You’ve heard it hundreds, if not thousands, of times before: “You’re beautiful just the way you are,” or some saccharine facsimile thereof. It’s possible the platitude has put a bounce in your step on days where your pants have felt a bit tighter than you’d like. Who, after all, doesn’t want to be beautiful? For that reason, skincare companies launch campaigns around the same idea. Hashtags spread across the Twitterverse. Movements bubble and foam up, coating everyone as “beautiful.” If anyone dares question someone’s self-stated “beauty,” rags like HuffPo “blast the haters” in attempts to shout down anyone who disagrees with this newfangled take on beauty. WE’RE ALL BEAUTIFUL!!! the drum-beated mantra goes. Especially those beastly she-men who hope to be prancing ladies. If you dare suggest otherwise, you’re a hateful, body-shaming, (probably anti-woman) bigot. The nerve of you!
Men who think they’re women are not “beautiful.” Women who resemble prehistoric, tusked mammals are not “beautiful.” In fact most people, trans, gay, straight, or those who take their grooming cues from Lena Dunham, are not “beautiful.” And that’s perfectly okay. It’s life. Most people aren’t great painters or musicians. Not everyone is smart or creative. Everyone of us is different. But if one dare suggest not everyone is “beautiful” the compassionate, bloodthirsty bridge trolls grab torches to burn down your village.
Scorched domiciles aside, that’s a problem. The move to make everyone “beautiful” props up beauty as the be all, end all standard of self-worth. The Everyone is Beautiful movement is toxic, as it both diminishes real beauty and sidelines admirable (and attainable) human qualities.
Spare me the platitudes.
Before you chime in with platitudes like “True beauty is on the inside,” spare me. This post isn’t a Disney movie. I’m not writing this to make you feel less guilty about eating that cupcake. If you want to eat the cupcake, please go ahead (this one looks tasty). But don’t cry to me about not fawning over your “curves” which is actually a muffin top. Words mean things, and “beauty” has been commandeered to mean whatever you gosh darn feel like. That’s a problem.
Contrary to a soap commercial, a beautiful face is beautiful because it conforms to a mathematical proportion, specifically the golden ratio (you can read about it here). Yes, beauty is actually objective. It is mathematical.
Attraction is subjective. So yes, you might find someone who is not beautiful attractive. They’re different things, and I don’t want to wade through the semantics swamp so as to coddle someone’s feelings. It’s just best to not confuse “beauty” and “attraction,” they’re not the same thing. Okay? Okay.
Which means numbers, not a self-help blogger, determines if you’re beautiful or not. Your feelings do not make you beautiful. Actions do not make you beautiful. Your accomplishments, blessings, or if you can write an inspirational post about a bullying experience you lived through as a freshman, do not make you beautiful.
Sorry, but it’s true.
If the above paragraph crushes your heart, I’m sorry. You’ve been set up to believe everything can and should be beautiful.
- “We’re all beautiful” is a soul-sinking trick, being pushed to destroy the definition of the word. Because if everyone is beautiful, no one is. Gotcha!
- The body-pride movement seeks to make BEAUTY the thing we should all hope and aspire to be. A rather harsh fall for those who can never measure up. So much for the monopoly on caring, eh?
So while our skincare companies tell us how we should all feel beautiful (packaged into a white matte box so you’ll buy it, bathe in it, and celebrate it), while HuffPo and other online or offline magazines spread the myth you too can be beautiful if you just believe it, they’re missing an all important fact.
What’s on the inside does matter. But it sure as crap ain’t “beauty.”
Break out those #basic posters…
While we’re all hoping to be gorgeous, or for others to “accept our beauty standards” as we redefine them daily to fit our various forms, we often miss character traits that matter, which do not fade as we age, give into our carb and sugar temptations, or are disfigured in a freak gasoline fight accident.
You knew a Zoolander reference was coming. You’re welcome.
Courage. Intelligence. Wit. Ambition. Kindness. Those annoying motivational posters your boss might have pinned up on those taupe walls in your florescent-lit office space to give you “hope.” Gawd am I glad I work from home. But dumbass #basic inspirational posters aside, those traits? They’re what actually make people special. They’re just not as easy to sell in a thirty second, tear-jerking commercial you can share with tween girls. Character is what self-proclaimed fat-feminist, body-pride morons always forget when trying to make Disney Princesses fatter.
When body-pride activists try speaking about self-worth, they ignore what makes people worthy of admiration: character and accomplishments. So rather than encouraging true bravery, instead of promoting intelligence or hard-work, these self-appointed “helpers” often focus their efforts entirely on redefining physical beauty. Which puts more emphasis on the superficial and diminishes authenticity.
No, there is nothing wrong with being beautiful. Or striving to be as attractive as one can be. You’ll never hear me say “looks don’t matter.” They certainly do, especially in romance. But I worry we’re sacrificing actual intelligence, reinventing real courage, and some of us are poo-pooing decency in this futile quest to reinvent a word, all of the sake of our delicate self-esteem.
When a wholly mammoth feminist with bulging cellulite thighs squeezes into a two piece then snaps a photo, she’s called both “brave” and “beautiful.” Sorry, she is neither. But she desperately wants to be. Because she’s been told beauty, above all, is the most important quality one should have. Everyone is beautiful after all. And yes, though this might sound repetitive, most of us long to be beautiful or handsome (for you men who are not aspiring to be pretty, pretty girls). It’s not unnatural want to look good. That’s why the bait and switch of “You’re all beautiful” (when they’re not) is so drastically unfair, coming full circle to bite fat or ugly people in the jiggly rear.
A person who is brave isn’t someone who demands people accept them as a word they’re choosing to redefine. A person with courage is someone who fights for more than how the world sees them in a swimsuit.
Let us place greater value on character, more than whether or not a stranger on the internet finds us “beautiful.”
Sure, we all like looking at pretty people, and yes, attraction matters in choosing a mate. But there’s more to everyone than their physical, exterior appearance despite what the body-positivity movement sells. Most of us are not beautiful. It’s time we stop insisting we all are, or could be with a certain attitude shift. Or if we jumped on the bandwagon and simply redefined the word to mean whatever we want it to mean, so long as it fits us like a giant pair of gray sweatpants.
Beauty is about looks, it isn’t about attitude. Attitude is about attitude. Slap that on a motivational poster.
We shouldn’t strive for something we can never hope to be, while sidestepping the importance of our characters or accomplishments. Constantly reaching for beauty, or redefining it, is a distraction from what will actually make us happier in the long run: what we do with our lives, and how we go about it.
Sorry body-positivity movement. You’re selling lies that aren’t even pretty lies. We’re not all beautiful. Beauty is fleeting, and we’re better than that.
Written by Courtney Kirchoff