Beauty is a variable concept. In most circumstances, it falls under the category of opinion. Our surroundings, society, upbringing, and experiences all contribute to how we define beauty for ourselves. For those who grow up in trauma, their beauty identity is confused, warped, and damaged. When a person feels unloved, unwanted, and discarded, they will struggle to accept, acknowledge or even recognize their own beauty. It can take many years, and a lot of healing before they are able to see beauty in themselves. We first need to recognize and know which beholder we are giving the power of our beauty to.
Much like the ugly duckling, I grew up believing I was ugly. I was regularly compared with my older sister, I constantly contrasted myself against her, and found myself wanting in every respect. My sister was a beauty her entire life. She was the standard against which I held all women. I did not meet that standard. In my perspective, she was wanted, I was discarded. She was loved, I was unlovable. She was beauty, I was ugly.
When I was in grade 12, we got the traditional graduation photos done, and Mom hung mine under my sisters. It was then that I realized we looked very much alike … and I was forced to acknowledge that there must be beauty within me if I looked that much like her. I clung to that. Those two pictures hung close together in a very obvious location and every time I saw them I was reminded that there was beauty in me. When I felt my ugliest, I would remind myself that I looked, at least a little bit, like my sister. Recently, my cousin gave me some photos she’d found of my sister and I when we were very young – around age 5 & 8 – and I again realized how similar we were, even then. In recognizing that I looked very much like my sister, I had to admit and accept that there must be beauty in me. I started looking for it.
It’s been a long journey for me. Even though people have told me I’m beautiful, I’ve never truly believed it. I’ve never embraced it or allowed it to become a part of my identity.
I’m only now starting to see it without prompting. Sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror and have to take a second look to make sure I’m seeing myself. I’ll see a photo and recognize the beauty within it. I’m frequently surprised by my own beauty. Last year, I made a resolution to focus more on my presentation, and to accept what I see; who I am. I started taking more care with my appearance, I’ve worked on muscle toning, I’ve been more aware of how to dress, how to style my hair fashionably and appropriate to my age. I’ve been more purposeful about skin-care.
I think it’s important and valuable to recognize our own beauty. Not to be conceited or to hold it over another person, but to improve our self-esteem. We must see our own value for others to see our value. When I know my own worth, I will be more inclined to join in relationship with others who also see my worth. If I diminish my worth, then I am more susceptible to be further devalued by those I surround myself with. In order to have healthy relationships, I must also have a healthy relationship with myself.
I think this is a concept not talked enough about. When I was younger, I often got the message that it was unacceptable to talk about one’s own beauty. Girls who focused on their looks were considered vain, vapid, and self-absorbed. Being beautiful was often portrayed as synonymous with stupid. I still struggle with in this area. I sometimes have to shove down the feelings of ugly, and worthlessness. I sometimes have to silence my cynicism and tell myself it’s okay to see my own beauty. Let’s change the dialogue.
I am beautiful; and that’s okay.
You are beautiful too… do you see it?