On Beauty Pt. 2

On Beauty Pt. 2

I’ve been thinking a lot about what this blog should be. Mercury has been in retrograde, which for me is a very powerful time of revisiting and revising ideas and projects, and it this particular project has been swirling around in my mind. Maybe I got caught up in wanting to draw readers in with hooks like numbered lists and expert advice, but that’s not really my style. I’m not an expert on anything, really, just a soul in a body moving through this problematic world, learning what works and doesn’t work for me and my loved ones, hopefully gaining insight that can one day be described as “wisdom.” With that in mind, I thought I would just share some thoughts and feelings I have about beauty and acceptance and being a fucking radical badass woman, which is basically my life goal.

My friend and colleague recently described herself as a “recovering perfectionist.” I love this phrase. It brings to mind addiction and how recovery is actually a lifetime of work and maintenance. I have been talking about this a lot with my friends in terms of chronic anxiety and depression that so many of us deal with, about how depression is a disease which, like diabetes, requires constant attention and care. I am definitely a perfectionist (it goes along with the anxiety and depression, for sure). It’s the “not good enough” thing I’ve mentioned before. It’s the “but my life isn’t bad enough to even feel this way” thing. It’s the whole concept of “enough” and self-worth and living up to standards that are unattainable because they are constructed by society or the poor, fragile ego, to keep us down.

For me, this manifests most obviously as the “not pretty enough” construct. At some point in my life (probably from a very young age–I mean, I had ~75 Barbies!), bought into the unrealistic, oppressive standards of beauty, especially what “men” find “attractive” (using quotes here because I believe that real live men find all kinds of people beautiful, and because I have problems with the word “attractive”). These standards are forced on our culture by an oppressive, restrictive patriarchal system that actually encourages and commodifies our feelings of worthlessness. The system wants us to waste time and energy feeling shitty so that we’ll waste more time and energy and especially money on trying to correct our perceived flaws by primping and exercising and buying diet books and viewing ourselves as projects, not people. Imagine what we women (and men) could accomplish if we accepted ourselves as beautiful, flawed, dynamic creatures and focused our energy and resources on creating a better world, for instance, or upending the status quo!

By buying into this garbage, I have turned myself into a work-in-progress that will never meet accepted American cultural standards of beauty. Most of us won’t. They are unhealthy, unrealistic, and extremely limiting ideals. How much energy have I wasted on feeling ugly and unlovable because I’m bloated or I have a soft and delicate (read: weak) jawline, or I’m breaking out or my jeans are uncomfortably tight? How often do I feel bad about my neck, or get bummed out because I don’t look like all the women on American TV (thin, gorgeous, great damn hair, makeup on even in bed)? How much time have I spent obsessing about my blackheads, imperceptible to anyone but me as I get up really close to the mirror and enter a fugue state wherein I attempt to extract them all with my fingernails (which by the way, not great for either skin or posture)? So. Much. Time.

Another question, then: What could I accomplish if this energy was rerouted into feeling fucking fantastic? Beautiful, powerful, amazing? Helping others? Writing my children’s book? Doing yoga? Think of the possibilities!

Mostly, I’d like to not think about “being pretty” anymore. I’d like to be non-obsessive about my looks. I’d love to stop worrying over whether men find me attractive.

Now, let me unpack my baggage about the word “attractive,” because I have a lot of issues around this word. I am a very verbal person and the meaning of words is important to me. This one totally bums me out. The word “attractive” has become associated (in my mind, at least) with purely visual attraction. It is melded inextricably with the above-stated beauty standards. It brings to mine commodification, an “attractive deal,” a selling-point.  It makes my anxiety bust out full force. Am I attractive? I’m not attractive! No one is attracted to me! Bahhhhhhhh! How can I be more attractive?!?! Well…fuck that.

How about this: I want to be “magnetic.” I want people to be drawn to me because of my spirit, talent, kindness, warmth, personality. If that sounds like a brag, then…I’m okay with that. I think about my incredible coven of women-friends, who are all magical, magnetic humans. I want to be around them all the time because of attributes like those, because they are wise, friendly, positive, gifted, radiant beings. They are all gorgeous to me, and almost none of them fit the typical standard of beauty. I want to be that. I probably am that, since they want to hang out with me, too, but I want to believe that about myself.

I have come to an understanding that the path to self-love is through self-acceptance. I am throwing off the burden of being “attractive” and allowing myself to just BE. How radical is that?! I will not conform! I will just BE. A human person with thoughts and feelings and a body that does wonderful things for me, living in this tough, beautiful world, collecting insights that might one day be called wisdom.

That’s all. <3