A Meditation on Beauty

By Kate Ringer

 

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My polished and flawless sister

I was a little shaken after doing my last blog post, My Week With Makeup. It was really hard to see two pictures of me, side by side, where I looked completely different. When I looked at myself wearing makeup, I felt like I finally measured up to the other girls I see walking around campus, the girls who look flawless. I looked older wearing makeup, and certainly more put together. I have a younger sister who is seventeen, and whenever we meet new people, they assume that she is older. Why? She wears makeup, she actually curls or straightens her hair in the morning, she’s polished and flawless and put together and so people assume she is older.

 

 

This worries me.

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Goofy Me

As I near the age of twenty, I want people to know that I am a mature, professional adult. According to a study with questionable funding, my worry is not misplaced. It found that women who wear makeup are perceived to be more competent, likeable, and trustworthy by their workplace colleagues. What first impression do I make?

When I look in the mirror, I feel totally fine about the way I look, until I start thinking about what other people see. What do they see when they look at me? I know that if I started wearing makeup on a daily basis, I would be doing so to please others instead of myself.

A lot of young women choose to wear makeup. Where does this desire come from? Does it come from watching the women in our lives apply lipstick and mascara from the moment we were born? Does it come from unrealistic expectations? Does it come from a place of shame? Or, does it come from something simpler and less sinister than that, a desire to be creative and powerful when it comes to our appearance?

People can get caught up in what our culture has decided is beautiful, but it’s important to remember that these standards are not everyone’s standards. There is no universal definition of beauty, so basing our self worth on something so arbitrary is unhealthy, which is eloquently explained in Hank Green’s video “What Boys Look For in Girls”. Despite that, I know that beauty matters. Whether I want it to or not, our society’s idea of beauty affects the way that other people see me and the way that I see myself.

Beauty isn’t just about the way our faces look. It also has to do a lot with bodies, thinness and curves, and the paradoxical space that we are forced to find somewhere in between. When I see pictures of myself growing up, all I see is thinness. But, I think I probably thought I was fat for the first time when I was seven years old. I was wearing one of my favorite shirts, and one of my friends said, “That shirt makes you look pregnant,” so I laughed it off and thought I was fat and never wore that shirt again. Looking back, I know that it is completely ridiculous, but that moment mattered. I really started to think I was fat when I was eleven, and I was starting to develop boobs and wider hips, earlier than most. I spent the summer when I was twelve running every single morning, running until I was all muscle and no fat, 105 pounds. One of my best friends called me that summer in tears, telling me that she was fat. I was calm, because I knew she wasn’t, and I knew that I could get her to see that.

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Me at 12 or 13

 

“How much do you weigh?” I asked her.

She hesitated a long time. “90 pounds,” she said.

“I weigh 105 pounds. Am I fat?”

“No.”

“Do you feel better?”

“Yes.”

This is a service I have performed many times over the years for my friends, whenever they are starting to feel bad about their bodies. In high school, I had a friend tell me that she was horrified because she had gotten up to 125 pounds. I could barely even look at her when I told her that 125 pounds was my dream weight (by this time I had learned to avoid telling people my weight at all costs). These comparisons were certainly seemed to be for worthy cause, for the self esteem of my friends, but it took a toll to always be the heavier one.

This isn’t about having a pity party for my body. In the past two years, I have gained 20 pounds. 20 pounds. Two years is a long time to get used to things, and now when I look in the mirror, I see curves and thinness, and I like my body. I feel almost ashamed to say that, like being comfortable with myself is something I should be embarrassed about. But, this mentality takes work, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

That’s what beauty is about. It’s about looking in the mirror and liking what you see, being confident and brave and unashamed of everything that you are. It’s not about statistics, or BMI, or standards, or the number on the scale in front of you. Take what you have, and own it. Confidence is everything.

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