Renee Engeln, PhD, calls it "an epidemic of beauty sickness." I couldn't agree more.
"You have internalized this notion that your body is always on display for other people," she mentioned in a 2013 TED Talk. "When you are beauty sick, you cannot engage with the world because between you and the world is a mirror; you cannot seem to put it down." The author of Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession With Appearance Hurts Girls and Women often refers to a woman's self-loathing and constant need for comparison alongside other women who we perceive to be 'beautiful' as "self-objectifying." From the fine, silky hair to long lashes, naturally thick brows, the perfectly chiseled cheekbones and plump lips, since childhood we have been conditioned to think that only one definition of beauty exists. And we tend to place an emphasis on outer appearance rather than studying or caring to build upon inner confidence.
To me, your soul defines your beauty.
Personally, I'll always prefer associating with a woman who does not make me question my wardrobe choices and hairstyles while rocking her uniques one with an unphased chill that will not compromise my own over an obviously insecure and uncomfortable woman who puts down others in the process of covering up her own self-hatred. I feel vibes before I pay attention to your shoes or your physical characteristics.
Many women have allowed societal conformity pressures to live in their heads so long that, over time, they have actually convinced themselves to believe that their appearance dominates everything else and that physical 'perfection' is the key to success.
Be honest with yourself. Are you "beauty sick?"
There are also women who claim that magnifying the desire to be as 'beautiful' as possible is empowering. Having the choice of what to wear, from makeup to clothing, and feeling like the decision was made on our own with intentions of pleasing ourselves makes complete sense to me -- if it were completely true. I've heard and seen plenty of women proclaim with an utter definitiveness that wearing heels all the time or getting botox were solely for their own desires. And I say, do what you do!
However, let's also reflect upon each decision we make and who we are really trying to impress, here. While I do think that many women -- including myself -- adorn ourselves with whatever we want to with zero regard to outside opinions, the majority of women still have a distorted sense of self-worth. Many women have allowed societal pressures to conform to live in their heads so long that, over time, they have actually convinced themselves to believe that appearance dominates everything else and that physical 'perfection' is the key to success.
Consider your influences
Think about the shows you watch, the social media pages you follow, and the family or friend's company you keep. If they leave you feeling more insecure at the end of each session, or thinking more about your body and less about your mind and soul, stop entertaining these things. That's when they should stop becoming entertainment in your own life. Re-focus by replacing them with affirming podcasts and pages that will keep you on the track to positivity. I personally enjoy @soulpick, @melanin.art, Black Girl in Om, and Myleik Teele's podcast, MyTaughtYou. The point is to surround yourself with the most well-rounded positivity as possible.
So, can physical beauty actually be a form of power... or not?
If you ask me, it all depends. Like I just mentioned, you have to sit and reflect as an individual about the sartorial choices you make on a daily basis. "What kind of power expires when you are 30?" Engeln asks. "What kind of power is inversely correlated with the attainment of wisdom and life experience?" Perhaps your craving to fit into a 'civilized, well-mannered' society holds too much weight and space in your brain. And if that is the case, let that dead weight go. Actually embrace what you were made to be at each moment in your life. Once you feel the release you will be able to form your own definition of beauty, you will wonder why you ever cared so much.