Is beauty really in the eye of the beholder?
If you asked ten different people to give you their definition of ‘what makes a person beautiful’ they would probably give you ten completely different answers. There’ll be those who believe that beauty within is just as important as beauty without, and that’s not an opinion we’d disagree with. And then there will be those who prefer different facial types, different colour hair, different colour eyes, different shaped bodies… the list goes on and on and it’s always been this way, from the very beginnings of history.
Just look at how beauty conventions have changed over the last 100 years. In the early 1900s the buxom Gibson Girl was quickly replaced by the slimmer, often androgynous looking Flapper. Curves returned in the ‘sex siren’ days of the 1930s but then the war years saw a more natural ‘girl next door’ look although it wasn’t long before curves were revived by 1950s icons like Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Brigitte Bardot (although isn’t it crazy to think that Marilyn is sometimes described as ‘plump’ by our modern-day standards?) And then we saw the petite, waif-like 1960s girl personified by Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton and Jean Seberg before wider shoulders, slimmer hips and Farrah hair dominated the 70s. The 1980s were arguably the decade of the supermodel, with Cindy Crawford and Elle MacPherson displaying tall, curvaceous athleticism, and then Kate Moss and her peers made ‘heroin chic’ popular in the 1990s. As for this century, we saw a return to athleticism in the early 2000s (toned abs and plenty of fake tan) and now, thanks to the likes of Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj, curves seem to have returned yet again although, thanks to the explosion in global social media, beauty conventions are changing almost every week.
So, what can we gather from all of this?
First off, even though beauty – like fashion – seems to come and go in cycles, ‘beauty standards’ change so often that it’s really not worth worrying about. There’s no point in forcing ourselves to match the latest trend when the latest trend might be over when we wake up tomorrow morning. So enjoy your own beauty, and your own uniqueness. Be confident in who you are because you only have one body and it’s very, very special.
Also, don’t forget that beauty advertising is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Advertisers are selling products on the basis that they want us to feel better about ourselves, but doesn’t that also imply that we don’t feel better about ourselves already? That maybe we’ve got some areas we need to improve and some flaws we need to hide? It’s perfectly normal to want to look our best, but before you buy that hot new product which promises to wave a magic wand over your flawless skin or lacklustre hair, think hard about why you’re doing it. You should never aspire to some standard of beauty that’s been set by advertisers and magazines. You’re an individual, and individuality like yours can’t be bottled… unlike this season’s beauty products.
Finally, take a long uncritical look at your face and body and ask yourself, ‘What is it about me that I really love’? Don’t look for what you think are the faults (because they are never really faults), look for what you’re proudest of, the parts that make you most uniquely you. From the colour of your eyes to your crooked smile to the scar you got when you fell over in the playground twenty years ago, we all have body signatures that tell a story and set us apart from everybody around us. And then, look past the reflection in the mirror and take time to focus on the beauty that’s inside you. Don’t let yourself be defined by your appearance because that’s only a part of what makes you special. Think about the journey you’re on, what you’ve achieved, and who you are inside.
“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone,” said Audrey Hepburn.
We think she’s right.
How about you?