I’ll no longer let my outward appearance take a pedestal in the debates within my mind.
Society seems obsessed with being, feeling, and looking beautiful. There are subliminal and explicit messages everywhere, in person and online, with posts, blogs, articles, and websites dedicated to the subject. One search engine offered me 4,550,000,000 results in 0.66 seconds.
Influencers on social media create an unsustainable ideal for teenagers and young adults to aspire to, and photo editing apps encourage even young children to alter their appearance in images of themselves.
I don’t want my sons or daughter to grow up believing that outward beauty has such inflated importance. It has two basic roles within humanity: survival and reproduction.
In primal beings, the attractive young were more likely to be cared for by their tribe and therefore reach adulthood, when it assisted them in finding a mate with whom to reproduce. But in our modern society, people gain recognition, careers, fame, and fortune as a result of their looks and image.
I have wrinkles, cellulite, scars, moles, weathered skin, and greying hair. The cosmetics industry will no doubt have a product to counter every one of those features. I insist on calling them this, for they are not afflictions or flaws. These organisations have marketed their wares to me for over 40 years and I’ve not succumbed to peer pressure yet. I’m grateful to be alive and ageing naturally.
Despite this, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life wanting to be beautiful and longed for others to tell me that they thought I was. I didn’t appreciate that beauty is not an all-or-nothing attribute. A person is not simply beautiful or ugly, and our physical features change throughout our lives.
There were a few poignant knocks to my self-esteem, such as being told that if I’d posted a picture from a professional photoshoot on a dating site, it would have been “false advertising” and that I was more attractive when I was slimmer.
When I’ve dated a handsome man, I’ve not felt their equal in terms of attractiveness. People have said that I was “punching above my weight” or pointed out that he was far better looking than me, and I’ve felt insecure.
For years I stood in front of a mirror each day, looked at my reflection, and recited an affirmation in an attempt to convince myself that I was beautiful, and perhaps, even manifest this magically into reality.
I’ve taken action, too, such as having a makeup lesson with a professional makeup artist, a home consultation with a well-respected stylist, and a boudoir photo shoot, all in an attempt to boost my confidence in respect of my appearance.
Despite that, I wear minimal makeup and only for special occasions, still own a selection of my older comfy clothes, and when I look at the photos I commissioned, I see a fake version of myself, with hair and makeup styled by a stranger. The pictures don’t make me feel beautiful.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve received many compliments from friends, family, and loved ones, acknowledging my qualities as a human being. These kind words hold more value for me than any relating to my outward appearance, and I’m secure in the knowledge that I’m more than how others see my exterior.
Future generations will benefit from valuing desirable attributes in someone’s personality, rather than judging them based on looks. However, in a world where dating apps encourage us to select or reject a potential life partner based on one photo, this is a tall ask.
Each of us can make a difference by sharing photos on social media that depict the real us, not a digitally edited version, and by choosing carefully how we speak about our appearance in front of those whose lives we influence.
Let’s also tell our family, friends, and the children we care for, what qualities we admire in them.
Outward beauty needs not hold such value in our minds.