Beauty Should Not Be a Pain

There is nothing new about beauty standards, but that doesn’t mean that we’re doomed to succumb to the complexity of the concept.


Kevin Laminto / Unsplash

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it,” said Confucius.

There is a well known phrase ‘beauty is pain,’ and given all that we must face in regards to our own beauty, one might be inclined to believe that it’s true. 

Beauty, by definition, is a set of traits that makes someone or something appear aesthetically pleasing to look at. Beauty is subjective; not everyone has the same standards for what they find to be visually appealing. 

There are a myriad of factors that play into what someone may do to present themselves in a more attractive light. Unfortunately, this makes the journey to self-confidence challenging.

Beauty standards and trends quickly change, making them difficult to keep track of. Standards such as shiny skin, layered hair, and a couple of popular makeup styles varying from minimal looks to aesthetically bold looks. 

There are a number of ways in which society has warped the concept of beauty in its favor. With regards to beauty, many individuals find themselves seeking approval from others, believing that external validation will lead to self-acceptance. But this tends to backfire, as it creates a desperation for the opinions of others. The individual, in this case, would be more inclined to disregard their own opinion concerning how they present themselves. 

However, this phenomenon is not simply confined to one’s immediate surroundings. The influences exist everywhere. Social media pushes certain expectations to the forefront for how someone might want to look. Particularly, influencers who carry immense power over the way in which their followers may act. 

These behaviors are not always positive. Some influencers or celebrities contribute to toxic cultures or practices that may seem normal to them. A notable example of the different spheres of influence is within the body positivity movement. One such online creator, who goes by Hillary, works in arts management and performance studies, and creates body positive content through her love of fashion and art on her page, @subversivesocialite. She is making it a point to embrace own own bodies, no matter the body type, in order to inspire others to love their own. 

But no changes to any of our bodies will magically break open happiness and fulfillment and a sense of self worth. There’s still a difference between the way the world treats you and the way you feel about yourself. Often they overlap, because it’s hard to fight everyone telling you you’re not worth anything and tell yourself you are, but there’s not a causal relationship,” she said. 

However, others — like the Kardashians — demonstrate unrealistic body images that some people start to try to pursue naturally, despite such body proportions being unnatural. Many celebrities deny the use of plastic surgery or procedures done on them, normalizing the idea that these expectations should somehow be met through “natural” means. Even after one might achieve this “perfect body,” there are still filters and photoshop available to change one’s figure in photos even more before posting. This may lead to more people dealing with issues such as low self-esteem and/or eating disorders. The effects of these influencers’ actions carry varying degrees of severity, and one should always look out for works of media that push harmful rhetoric about how one treat’s one’s body. 

Sometimes feeling secure in one’s figure proves itself to be quite demanding. It seems that one can be judged for nearly any aspect of their appearance. Mid-sized and plus-sized individuals get fat shamed for not fitting into the “standards” for body size and shape. Many thinner individuals also receive insults to their figures, creating a cycle of body constant self deprecation. 

Though both experiences are widely different, that doesn’t erase the insecurity that many people of different body types feel due to comments such as “you should eat more,” “you should eat less,” “you should start doing exercise, you’re getting a little too wide,” and much more. 

Not only are there the mental and physical aspects of beauty standards, but also monetary ones. Some individuals, in an effort to enhance their natural appearance, might find it difficult to afford items that have been recommended to make them look prettier. Many beauty brands around the world tend to cater to lighter skinned people. Many individuals with darker complexions find searching for foundations, concealer, or blush that suit their skin color to be very difficult. This already poses a challenge, even more so with the prices for many products that might have something more accessible.  Luckily, there are alternatives to expensive items available for the general public. A couple of options are thrifting or upcycling clothing to fit one’s personal tastes, or researching some quality makeup brands that might be found in a drugstore. 

One cannot discuss the external aspects of this topic without acknowledging the internal conflicts battling within an individual for self-love and validation. Societal pressures cause doubt and insecurity, creating a major barrier between an individual and their confidence in themselves. There seems to be this belief among relatively insecure individuals that something must be “fixed,” as if there was something broken about them to begin with. There is a danger involved in the possibility of becoming obsessed with all of the “fixes” out there. What one sees on the outside shouldn’t be the driving force for one’s self perception.  

I spent most of my academic life wearing uniforms and only clothes that passed my family’s approval, but what they liked almost never aligned with what I liked. I grew tired of the same T-shirts and jeans, and I didn’t like my hair or the bumps on my face. I spent a lot of time watching Youtube tutorials, taking notes, making lists of products and trying to save up to buy and try them out. To an extent, the research worked. I learned a lot about how to be kinder to myself, my skin, and my hair. It was so easy to slip into a hole of self hatred while looking at girls that I thought were so much prettier than I was. Fortunately, I see now that what I do is strictly for me, and any new skincare or hair routine I try are for my health and fueling my own self love. 

I think I feel comfortable in my own skin because my comfort with myself has very little to do with my body. I think I’m brilliant and funny and charismatic and I like those things about myself. I’m driven and proud of myself for being good at accomplishing what I set my mind to,” Hillary added. 

No matter how aligned with modern beauty standards one becomes, no amount of beauty products will be able to erase certain negative feelings one may hold against themselves. If one attached their self worth to their beauty, how does one come to feel when those standards continue to change and are increasingly difficult to keep up with and maintain? What we tend to project on the outside is connected to how we feel on the inside. This feeling that one must keep becoming better and more beautiful creates a cycle of distaste and temporary happiness, so where does the self improvement project really end? When one gets exhausted? 

There are multiple ways to overcome these challenges in the way of finding ways to feel beautiful. None of the items on this list have to do with what beauty, skin, or hair products might be most accessible and worth buying. Each item is catered to development of the self, so that you can start your own journey and feel good about each step. 

1. Experimentation 

If you’re able to do so, don’t be afraid to try something new. Of course, find what is most accessible to you and conduct some research to figure out exactly what you might need to achieve your goal. If your goal is skin-care oriented, you should conduct research to figure out what your skin type may be and what products best cater to what you’re looking for. 

2. Clear goals  

If there’s anything that will help you maintain your discipline in achieving your goals, appearance-centered or otherwise, you need to have clear goals. Identify what you’re looking for and set a reasonable amount of time to achieve it. Moving forward without some sort of an idea of what you want to achieve, you may get stuck and get discouraged from continuing. Having a clear image in your head to motivate you to keep going despite any challenges that may present themselves along the way is really important. 

3. Work on yourself first, you deserve it 

If any changes to your appearance are coming out of a place of hate, it’s highly encouraged that you find a way to convert that into self love and care. The process is difficult, no matter which way you put it, but there is something to love about any individual. Perhaps you can look in the mirror and identify at least three things you like about your features, think about them, and appreciate them, even for just a moment. Even a little bit of progress is a strong step forward into something that you might feel amazing about later, without the intense pressure of self-hate always weighing upon your shoulders. 

4. This is all for you, always remember that 

 Similar to the previous point, anything you choose to do on this journey must be for you as well. Any changes made are changes that you will live with for however long you allow them to last. To make a change, especially a change that you dislike, purely for the sake of someone else may lead down an unhealthy path. If it’s something that you truly don’t wish to do to yourself, stand your ground. It’s your body, your face, your hair, just you, and anything you choose to do should be for your benefit and well-being.

Beauty is subjective, but in today’s society, especially America’s, people hold high standards for beauty which might not be representative or realistic, but these standards shouldn’t matter. I hope this article helps readers realize that there is more than one way to be beautiful, and that not fitting a mold of society’s so-called beauty defines their character. 

Beauty is subjective, but in today’s society, especially America’s, people hold high standards for beauty which might not be representative or realistic, but these standards shouldn’t matter.