The media’s beauty standards follow us everywhere, so does the question: What does it mean to be beautiful? What does beauty look like? There are hundreds of people that seek these answers and in return, they are hit again and again with the cruelty and unreal world of the media’s beauty standards.
A few years ago, I did not consider myself the embodiment of the ideal beauty standard that the media presented us (even now I don’t). I was overweight, with crooked teeth and acne-prone skin. Some of those things changed and others didn’t.
However, as I was in South Korea, I understood something: beauty as the media portrays it is unreachable. Moreover, we are obsessed with being “beauty”, but we don’t know what it actually is.
Here are a few lessons I learned about beauty and beauty standards that I believe everyone should know.
Beauty standards change around the world
Firstly, beauty changes depending on which culture you ask. While I was 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.
Therefore, let go of the idea of trying to fit into something that fluctuates so much and that it isn’t universal. Just be you. The true beauty lies in our uniqueness.
Beauty doesn’t come in a container
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 who 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 lighting.
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.
All beauty products will try to convince you about the possibility of reaching beauty standards. However, you shouldn’t become a slave to them. You should feel equally beautiful with or without make-up, because you are.
The beauty in you is real
Thirdly, the ideal beauty might be unreachable, but beauty itself is not. As I talked to two friends, I mentioned how much I hated my dark circles. I always felt the need to cover them so I wouldn’t look tired or older.
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 me understand I wasn’t either.
Therefore, love your imperfections. Be aware that the beauty standards that you see on Instagram, magazines, and Television, are a product of good lighting, posing, and edition. In other words, the beauty standards that you seek are constructed and therefore unattainable whereas your beauty is real and singular.
You can always change
Finally, beauty isn’t immutable. This is probably the most important thing you have to remember from this post.
I remember being overweight ever since I was a child. I always compared myself to other tall and slender girls. Although I believed it would always be like this, it wasn’t.
I started to exercise during the summer of 2014 in my living room with a Zumba video on the internet. The years have gone by and I still keep working out at home. It has been a long fitness journey with ups and downs. However, it was only recently that, for the first time, I could see the 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.
Therefore, remember, although you might look a certain way today, you can always work on your physical appearance. Nonetheless, keep in mind that if your only goal is to follow beauty standards, you will never be satisfied with your body. Instead of pursuing these toxic standards, learn to love yourself.
A message for Zheng Zheng and all the beautiful people out there about beauty standards…
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, in our journeys, our scars, and imperfections.
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 in my eyes, not only her physical appearance but in her personality as well.
She’s now somewhere in China, working with her new face, always beautiful, of course. I still can’t define to her or anyone what beauty is according to the media’s standards, but, I’m sure it is not about the outside looks and it’s definitely not about exclusion.
Therefore, you out there, stop criticizing yourself, and don’t listen to anyone who dares to do the same. You are already beautiful. Own it. Believe it.
Now let me know, what is the worst beauty standard you’ve ever tried to follow?