Why I No Longer Try to Be Beautiful

It's 2022 and I have finally come into my own.  And it's only taken me forty-four years to do so.  I have lived with society's expectations of beauty for my entire life and ever since grade school, I tried with every fiber of my being to conform to those expectations.  And when high school hit, around age seventeen, I finally did.  I had finally become the world's version of beautiful.

I was thin, had curves (though not too curvy), and had gorgeous hair.  I think hair has a huge role to play in society's version of beauty, which is why it took me so long (other than my awkward dorkiness as a child) because my hair refused to conform, no matter what I did.  So, my mother gave me perms to try to combat this, which only made me look like a dorky little awkward white girl with a really strange afro (in fact, that was my nickname in 7th grade on the bus, fun!).  No matter what I did, I was never cute or pretty or beautiful.  I didn't dress like the other kids.  I didn't talk like them or act like them.  And I surely didn't look like them, physically.   And it became all I ever dreamed about.  We saw all these movies in the 80's about dorky girls getting a makeover in the summer and coming back to school as a sexy hot chick.  Every summer, I tried to do that.  Surprise, surprise, it never worked.  

We were told that being beautiful was everything.  We are still being told that.  And I don't know if that will ever stop.

When I hit 17, my real puberty hit (even though I technically hit that at age 12), and I was off to the races.  FINALLY my hair was cooperating.  FINALLY I had boobs.  FINALLY I was so pretty that girls hated me for the right reasons and boys hit on me instead of hitting me and calling me a nerd.  I had boyfriends, I had pretty best friends, and I was fearless.  I was never cruel to people who didn't deserve it (though I am sure that sometimes I was), but I also didn't take a lick of shit from a single person.  I was no longer in my shell. I had emerged!  I was reborn!!  And I was fucking beautiful.  And it was everything to me.  And all that suffering had finally worked out in my favor.  

From ages 17 to well into my twenties, a single day didn't go by without me getting at least one compliment from a stranger.  I ate that up, too.  It made me feel worthy, to be seen and noticed by others.  Then I had kids and got slightly fat, which wasn't so bad.  I was still getting compliments and attention.  And then several years, two IUD's, and 80lbs later, and all of a sudden, the compliments stopped dead in the water.  And then, I felt completely invisible.  And, as you probably guessed it, wholly unworthy.  My self-worth was totally wrapped up in my beauty.  As a child, I was bullied and teased and taunted all because I was a dork and awkward, and not cute in any way.  Beauty mattered even then.  Had I been pretty, I would have been accepted.  Even if I was a total spaz.  As a young adult, I was respected and complimented and treated in such a way that I felt that I mattered.  As an adult, I still was pretty, and did my hair and wore makeup and dressed cute and I still felt I mattered.  But as a middle-aged adult, I went right back to feeling there was something wrong me again, all because I gained weight and nobody talked to me anymore.  The world let me know I was unworthy.  I could go for days in public, and nobody would say a word to me.  Not even neighbors.  People would just pass over me as they walked by.  And I let the world's ignoring me consume me to the point of depression.


But here's the thing.  What was actually depressing me, though I didn't realize it at the time, was not that I was fat or invisible.  It was that I was lying to myself that I had to look beautiful to matter in life.  It was that I had to wear the cute clothes so people noticed me and said "Wow, she takes care of herself!  Look how pretty she is!"  It was that I had to wear makeup and do my hair every day, even though it stopped cooperating with me again and became a horrible struggle to both my self-esteem and my time.  

I have a thousand pretty pictures of myself on various hard drives.  If you look through my old photos, you'll see so many goddamned selfies that you'd think "Damn, this girl is sure full of herself!"  But I wasn't.  I saw my beauty as a form of art and taking a picture of something I did, as a makeup artist would, was the way I expressed it.  Plus, I felt I needed people to see that I could still be beautiful so I could I still feel worthy.  By then, most days I didn't look like that, as my medical issues started creeping in more and more, and I didn't feel well most days.  So, when I did look beautiful, I felt I needed to capture it to prove I was still beautiful to both myself and others, but mostly to myself.  It was still that important to me.

Its sick, this idea of beauty the world puts on us, as both women and men (and everyone else).  Why do we have to look like anything at all?  Why can't we just be humans?  Cavemen didn't wear makeup and they still procreated to further the human race enough, so it's not that we need to look magazine quality beautiful to get a man or a woman to notice us, right?  We say it's "human nature" to make ourselves beautiful, but it's not.  It's created by society, magazines, movies, TV, music videos, etc.  It's created by Hollywood and Bollywood and everything in between.  Outward beauty is art.  Nothing more.  It's not worthiness or love.  It's just an art form.  

And I for one am tired of it.  From ages 13 until around 35, I had acne.  Sometimes pretty bad, but not as bad as some.  I tried Proactiv, and had an allergic reaction to it (I had to use the extra strength, which worked, but swelled my eyes shut, twice).  At first, I didn't know it was the medicine, I thought it was the makeup.  So, I quit wearing it.  Which is what actually stopped my acne.  I never wore it again (I think I did once, but only once) and I never got acne again.  I was ruining my face because the world expected me to slather some peachy liquid all over it just to say I was worthy enough to be part of the pretty girls club that we all are so desperate to be a part of.  Then, my hair stopped cooperating again, just like when I was a kid.  I started quickly greying and because of that, my hair went berserk.  So, I did what any respectable forty-something woman would do and I shaved it off (except my bangs).  Though neither of those things really cemented in the fact that I was "becoming" rather than "letting myself go".  Not until this year.  This season, in fact.  

That's when I stopped wearing cute clothes.  And I started buying what I felt comfortable in that I liked.  I have a capsule wardrobe because I hate washing clothes.  My husband has way more clothes that I do, so does my oldest son.  But my youngest and I wear very few items, because he and I both hate doing too much laundry.  Now I wear hoodies, leggings, and a pair of jeans that fit perfectly (though I don't wear the leggings with the jeans, that would be weird).  I love hoods.  I love pockets.  I love things that keep me warm in the northern winters (it was negative 17 yesterday, real temp!).  I also wear a beanie every day that matches my shirts (one beanie, not several, as all my clothes match).  I don't look sexy or even girlish most days.  I don't look stylish or anything either.  But I do feel kind of amazing.  

As a young adult, I had an on-again-off-again love affair with anorexia.  It started at 16, and I have to be careful to not let it back into my life still today.  I am not skinny anymore, but I also don't hate myself the way I did when I was skinny.  Back then, you could tell I was anorexic.  But I felt like a big fat cow, because looks were the one thing that mattered to me.  I mean, who was I without them?  Now I am fat, and I am completely comfortable with myself.  Yes, I've lost 30 pounds in the past year, because I was trying to (healthily).  But that's has to do with my health and not my looks.  And if I were to get thin again on purpose?  It would not be to be beautiful, but to be fit.  And I still won't wear that shit that society tells me I need to wear to be worthy.  I will wear what I feel good in because I like it.

Back then, the compliments I received were from men, normally, and they weren't the kind that were from the goodness of their hearts.  A few were, and a few were from women.  The two best compliments I ever got were from an old man and a girl a little older than me.  Those stuck with me because they were real and not superficial like the ones men who want to fuck you say.  Because all men who say "Wow, you're hot!" want to fuck you.  So those are compliments from their crotches and not their hearts.  Which, now that I look back, are really gross.

For once in my life, I feel like I have "become" me.  The real me.  The one who doesn't need to look outwardly for validation in life.  For so many years, it was the only validation I ever got.  Nobody told me I was smart.  Nobody said I was good at anything.  They all said I was hot and sexy.  That's it.  My parents didn't even tell me I was smart or good at anything and they certainly never told me I was beautiful.  They just said I looked like a whore.  So, my validation came from others.  Friends.  Boyfriends.  Strangers.  Guys in passing cars.  And older men who had no right looking at my young body with their hungry eyes (and crotches).

And now I live with my husband who tells me every single day how smart I am.  He tells me I am beautiful, too, but it's not the same as those nasty boys from back in the day.  My kids think I am crazy and sort of dumb, but that's their age.  But when the going actually gets tough, they still ask my opinion and trust me to help them make decisions, which makes me feel very validated in my judgement and intelligence.  So, I am surrounded by people who validate me as a person, and not as an object (which is what I used to be validated as).  I don't have to be living by society's standard of beautiful as the only way to feel worthy anymore.  But most of all, I have learned to find that validation inside of myself, rather than only getting it externally.  My kids and my husband have reversed the effects of my parents' abuse (not wholly, not yet, but one day) of thinking I was too stupid or not good enough, and that gave me the time and ability to find my worthiness in more than needing the world to see me as valid for only being beautiful.  

What is beauty anyways?  What does it mean?  To me, beauty is an inner peace with knowing yourself and being comfortable with who you are.  Even if someone is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye, if they are comfortable with themselves?  They radiate beauty.  I am not fully there yet.  That being "totally comfortable with who you are" thing.  I am still finding my way.  But I am closer than I ever have been in my entire life.  And it feels amazing.

Being beautiful has nothing to do with how you look.  That's society talking.  Instead, find what makes you beautiful from the inside out.  What makes you tick?  Who are you, really?  What are your views?  What do you stand for?  What are your strengths?  What are your weaknesses?  Who do you admire and why?  What do you enjoy?  What are your favorite things?  

Now, take that list and ask yourself, what did you answer that is really you, and what did you answer the way that you did because the world told you that you to think or feel that way?  Then dig deep and find out how you really want to answer these questions instead.  I bet it will kind of blow your mind just how different your answers really are.   

In the 70's, women burned their bras.  I think now in the 20's, women should wash off their makeup and throw away their clothes and only wear what they like.  Men, too.  I think that we should start seeing shaved heads and messy buns as valuable ways to wear our hair as women, even at the office.  I think we need to throw society's beauty standards out the window and we should start "becoming" instead.  Becoming the real us.  Becoming who we were meant to be before the world told us what was expected of us.  

When I first started dressing in my pullover hoodies and beanie and whatnot, I was afraid.  Afraid to be judged as some kind of loser weirdo.  But nobody cared.  In fact, I started getting compliments on the pins I wear on my coat (I'm still a nerd) rather than on my face or my breasts.  I do still wear bronzer if I leave the house.  Only because it has SPF (and I have skin issues due to my IUD, so I can't get sun on my face) and I am severely washed out in the winter and look sick if I don't wear it.  But now I get excited when I see my clothes hanging up each day and know I am going to feel good in what I am going to wear (our mental health, as people, is always better when we feel good in what we are wearing).  I have my indoor/mildly cold outside weather hat, and my freezing cold outdoor hat.  Both are similar, but the outdoor one is thicker, and lined.  But each morning, I get up, and I throw my indoor hat on my head, because my head is always cold (I no longer get freezing attacks in the middle of the day, who knew it was all due to my head?).  And nobody says I am weird or even calls attention to it.  I feel comfortable and happy with myself every day now.  That's not something I could ever say about myself in the past.  Not even when I was a size seven.  

So, I urge you to find your style, to find your right hairdo, to find your right makeup routine (if any at all).  And I urge you to find the gentleness and slowness that comes with knowing yourself and becoming who you were always meant to be in life.  No longer will you need to rush around to feel like you need to fulfill society's expectations of you.  You can just be you.  It's so freeing and so light.  And it makes life so much simpler.  In 2016, I picked the word "simplicity" as my word of the year.  And it's been a part of my words ever since.  But I had no idea what that really meant.  That it didn't just encompass my house and my stuff, but also the inside of me, and throughout.  I don't need to complicate my life anymore with what people think is "beautiful", as I feel beautiful in everything I do, whether other people think I am or not.  Their opinions do not matter anymore.  Only mine does.  As does how I feel about myself as a whole, not just how I look.  

Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder.  It's in the heart and the soul of the person who truly knows themselves, whether they are outwardly pretty or not.  

Remember, there is nothing wrong with putting on makeup and wearing cute clothes.  There is nothing wrong with getting dressed up or looking pretty.  The only part that is keeping us in chains in the idea that we have to do those things in order to feel worthy as people.  We are worthy either way.  Our families and our friends should still treat us as worthy people even if we wear nothing but PJ's everywhere (I am not saying to do that, but I also not saying to not do it either, you do you, boo).  And outward beauty doesn't mean a thing if we don't feel beautiful inside, too.  Then it's just a mask for our emptiness.  But we can rid ourselves of that emptiness if we take the time to learn who we are without all of these things we wear as masks (not just outwardly, but masks me wear in the people we keep in our lives, the cars we drive, the things we buy, the words we choose to say, the stances we take, etc.).  Learning to love yourself isn't always easy, but not trying is always harder in the long run.  Because looks and things eventually fade.  Then what do we have?  Just more emptiness.  So don't let society tell you what to mask it with, and instead, fill it up with who you really are, rather than who you think you are supposed to be for everyone else.  

Live for yourself, as this is only life you're going to get.  I know that's what I will be working on, from here on out.  I hope you will, too.  

Till next time. 

Be sure to check out my new website at www.CalmPeaceSerenity.com for more articles about living a more peace-filled life.   

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