Recently, I attended my school’s winter formal. The time preceding the dance was filled with the following: getting a mani-pedi at a nail salon, getting a blowout at DryBar, and spending 2+ hours on my makeup. This doesn’t include the preparation that took place before the actual day of formal, which involved ordering three potential dresses, applying nightly face masks, and debating whether or not I should try tanning in 60 degree weather (…it didn’t end up happening).
I love getting dolled up, but the amount of time, money, and effort I dedicated to my appearance for a 3 hour dance is a bit absurd.
As females, we are expected to conform to certain standards of beauty (of course, males face similar pressures). From flat stomachs to thigh gaps to big butts to pouty lips to flawless skin to sleek hair…the media bombards us with expectations of what a “beautiful” woman looks like.
The reality is that beauty standards have existed for ages and will continue to exist. These standards shift based on what costs the most resources to attain and is most difficult to maintain. For example, today’s culture appears to value thinness, but plumper bodies were ideal in early time periods.
Beauty standards are inevitable, and I am not against all of them. Some are generally harmless, like shaving your legs or applying mascara. However, certain standards can be damaging. This is where we need to pause and make a conscious choice of whether we will participate or not.
3 Questions To Ask Yourself
- Is it harming my health? While many beauty standards are nondestructive, this is not always the case. Thinness as a standard of beauty can be problematic. I am all about making healthy lifestyle changes– eating nutrient-dense foods, integrating enjoyable exercise daily, getting a good night’s sleep, and incorporating self-care and stress-relieving rituals are extremely important for your wellbeing. However, many people are under the impression that restricting their caloric intakes and working out obsessively are both “healthy” and will help them achieve slimmer frames, which is not true. These practices are detrimental to one’s physicality by ruining gut health, hormonal health, etc. and to one’s mental health by evoking food guilt, anxiety, etc. Before pursuing weight loss (or another beauty standard), it is critical to consider the possible harmful effects.
- Is it becoming obsessive? A beauty standard should never be idolized, nor should it be a way to measure your worth. If meeting a specific expectation is all-consuming, that is a clear indicator of a standard you should not participate in.
- Is it making me unhappy? Straightening your hair every morning might feel like a chore. If you think those 20 minutes could be devoted to something that will bring you more joy, put down the straightener! Don’t waste your time on things that are unnecessary and will not contribute to your happiness.
As cliché as it sounds, your exterior does not reflect your true beauty. Beauty is created through your attitude, behavior, and actions. It isn’t wrong to want to conform to certain beauty standards, but there is so much power in loving yourself as you are. Learning to love yourself is a process– you must tolerate your flaws before you can accept them, and you must accept them before you can embrace them. Then, you may come to the realization that your “flaws” aren’t actually flaws at all. They make you, you. And you were fearfully and wonderfully made.
“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4 NIV).
I hope this post challenged, inspired, or uplifted you in some way. What are your thoughts on beauty standards?