You, My Love, are Beautiful
Beauty is a dynamic and complex idea. Beauty ranges culturally and beauty has changed over time. Society’s perception of beauty in the 21st century, especially in American culture, is very detrimental to the development of identity and self worth in young women and men. So as I explain to you my meaning of beauty, I suggest that you take it with a grain of salt.
For years, I would look in the mirror and saw absolutely nothing beautiful. Since freshman year of high school, I have been fighting to be at peace with my body’s natural curves. It was exhausting, depressing, and made me extremely anxious. My weight went up and down along with my feeling of self worth. With my Instagram feed full of stick thin models who looked nothing like me, I strived toward an unhealthy and unreasonable body, something my bigger boned body type could never achieve. My goal was always “just” five pounds less, but I was never satisfied. I thought that society’s idea of beautiful was more important than my own.
When I began to truly love myself, I became the best version of myself yet. Since then, I have unfollowed those accounts and replaced them with body positive accounts. Seeing bodies that looked more like mine and recognizing those women as beautiful was a transcendent experience for me. Even though this summer has been the most debilitating experience of my chronic pain yet, I still am able to look at my body in the mirror and think to myself, “Look how resilient you are!”
I give so much credit to myself for getting me to where I am, but I wouldn’t be who I am without the extensive support that I know I am privileged to have had. For years I saw a nutritionist, Diana Lipson Burge, whose unconditional support and education has made me the strong and confident woman I am. Both of my sisters have changed the way I see what it means to be a woman and their positive and strong attitudes kept me going when it got tough. Eve, my younger sister, has had Celiac Disease since she was 10 months old, and taking charge of her bodily autonomy has been her life since day one. It is inspiring to see such a young woman have established independence and control over her body. Clare, my older sister, just graduated from Brown University as a Psychology major and I cannot wait to see the amazing impact that she will have on the mental health community in the coming years.
In the past year, I have maintained my progress by committing to little acts of self care and self love each day. Living in the winter in Montreal, I made an effort to moisturize my face and entire body each morning and night. It seems like a small gesture, but for me this daily act made me appreciate my body more than ever before. Knowing its benefits with people who struggle with chronic pain, I began to go to yoga and learned to fully calm my brain while healing my body. Little things that I do even on a weekly basis have made me a more confident and happy person.
So much of what beauty means to me is self care. I am aware that makeup itself can seem conflicting with raw self love. Makeup for me is a way of treating my body like a piece of art. There are days where I don’t even bother touching my face and don’t think twice about the sweatpants and dirty tee I put on- we all have those days. But, the days that I seek inspiration are spent in front of an LED lit mirror going at it with brushes, products, and of course, Q- tips (my savior). Whether it be from my artistically minded Instagram feed, the streetwear culture of Montreal, or the inventive fashion sense of my girl squad, I am constantly creating and switching around with my own experience of beauty.
When the girls and I decide to go out for the night, we are going all out. To say the least, the pregame is mostly just music blasting in the bathroom while five girls fight for mirror space. By the time I reached my second semester of university, I had plenty of practice and time for experimentation with makeup. Each time one of the girls in my residence hall would ask me to do their makeup, I felt so honored that they appreciated my art. I love to share the experience of confidence with other girls, and it is amazing that makeup is one way I can.
Beauty is so many things. Beauty is overcoming. Beauty is the stretch marks on my chest and hips. Beauty is having the strength to get out of bed. Beauty is you. Beauty is me. Beauty is everything you want it to be.
Photo by Lucy McDonald