A reasonably beautiful woman.

A reasonably beautiful woman.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the Dove Real Beauty Sketches campaign in which a forensic artist drew two portraits of a woman- one based on the way she described herself and one based on the way a stranger described her. You can read the details here:

The moral of the story was clearly “Don’t be so judgmental about about yourself- other people think you’re plenty beautiful” and this is a heartening message, but not, perhaps, a complete story.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the topic of beauty lately- even before seeing the Dove campaign. Beauty is a a quality that we value extremely highly, especially in women, and living in a place like Los Angeles is a constant reminder of this fact. Being a beautiful woman in Los Angeles is like having a magic key that opens many doors: the only problem is that you aren’t allowed to know that you have it.

Ask a woman if she is beautiful. If she says “yes” and you agree with her she will seem vain for saying so. If she says “yes” and you don’t agree with her she will seem like she is deluding herself. Because it doesn’t matter what she thinks- beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Beauty is a subjective asset. There is no Absolute Beauty, only a combination of features that the beholder values as attractive. Which is more beautiful? Tall or short? Slim or voluptuous? Tan or fair? Blonde hair? Red hair? Brunette? Black? Straight or curly? Long or short? There is no right or wrong answer.

By this reasoning all women should be able to describe themselves as beautiful: someone out there is bound to find us attractive, right? So why aren’t all women beautiful?

The problem is that girls grow up believing that we are not even allowed to think of themselves as beautiful- because that is vanity. Thinking of yourself as beautiful is the job of evil queens and ugly stepsisters: it is the role of people who are low and self centered so that the good and unknowingly beautiful heroine can find and marry a prince by being good and unknowingly beautiful. So we all strive for this unknowing state so that we can be the heroine instead of being the ugly stepsister.

The problem with this is obvious: if we can’t think of ourselves as beautiful we can’t be anything but critical of ourselves. Beauty is such a highly valued commodity that our confidence, happiness, self esteem and value are all tied to it. And if we refuse to think of ourselves as beautiful then our confidence, happiness, self esteem, and value are all based on how much beauty Other People see in us.

So how do we get around this problem? We believe ourselves beautiful based on our confidence, capability, determination, presence, poise, friendliness, intelligence, good humor, style, and uniqueness instead of the other way around. We stop trying to be unknowing about our own value.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on April 17, 2013.

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