Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Beauty is as Beauty Does.

My teenage daughter is enrolled in a Women’s Health class at our local community college and for a recent assignment had to write about beauty.  I do not know what the requirements of the paper were, but I did get to read the response, since I’m the one that pulls the papers off the family printer (it’s one of the small perks of being the grown-up).  While I do not know the What & Why of the paper, I loved the gist of it… what makes someone beautiful.

The paper spoke of how people use the word “Beautiful” for many things found in nature, art and a multitude of other nouns, and how there are multiple synonyms for what’s being described and how they can apply to all of our senses.  My girl then pointed out that words like “skinny, thin, flawless, tan, blonde” are not synonymous with beauty and that many of the descriptive words people use when describing who they consider to be “beautiful people” apply only to what is seen.  My daughter went on to say that to her, beautiful has very little to do with what she sees and that if she were “blind from birth” she would have the same criteria she does now, things like: 

  • Having a personality that makes others enjoy your company
  • Having compassion for your fellow man
  • Being conscientious of those around you
  • Intelligence
  • Just a general happiness.
  • A kind, soothing voice
  • Quirks (“that make you stand out from any one else I’ve ever met before.”)

With all of the media influences available to my 19 year old, I’m awfully glad to know that her standards of beauty have nothing to do with what she’s seen on billboards and packaging.  You should know that A) we do not live in a cave; B) we own multiple televisions and C) magazines and mailer advertisements have threatened to swallow our den and living room a number of times over the years.  I’m not proud, but my daughter was also raised on a steady diet of America’s Next Top Model, My Super Sweet 16, Barbie dolls and more Britney Spears than I’m willing to admit in polite company.  Despite this, my teenager’s standards of what is to be considered beautiful have nothing to do with what I’ve heard from some of her peers, girls who natter on about wanting to be tall, thin, tan and flawless (among other things) in the never-ending pursuit of being beautiful.

How did my kid come out of the printer on the other side of the argument?

It could be, in part, because she was raised in a home where she heard the non-stop chatter of virtues, fables, talk of the golden rule and what it means to walk a mile in another’s moccasins.  Sure, she was always exposed to what the media offered, too – but we took those opportunities to discuss what was being served to us.  In other words, just because something shows up on the menu… you don’t have to eat it.

Self-esteem – how you view yourself, and your overall evaluation or appraisal of self worth – begins at home.  But, if you didn’t grow up with any kind of communication to help you build your own healthy sense of self, how do you find it?  There are likely 1,001 books and courses available to help you, but there are also a million and one images to hurt you.  Those aren’t very good odds.  If you don’t like yourself, it stands to reason you aren’t going to like anyone else either and then it all becomes a vicious cycle that rolls on and on with people tearing each other down, passing constant judgment and continually creating impossible standards for others to stand up to [Seriously.  I’ve seen the people who run the fashion industry – they look NOTHING like the models they design, dress, primp, parade and photograph.  Just sayin’.]

It’s true that I sit with my pot of sometimes over-steeped tea and over-think things and by doing so I often come up with answers to the crap that troubles me.  But like all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, I do not know the answer to how we put ourselves back together again.

Should we just turn off the media’s influences?  Take it upon ourselves to censor or ban what is presented?  Get creative and develop new content?  Decorate a new cave?

This time, I want to hear from you.  Sit down with your own beverage, and share with me and my readers what you think.  As for me, kettle’s on the boil…

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