You’d be surprised to learn that a girl who failed algebra filled her diary with mathematical equations and formulas.
Scribbles of addition and subtraction dominated the loose leaf pages. Add more makeup. Minus hair frizz. Add whiter teeth. Take away love handles. For many of us its an equation similar to this one, always coming to equal the same outcome: Beauty. Desirability. Attractiveness.
Well I knew algebra well enough to see that I had a variable that canceled everything else out on my journey towards finding the true summation of beauty in this world. Psoriasis. My skin grows seven times faster than the normal rate. I experience what is called a build up, my skin builds up on top of itself, effecting the areas of my scalp and eyebrows. When I first found out that I had this skin condition, eight years ago, there was no real treatment on the market, just home remedies. Nearly every Sunday night I would sit at the kitchen table. My mother would apply tar to my scalp and then she would rip away the built up skin from the week before. I know… not a very pretty image. After the process ended an hour later she covered my head in baby oil to ease the bleeding of my scalp. One week later the skin had grown back and the tar rituals would commence again, each week for several years.
My peers did not look at me sympathetically, they looked at me and saw this plague of difference. I dealt with the labels I was given: the girl with lice, Head and Shoulders, greaser. I learned not to expect the words I secretly wanted to hear: beautiful, radiant, gorgeous or even a simple, “you’re pretty.”
I just wish for the life of me that I could pin point exactly when I learned what constitutes beauty and how I came to dispel it from my reach.I look back on that young girl who was constantly etching equations in her diary and I cannot help but grow somber. I think about the tears that came from the harsh words of my peers and how with each joke and ridicule caused me to sink deeper into myself, more ashamed and more worthless.
I am still quite taken aback by the word “beautiful” and the power it seemingly holds. I think it is a dangerous word. I think it falls into hands in this society that delegate who really should have it. I think we all deserve it, not just when we get dressed up or when our parents pay us a compliment, I think we deserve it no matter what. With or without makeup. With or without losing 10 pounds.
We all know how easy it is to brush off that statement, “You are beautiful on the inside and that is all that counts.” It may be true but there is a magazine sitting next to me with a size 2 model on the cover who begs to differ. There are products on the market that I should be using, new applications of makeup that I should be trying. Beautiful is an industry that I tend to see as ugly.
It gets ugly when we forget to value ourselves, when we let our flaws become our most accentuated attributes. When we stare in the mirror and only see our blackheads or wish we could have better hair. Then we forget our inner workings, what really matters at the end of the day. Last weekend I saw a young girl in a circle with her peers grabbing at the baby fat on her hips, saying, “I am SO fat.” I wanted so badly to walk up to her, to tell her she was beautiful, to tell her not to waste her time with negative thoughts and to not put down her own best friend: herself. This coming from a girl who, as her mother ripped out the chunks of built up skin from her scalp, ripped out her own hopes of ever coming to life. Allowing ourselves to just be beautiful is easier said than done.
But I do think inner beauty is what we need to find at the end of the day; it is the only way to cling to something true inside of ourselves. What constitutes as “beautiful” or “desirable” is ever shifting and changing. We can beat ourselves up over trying but we won’t ever emerge as winners. And if we rely on other people to tell us that we are pretty or gorgeous then how do we cope when they are taken from the equation and we are left with only ourselves.
A friend of mine always laughs at me when I make a joke of standing in front of the mirror and giving yourself a giant hug. It sounds absolutely ridiculous and you don’t legitimately have to grip yourself in a bear hug fashion, but the takeaway is the idea of accepting yourself on a daily basis. It’s saying, “you know, I am going to have have Psoriasis for the rest of my life so I best learn to deal with it,” or “This is my size and these are my hips and this is what a curvy woman looks like.” There are a million different statements in each one of us, a billion proclamations of truth. But beauty to me, true beauty, no longer resides on a billboard or on page 76 of a magazine.
Beauty is no longer something I treat as a complicated math equation but rather a love letter; a love for my legs, for they help me to walk, a love for my eyes, for they help me to see, a love for my mouth, for it allows me to speak my thoughts, a love for these fingers, because through them I reach all of you, a love for my smile, because it holds immense power to brighten a room, and a love for myself, because I am unique and independent and oh yes, I am beautiful.
How do you define beauty?