secondly, beauty doesn’t wash off. Make-up and other products may enhance the beauty in us, but they do not “make-it-up”. That same week I talked with Zheng Zheng, an Italian girl shared her social media with another guest. “Is that really you? You look so different!”, the second girl exclaimed. Immediately, I understood that in her social media, the “changed” girl probably had pictures taken with a professional camera, cosmetics on her face, fashion clothes and flattering lightning. In contrast, she was now standing before us in her pajamas, with a messy up-do and a white hydrating mask on her face. Nonetheless, for me, she was charming and graceful, something that could not go down the drain with a shower.
Thirdly, the ideal of beauty might be unreachable, but beauty itself is not. As I talked to two friends I made in South Korea, I mentioned how much I hated my dark circles for they made me look old. However, they both agreed that I was being over conscious about something that everyone had and nobody cared about. After hearing their words, I started watching people in the streets more closely. Some of them had their dark circles covered, but they wouldn’t disappear completely. Despite this, for me, they weren’t hideous at all. Somehow, that made understand I wasn’t either.
Finally, beauty isn’t immutable. This I learned at home just today. Being overweight since I was a child, I would always compare myself to others. Nonetheless, one day I decided to test myself. I started to exercise during the summer of 2014 at my living room with a Zumba video in the internet. The years have gone by and I keep working out at home, and I still don’t diet. Yet, it was only today that, for the first time ever, and a few weeks after returning from South Korea with some extra weight, I could see definition in my abdominal muscles. I was feeling more beautiful than ever as I stared at the mirror reflection, all messy and covered in sweat, not because I was “thin”, but because my body was evidence of the always changing beauty.
In conclusion, beauty is not something we can define. It does not come from a place or a thing. Moreover, it is not unchanging. Everyone can work on themselves to feel beautiful outside. Hence, beauty itself lives in that effort; in the love we have for ourselves. Along with the outside, we must work our insides as well, to learn to accept our bodies, our faces and our flaws with love. Sometimes, I wonder if Zheng Zheng ever knew how beautiful she was. She’s now somewhere in China, working with her new face, always beautiful, of course. I still can’t define her or anyone what beauty is, but, I’m sure it is not about the outside looks and it’s definitely not about exclusion.