July 21, 2011

How do you Experience Beauty?

Photo: Vancouver Film School

Society sells beauty…

Recently I came across an article on CNN about a new exhibit, “Beauty Culture,” at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles.

This got me thinking about the ever-so-popular topic of beauty and its definitions and how that has changed throughout time, evolving in the media to standards that are almost impossible to achieve by ordinary means.

Taking a step back, let’s look at the definition of beauty according to Mr. Merriam-Webster:

: the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit

Society sells beauty, yet at the same time if you read between the lines the same people who are selling beauty never want you to achieve it. If you actually felt beautiful you might stop buying whatever product, idea or program being sold.  Beauty is marketed as this elusive thing that if achieved will create the perfect life. This, my friends, is a lie.

Perhaps as an adult some of us are aware of this, but I shudder in thought at the young minds of children, teens and young adults who still buy into this scheme.

As an overweight child I believed that if I could only be thin then I would be beautiful.  Worries, fears, and doubt would fade away and life would achieve an “ah” factor. Several years were spent harboring these thoughts until I finally took action. I began to lose weight, at first healthfully, resulting in positive feedback from family and friends.

Suddenly I wasn’t such an outcast. I thought that if only I could accelerate this process then what was good now would become even better. So as a determined 13 year-old does I started to workout for hours a day and basically stop eating. Good idea? No.

I believed wholeheartedly that I could stop when I reached my goal weight, and while some people could perhaps do this, the switch had flipped and an eating disorder was born. I was at last thin, but I don’t think that beauty even crossed my mind.By that point I was too far gone to even be thinking about beauty. Thus my plan backfired. Instead of feeling better I was more unhappy, lonely, and fearful than ever before.

The beauty that is sold to us through ads, merchandise, TV, music and movies is elusive and a fallacy at best. The achievement of it is perhaps a fleeting happiness, but then quickly consumed by the fear of loosing this “beauty.” Countless women can speak to this and the destruction that it can place upon their lives ruining relationships, jobs, finances and even at times taking a life.

Real beauty comes from within and isn’t something that can be bought, sold, used or captured. Perhaps you see it in the unaware child, the dog walking down the street or the leaves blowing in the wind. Maybe as a human you have experienced it when you least expected it; usually when we go looking for something so intently it isn’t found.

Instead of spending all your time on outer beauty take time to cultivate from within. Send out gratitude, sit in silent meditation or give a few moments of reflection each day. It will be more than worth your time and energy.

How do you experience beauty?  Do you conform or do you have your own ideas?

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