By: Alyssa Fechner, Regular Contributor
When beauty fades, it's been said all that's left is brains. All that's left is the mind and the heart and the smile, which, while the skin around them may sag, their brilliance will not tarnish.
If this is true (and it is), then why are we so completely consumed by the idea of physical beauty? Why is this a concept that defines our generation: why is this standards-of-beauty fight even one to be had?
When I look down my newsfeed on Facebook, I see a litany of real problems. I see rape and stabbings in my neighborhood; I see unending wars across the world; I see people more willing to verbally attack a stranger than even attempt compassion (or at the very least, practice restraint); I see the environment crumbling against the strain of such an immense population-- one which has not yet caught it's resource-use habit up with its size. And I see endless discussions about the unfairness of photoshop, of “big is beautiful!” or “real women have/are/buy/do/kiss/wear/brush-their-teeth-like-this,” and of the outrageous “standards of beauty” (which is, in itself, an outrageous notion).
When there is so much else to fill our time, so much else to draw our energy, and so many other huge issues deserving of our attention, why do we spend such huge chunks of our time on something as banal as the concept of beauty? This nebulous, unattainable and utterly meaningless thing? I am frustrated by the conversation surrounding beauty. I am frustrated that this is a conversation that we have over and over and over again and that we still find ourselves drawn into believing that it matters.
Beauty will fade, and beauty will change, and what was beautiful today will either be gone tomorrow or “beauty” itself will change and no longer mean the same as it did yesterday. It is a futile pursuit, and more importantly, it is a worthless one.
And yet, I know that I feel better when I perceive myself to look better. When my hair is done and I'm totally rocking my favorite outfit, I have better days. I am not shirking the value of this. However, the feelings that I have about myself on these days have infinitely more to do with what's going on inside me, than with what occurs without. My feelings of confidence and moxie on these days are not because I receive compliments and special treatment in that favorite outfit. It's because I have taken the time to make deliberate choices to present my best version of myself.
I make this point because I want to be careful not to give the impression of demonizing fashion or makeup or wanting to look beautiful. What really gets me is the time and energy that we devote to talking about, thinking about, and acting on the topic. Can't we just scale back the mental monolith that is “beauty?”
And yet here I am giving more space and more time to beauty. But this will be my last word (I think). I have been making tiny changes in my every day to change the hold that “beauty” has on me. I don't wear makeup regularly anymore. It is something that I have taken out of my morning routine. I don't dry my hair, partly because it's too hot, partly because my hair pretty much looks the same with or without quaffing, and partly because it is 5-10 minutes every other day that I would rather spend on something other than my appearance. I am making these tiny changes because I want to challenge the conventional importance of “beauty.” And you know what? I don't feel any less beautiful. In fact I am feeling the opposite effect: I feel free and I know, more and more each day, that I already embody awesome, without having to put it on.
The conversation about beauty is big, complicated, and always evolving. It's important to keep an open mind about different view points and dig into healthy conversation about this topic!
- The more we are able to share our thoughts, beliefs, and ideas about beauty and beauty culture, the more likely we are to change the conversation so that ALL girls feel like they are rocking their best, beautyFULL self. Grab your besties and set aside an evening for snacks and chatter. Create an open, safe, and fun environment where everyone feels welcome and supported to share their perspectives. Remember: Change starts with YOU!
Alyssa grew up on a diet of grilled cheese, books, and ice cream with books predominating. She recently graduated with a Master’s degree in English and lives in her favorite place with her favorite fiancé (she only has one). Post-graduation, her plans are to start a new women’s magazine that leaves women feeling GREAT about who they are, and to open a publishing house for untapped talent.