When a woman says, “I want to make my house beautiful,” all her friends applaud this idea. But when she says, “I want to make myself beautiful,” everyone looks at her with concern, if not judgment. When did wanting to be beautiful turn into something to be concerned about? This question has an easy, but sad answer. A woman saying she wants to be beautiful often brings to mind cultural stereotypes of “beauty” and images of thousands of girls all around the world who torture themselves both physically and mentally to comply with a contrived standard. But is that really what wanting to be beautiful is all about? The key lies in understanding the power of the words “I want.”
If beauty is a personal goal you set for yourself, no one should be telling you what to want as long as you are defining beauty based on your own opinion and only for yourself. Then what about the idea that “you should like yourself just the way you are”? Think about it this way. If you say, “I want to be smarter,” no one would begrudge you books or classes or say you should accept your level of intellectual development. Nevertheless, we say this regarding beauty because we assume that the opposite of wanting to be beautiful is believing yourself to be ugly, which is believed to produce self-loathing. We invoke the “accept yourself” sentiment to combat such dire effects. But what if wanting to improve does not mean you are presently at zero on your own beauty scale? For instance, saying, “I want to have smoother skin” does not mean that I hate how I look, it just means it would make me happy to see smoother skin in the mirror. Beauty can be seen as an area of personal growth just like any other, and people should be encouraged to spend their energy improving in the way that is most pleasing to them.
Let’s say you now believe that beauty can be an acceptable personal goal, but what does it actually mean to be beautiful, and how will you know when you have achieved it? Saying, “I want to be beautiful” is just like saying, “I want to be happy” without defining happiness. Understanding what you mean by “beautiful” will allow you to target your self-improvement energy. It may involve getting your body in shape, changing your hair style, or wearing an amazing outfit. Taking this one step further, if the outfit is what makes you feel beautiful that day, having a killer hair style would not be enough even though that is an element of beauty as well. Being beautiful is about looking the way you want in those aspects that are important to you.
Now that we can better define beauty as a personal self-improvement goal let’s re-focus on the motivation. The idea that women could want to improve their appearance solely for themselves is hard for many to believe. This is because, sadly, when many women say, “I want to be beautiful,” they have an ulterior goal in mind. They may believe that, “I have to be beautiful to be lovable” or “I have to be beautiful to achieve what I want in life.” These statements are truly concerning and go beyond feeling like you are not measuring up to societal norms. They reflect an attempt to gain self-worth from physical appearance. The fact is that no amount of beauty treatments can increase someone’s self-worth since those are unrelated things. If the power of making yourself lovable is given to beauty, then the failure to feel lovable when “beauty” is achieved just makes you seek higher and higher levels of “beauty.” When these attempts inevitably result in failure, society ascribes the problem to the desire for beauty since it is visible. However, the real problem is the feeling of being unlovable that is hidden from the world. A question you need to honestly answer is “Who do I want to be beautiful for?
Each person defines beauty for themselves, and no one has the right to dictate what beauty means or judge the desire to be more beautiful. No one needs a justification for wanting to look the way they want to look. It is OK to look in the mirror and say, “I am gorgeous” because that is how I want to be.
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