What Real Beauty Means to Us

by Sarah Davidson

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” –Audrey Hepburn

So much of our self-worth seems to be tied into our perception of ourselves, and in turn our beauty. As children, we are given perfectly made up dolls, with feet bent into a shape only fitting for a high heel. As we grow older, we experiment with makeup, attempting to master it as an art of dressing well. Then as adults, we struggle to find a place in our lives to embody our love of fashion, and the beauty products we were raised with, in a way that also allows us to wholly and intentionally love ourselves, and express our own sentiments of beauty. We struggle to express our real beauty and feel comfortable representing ourselves as beautifully imperfect due to constant pressure from the media and our social circles.

For most, it would be unimaginable to look in the mirror one day and not be able to recognize your own face. But for Madi, that’s her reality. After battling with a chronic illness her whole life, she had to have an operation that resulted in the restructuring of her jawline. She began to not be able to see herself as beautiful, just as someone in pain. Soon after waking up from her surgery, she began to notice small changes in her cheekbones and facial details. She had a new face. A new face that came with learning how to recognize herself and feel comfortable in her skin all over again. A new face that came with learning how to apply makeup all over again. Struggling with her illness has caused her to feel othered, marginalized, and grapple with the concept of self-acceptance and self-love. It took a lot of dedication to loving herself for Madi begin to see her real beauty.

Madi, 20, Speech-Language Pathology.

Some people use makeup to cover up their insecurities, but others use makeup as a way to express themselves as an artistic means. Mary never wears makeup. She personally doesn’t think it helps her feel more beautiful and doesn’t bother herself with worrying about putting it on. She originally had a sort of self-proclaimed “judgemental” viewpoint on other girls wearing makeup, but the more time she spent trying to understand other’s perspective she came to accept wearing makeup as a way for girls to feel more confident about themselves. For Mary, beauty is a direct relation to someone’s confidence in themselves.

Mary, 20.

I sat down with Mary and Madi and talk to them openly about what beauty meant to these two beautiful, dynamic women.

SM: What does real beauty mean to you?

Madi: I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I think that Real Beauty is appreciating and loving and treasuring all of yourself: your imperfections, your insecurities, your quirks. It’s realizing those, and accepting those, and then coming to love those aspects of yourself and then embodying that spirit of love and self-acceptance to those around you. I really think that’s what real beauty is: it’s loving yourself and emitting that through your skin, through your eyes, and how you treat other people.

Mary: Being happy with yourself, being confident with yourself. I think a lot of beauty revolves around confidence. If you’re confident, other people will see that and think you’re more beautiful.

SM: What can you tell me about your journey with self-acceptance?

Madi: After the surgery, I struggled a lot. But here I am, 10 months post-op, and I’m here smiling and loving life. My face looks different. It took a lot of prayer and self-acceptance to realize that my beauty isn’t defined by what I look like; beauty isn’t defined by how much makeup I’m wearing, how much I’m covering up, or the shape of my joints. My beauty is defined by my self-love and how I let that shine through me.

SM: To you, how does makeup play into this discussion? How does it shape your perception of beauty?

Madi: If you would’ve asked me this when I was 13, I would’ve told you it was all about trying to cover up, trying to hide. But now it’s so much the opposite. It’s about enhancing what’s already there and helping me feel real and beautiful.

Mary: I don’t wear makeup. I don’t judge others for wearing makeup anymore. If it helps someone feel more confident, then that’s what matters. It’s their choice, and if it helps them feel beautiful, that’s all there is to it.

SM: What do you think is the biggest barrier to people feeling beautiful?

Mary: The Media. Movies, and Advertisements, they stick to the mainstream idea of what beauty is. I think that really affects how girls feel about how beautiful they are.

SM: When do you feel the most beautiful?

Madi: When I’m with my friends, and we’ve spent time getting all dressed up and we’re all together having fun. There’s a shared sense of beauty, and friendship, and empowerment, and together and that’s what makes me feel the most beautiful. When we all feel beautiful together.

Mary: I feel the most beautiful when I’m wearing my favorite t-shirt, when I’m with my friends and when I’m happy. I guess when I feel confident, I feel equally as beautiful.

 

These incredible women have two very different opinions on how beauty products factor into one’s self-acceptance, but neither argues against the ability for it to make someone feel more confident. The definition of real beauty is going to differ from person to person, and the connotation of what real beauty really means even more so. Nonetheless, it’s a dialogue that needs to be happening, in friend groups, in households, and in the public eye. For me, real beauty is about remaining confident and owning every little detail about oneself in the way that feels the most comfortable for that person. Every day, I’m inspired by the individuals who embody real beauty in every facet of their lives.

 

Sarah Davidson is a rhetoric and writing major at UT. She’s interested in politics, literature, and the arts. She’s hoping to go to law school, and follow after Elle Woods and pursue public interest. She’s inspired by women empowering other women.

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