Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder?

Thanks WordPress for today’s inspiration. I’m tackling a very difficult question—is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? On some accounts, yes. As a human being, I absolutely have my preferences on what makes someone physically attractive. Personally, I’m a sucker for blue eyes and big, athletic builds for guys (why do you think I married Colby? 😛 ). I’m not disputing the fact that we all have those characteristics we find umm… aesthetically pleasing, but I want to take the concept of beauty a bit further. Are our distinctions about what is beautiful and what is not entirely based on our own predisposition toward certain physical qualities? I don’t think so.
In a media-saturated society like the United States, popular media has infiltrated almost every moment of our daily lives. We are always plugged-in, constantly checking for the latest Tweets and Instagram photos. We drive by billboards each day that advertise products and services we cannot live without. We watch movies, read magazines, and listen to the latest music. It is a part of us. However, when was the last time we thought about just how much the images we are bombarded with affect how we see beauty within ourselves or others? I can’t speak for everyone (although I think I’d make a great spokesperson for humanity), but here are ways in which society’s ideals about beauty have influenced me over the years.

1. Highlights were definitely not the highlight of my middle school years.
When I was in sixth grade, highlights were extremely popular. Girls as young and ten and eleven begin adding strips of color to their hair as one of the earliest stages of body modification. I was no exception to this bandwagon. While the prettiest girls in my class got blond highlights, I realized that using that particular color would probably make me look like a skunk given my jet black hair, I decided to go with an auburn color. It.was.a.nighmare. It took so much stripper to bleach my dark color, my hair was absolutely fried. Given my short, layered haircut, my hair quickly began to resemble a poorly groomed Pomeranian or a high school football helmet. But, it gets better. The auburn took almost two years to grow out of my hair. Ombre hair was not in style back then, so having really dark roots with 2-inch auburn tips was not cute. My hair did not get healthy again until all of the red was gone, which makes for a really embarrassing sixth grade school photo. I affectionately refer to my middle school years as the period in which I had braces, acne, and poorly-colored bouffant hair. I would have never made that awful decision if highlights were not “popular.” Rest assured, I have promised myself to never dye my hair again until I begin graying.

2. I’ve worn clothes that didn’t fit my personality (or my body) in order to “fit in.”
I wish I could get back a fraction of the money I spent on Hollister or Abercrombie clothes… paying for mine and Colby’s South Korea trip next summer would be a breeze. Given the CEO of Abercrombie’s ruthless comments about people with some extra baggage, I shudder that I used to sport their clothes, and let’s not even mention the fact that their garments are probably some of the most cheaply-crafted I have ever owned. My shoulders are a bit too wide to wear their knit shirts comfortably, my curves don’t fit well into their short shorts, and I had to wear a size 10 in their jeans (not that there is anything wrong with being a size 10, but I am a size 6—four sizes is a ridiculous discrepancy). Yet, I bought these clothes like I was foraging for a teen apparel apocalypse. I’m glad I’ve moved on from this phase of my life. I don’t think I’ve worn Abercrombie or Hollister during any of my college years; I just wish I had undergone this detox earlier; my wallet and my high school pictures would surely have appreciated it. I will confess that I now enjoy Banana Republic, Ann Taylor, and J. Crew as much as other young female professionals, and while there is nothing wrong with the occasional splurge on the cardigan you just have to have, I by at least half of my clothes at GoodWill. I also will not put a dress I love back on the hanger if it has come from Walmart or Target. I just wish that society’s picture of what “pretty” clothes are had not influenced me for quite so long a time.

3. I’ve learned to hate weight scales, I have to dress up nicely each day, and don’t ask me to post a selfie on “makeup free Friday.”
Let’s face it: even though I’ve grown to be a secure and confident woman, I still worry about the way I look. Are my thighs trim enough? Should I wear a sundress to the grocery store instead of my favorite worn-out blue jeans? Am I really the only one who looks this wretched without foundation and eyeliner painted on my skin? These are questions I ask myself almost daily, and I wish it didn’t have to be this way. As much as I hate to admit it, I do care about the way I look and about how others think I look. While I always liked girly things even as a little girl, I do not think I would be quite so hard on myself if it weren’t for the societal implications of beauty. Tina Fey said it best:


Even though I will never be 100% confident in myself, I will always try my best to be. Each day, I present a certain image to my students, the little girls I go to church with, and one day even my own daughters. I don’t know how I could teach them to be comfortable with themselves without being at least somewhat comfortable in myself.

4. I see the image of American beauty circulating the globe.
Just like everything else, the world seems to be Americanizing to our standard of beauty. You may think I am wrong, but let’s do a little social experiment. Next time you are on vacation, look for some international tourists and pick out how many of them are wearing American brands or clothes that resemble these names. From what I’ve seen, it’s an overwhelming majority. Last year’s Miss America, Nina Davuluri, was called a “Muslim Terrorist” due to her Indian appearance and cultural remnants in her performances throughout the night (it would probably be a good time to note that she is a practicing Hindu). I for one was ecstatic to see a woman of color and from another culture win this award, but many did not agree. My social media newsfeeds were flooded with comments like, “She doesn’t even look like an American.” I was baffled at our country’s response to this woman’s grace, and I am afraid this trend of American beauty will only continue if we as a nation do not develop an appreciation for new types of beauty. In case you were wondering, Miss New York was actually stunning.

Miss America

So is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? Yes and no. It is like we are caught in this trap of our own wishes and desires versus society’s predestined ideas of “what’s hot and what’s not.” While we may not be able to escape this reality entirely, we can do our best to show the world how we are each beautiful in our skin. We all need to shine!

Sep 16, 2014
Absolute Beauty
We’ve all heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Do you agree? is all beauty contingent on a subjective point of view?


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