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What is beauty, what does it really mean to be beautiful?
The media has been bombarding us with its own definition of what beauty is for a long time. Social media has been both an advantage and disadvantage when it comes to challenging the definition of beauty.
When I was growing up, I do not remember seeing anyone that remotely resembled me, or that I could identify with physically in the mainstream beauty industry. With the rise of social media, came the rise of empowerment, self-love but also the desire to constantly look good and the need to feed your social media with selfies. We have seen Plus size women, dark-skinned women and Hijabi women taking over the fashion and beauty industry. We have seen companies birthed from those wanting to promote self-authenticity, women being encouraged to love their curly hair, natural complexions, and curvy bodies.
Despite all these positive changes, there is still a level of self-consciousness, a desire to look as they say "on point." A few years ago I asked some young girls what beauty meant to them and how they felt on the subject, here are their responses.
I feel insecure about how I look and I can only feel confident about how I look when I wear makeup; the only thing I’m confident about is my body. I always compare myself to other girls and I can’t help it. Sometimes makeup isn't even enough and I just wish I could change everything, especially my lips. I hate the fact that the media has made me feel like this but I also salute the fact that it has made me the opinionated smart ass I am today. It’s a contradictive loop that I can’t get out of unless I feel like I am beautiful, and that is extremely rare. – Nigerian British, aged 14
I feel that the way society portrays us (hijabis) makes me feel insecure about what we do and what our actions are based on or about. As a teenage girl, I do have quite a few insecurities, which make me feel down about myself like my weight, pimples, among other things. Society and social media are making us insecure from the way people are creating false impressions of themselves that are faking their own imperfections. Teens like to lie about their lives in order to feel slightly better about what they think they’re missing out on. I think that how we express ourselves is really important in every aspect of life. - Moroccan British, aged 13
Personally, I'd describe myself as a strong-minded girl but when I see pictures of girls who have the flattest stomachs, flawless skin and beautiful hair I just wish I had it. We all feel like we need to somehow prove our beauty by posting pictures showing skin or without the scarf to symbolise, like, "hey guys I do have hair & I'm not bald". By covering up, we have a level of dignity by showing men they can't just have what they want and see what they want to see, they have to earn it. Anything that is valuable should be protected. So to end this, my main message is to be happy with who you are and SLAYYYY because you are beautiful. —Somali British, aged 14
How do we expect young girls like these to grow up and be confident within themselves if most of us only project a certain image of ourselves?
Is it not our responsibility as adult women to break this idea of only looking beautiful when wearing makeup?
As an adult when I scroll through my Instagram feed I too sometimes feel like I need to put makeup on, lose weight etc just to feel better about myself. I have days where I stare into the mirror and I'm not satisfied with my reflection, I then spend hours on the internet watching videos on losing weight, makeup tutorials anything to improve myself. I was once told by my younger sister, “Feeling beautiful has to come from within.”
I was struggling with self-love and self-acceptance within myself that I forgot the type of message I was sending my younger sisters. Despite all the advice I would give them, I was suppressing my own insecurities and wearing makeup almost everywhere I went and going on random diets. I was dependent on these things to feel beautiful about myself. As difficult as it was I decided to focus on other things like my mental wellbeing. I currently do not wear makeup on a daily basis and only to events and weddings. I got used to staring at myself in the mirror and being happy to go out into the world the way I was created. I am slowly getting used to the idea of taking photographs of my natural face (like the one above), it is much harder than it sounds to present your unfiltered self to the world but I'm getting there.
The more I worked on my mental wellbeing, the less I cared what others thought of me which made it much easier to accept myself. So, in conclusion, live your life fully and unapologetically.