We often hear of the need to love oneself and to source the wonders of inner and outer beauty of self before truly loving and appreciating the beauty of others.
At the end of the day we’re really talking about being confident, and from that opening premise, being able to be confident with the world around us. Appreciating our own beauty would seem to be a part of that.
So what happens if that beauty is knocked, or adversely judged by others?
Many people might not find themselves beautiful because of being teased at school, or from a relationship breaking up. They may have had issues in life that hit that esteem, or have physical or mental scarring.
What of perceptions of beauty that tell the tale to a wider audience, to a group, or even to a whole community?
Imagery is a powerful force. I won’t claim to be an expert, but it goes beyond our current mass TV and media and deeply into our past.
Go around art galleries in London and Europe, and you will see paintings of women considered beautiful in their time, in many cases that I recall (not that I’m a peruser of the galleries) older art shows women of a fuller figure than today’s MTV pumped imagery. But while not as thin as today’s glamour, the ‘beautiful’ images do have one thing in common. The majority are white European women. Even Christian art carries white imagery of a Middle Eastern man as the heart of the religion.
Back to the present day, how many women (and some men) feel the need to paint themselves orange?
If I asked them, I’m sure the majority would be happy, not lacking in self-esteem or confidence, and who am I to say how they should choose to look? Cosmetic surgery is shifting from an extreme to common action, not least I’d imagine due to the short lived careers of women in the entertainment or media spotlight feeling pressured to go down this road.
If the modern ideal is size 0, or body measurements I couldn’t even hazard a guess at, low BMI scores, blonde hair and an orange glow well, all I can say is, how long have we all been talking of such things, but how little has changed.
Plus size models, aka ‘normal’ women, still haven’t made a huge impact in mainstream thinking. This is not a new discussion.
Is self-confidence really that battered by media projections?
Maybe the harm is in the unconscious rather than conscious decisions people make to be ‘beautiful’, and in what men are also led to expect as beautiful in a woman’s appearance and indeed how she expresses her sexuality.
There’s nothing new in women expressing sexuality, Madonna wasn’t even the first, but what we increasingly have is music portraying a pseudo female sexuality which is in reality, purely in the form of male sexual fantasy . S&M in the charts . Seriously? Each to their own in their home, but do I really want boys to expect that sexuality of my daughters as their opening gambit on a date? Do I really want children singing along?
By defining what beauty is, society is actually defining what isn’t perceived as beautiful by its omission. And this is where I have a problem with it all. Society is effectively de-beautifying everyone else.
This of course affects us all, male and female, but for a man, often the size of a man’s wallet rather than anything else he might possess, would seem to determine how the girl (s) on his arm fit the beauty expectations.
So what of female beauty and what if this Eurocentric vision of beauty is not achievable through simply dying hair or spray tans and a crash diet? What if, like the vast majority of the world’s population, you are not actually of European origin?
How does society see you, and does anyone need to care?
The short answer should be, who cares. Beauty is everywhere, but I’m not going to push on with clichÃ©’s about beauty in all colours and sizes, because the problem is with society and not us as individuals or our individual beauty.
I’ve not even touched on the beauty of the athletic form either. The world is obsessed with skinny and fat debates, and not enough time is spent on the importance of health and fitness, particularly the stigmas attached to women in sport. That’s for another time, but know I am a massive proponent of female and male sport and the wider reaches that has in terms of self worth and discipline through the turbulent adolescent years and beyond.
Any talk of BMI is blown out of the water with very fit athletes. Muscle is heavier than fat. You think Serena Williams is going to be feather like on the scales?
What prompted this article, a serious topic for my first one for Phenomenal Healthstyle, was the appalling ‘scientific’ thesis (sorry should that be faeces?) submitted by the ‘Evolutionary Psychologist’ of the LSE, that women of the African diaspora are less attractive . Less beautiful. I have not brought myself to read the theory, but the news reports this last week have based this on things such as body features and testosterone levels. I would elaborate the levels of my disgust as the word ‘racist’ pours from my keyboard in large bold font, but we’re here to learn about the pitfalls of de-beautification and how we must all love ourselves.
What the theory failed to establish was what is the definition of beauty, and as I’ve discussed earlier, the ‘Evolutionary Psychologist’ has (deliberately?) measured beauty by Eurocentric standards. Would I (a white male) measure up to African-centric standards of beauty? Errr you don’t want me to answer that come to think .avoid marking me on a Eurocentric beauty standard too thanks hey I don’t have cash, but I love myself and my great personality, and also the stunning woman on my arm! But back to the point. There are extended and deeply seated issues here, which I can only touch on. Eurocentric beauty standards have evolved through a history of the enslavement, rape and murder of Africans by Europeans. And in the wider world, nations from the old empires still carry the wounds of such horror and indoctrination just check the covers of Asian celebrity magazines to see how beauty can be defined.
I have no problem with blonde and blue eyed either. I have two beautiful athletic daughters who would fit that description. But why should European beauty standards be to the detriment of others, when of the near seven billion global population, only one billion or so are ‘white’. My daughters and I are the minority.
So where do we go when society tells us we’re not beautiful, either directly, or indirectly by not including us in what is deemed as beautiful? Personally, I switch off the TV, although you might choose to keep watching, but do me a favour and at least consider gesticulating a finger or two at it, and then go to the mirror, knowing it is society and not ones reflection that is cracked. If we learn about the flaws in our society, we can truly see our own worth as individuals, and the reality of our beauty. But what we have to do, is not only own that beauty for ourselves, but give our daughters and sons, our nieces and nephews, the tools to also see the same in themselves, and in how they see attractiveness in others.
And one last thing Mr ‘Evolutionary Psychologist.’ I feel I’ve managed to rebuke the ‘Psychologist’ part by your inability to know what beauty actually is. With regard to the ‘Evolutionary’ bit Let us not forget, that every blonde size 0, like all of us on the planet were originally birthed by African women.
Beautiful isn’t it.