I met a 13 yr old girl once in order to interview her for some research work. I can’t remember her name or where exactly she lived. But I’ll never forget the way she sat in her living room with her hair neatly tied and her course books lining the background and looked me in the eye and said, ‘i’m not beautiful like my friends’.
Her matter-of-fact confession seemed such a statement of fact than an admission of low self-esteem that it shook me. I don’t think I said much to comfort her. She wasn’t looking to be advised or comforted. She was simply stating something that she believed to be true.
What makes a 13 yr old beautiful girl accept with unquestioning loyalty, the thought that she is not beautiful?
Over the years, many people have spoken about the beauty within. Or about beauty that lies in the eye of the beholder. The trouble with these concepts is tht nobody will listen. These statements demand far too much work from the listener. For one,t his concept demands that you be okay with just inner beauty. When I buy a new shampoo I’m buying it for my hair. I’m buying it to change something about me for the better. The desire to change and to improve is so strong at that moment that no amount of beauty I may have stuffed inside me will help me change my mind.
So if millions of women across the world aren’t listening to this advce, maybe then, the advice itself is wrong.
What really is the trouble with beauty today? There’s nothing wrong with a teen girl wanting to cut her hair short so that it shapes her face beautifully. But there is something wrong with an 8 yr old girl trying botox. Perhaps the notion of beauty as an ideal state needs challenging. But then as humans, we’re always aspiring for the ideal. Perhaps then the notion that there is only one kind of beauty, needs challenging.
Real beauty, then, is perhaps really about acceptance. Accepting your grey hair. Accepting that those stretch marks are a part of you. That they add character and tell the story of where you have been and what you have experienced. Real beauty is in knowing that the acne marks don’t need to be scraped off with chemical peels because they speak of your struggles during your teen years. Wiping your body clean of its past will not always give you a fresh start, it might however wipe away parts of you that make you who you are.
Real beauty is about accepting your body, your soul for what it is. There will always be scope for improvement. You can always try and be a better person or one that you consider more beautiful. But the day that desire to improve comes from a sense of inferiority, you’ll end up chasing a dream that was never really yours.
If I could go back to that 13 yr old girl, I’d say this – find the time to love things about yourself and you’ll be surprised at how much beauty you already possess. I’m sure she wouldn’t listen. Perhaps then as adults it’s our duty to not point out every thing that we think young girls don’t have. It’s time we put up neon signs to show them the amazing things they already have.
For those who believe in the cause, look for Project Beautiful Me on Facebook. It’s a small something I’m trying to do.
Also Dove’s running a campaign where they’re asking people what they think of Real Beauty and I’m cross-posting this there. If this is a cause someone in India is willing to take seriously, then I’m with that. Totally.