Tuesday, November 11, 2008

On Beauty and Identity


Today Dr. Oz is on Oprah.  The topic:  The Science of Beauty.  As I watch, I keep thinking about this human obsession with aesthetics.  I am no different.  My eye is drawn to beautiful things: colors I that make me feel, clean lines and simple patterns.  I also appreciate the beauty of the human face and body.  Today, in my layered blue collar shirt against a yellow sweater, I felt beautiful.  My clothing was beautiful, my muscles felt aware, stronger (and maybe a bit achey) from all that work I did at the gym yesterday and that makes me feel beautiful.  On the days I feel beautiful on the outside, I am more confident, even a bit happier.

But what if I lost those days altogether?  

It happens.  People's bodies are ravaged by terminal illness, they age, they get fat, their lives are forever altered by damaging accidents.  Tragedy, unfortunately, is a part of life.  And eventually, everyone's looks deteriorate.  

So what if I never had another day to feel beautiful on the outside?  Would I sink into misery and self-loathing?  Would my inner beauty pivot into the grotesque?  Would I lose my sense of self?  I ask this because I wonder how much our sense of our own beauty is intricately woven with our sense of who we are. 

Many of my female students have not made the separation between their innate value and their appearance.  In their minds, their worth is directly connected to how they look.  I've known many grown women caught in this thinking fallacy.  And while I admit that appearance matters, anyone can tell you that it doesn't matter forever and it doesn't matter in every situation.  

I think that, like most things, it comes down to balance.  Recognize and appreciate beauty, but don't worship it.  Don't allow it to infiltrate every opinion you have of yourself or the world around you.  Don't allow the pursuit of aesthetic perfection to block your appreciation of the beauties in imperfection.  Acknowledge that our notions of what is beautiful can be fickle.  Look at cultures the world over. Look at fashion.  Look at my hair circa 1992 (and then remember that I was 11 and have mercy on me).
 

Because beauty is important.  But it shouldn't be everything.

9 comments:

Stacy said...

I totally agree Looks and beauty aren't everything. However, if one is truly not beautiful on the inside it shows through to the outside. And all the make-up and fashion in the world can't cover that up.

Wemdu Pea said...

Amen Sista! The more I sag (some parts already did sag), the more I enjoy my life.

(one vain side note** Bug told Bud tonight that he had to leave her room while she got her pjs on because her "boobies are starting to get longer!" Why longer? Why not bigger? Niether is true...but does she think they grow down because my do?)

Did Dr. Oz talk at all about inner beauty? Did they talk at all about how ugliness on the inside can make you ugly on the outside?

e said...

i love this post! i'm conflicted by beauty. i'm always trying to figure out why i think things are beautiful.

i'm obsessed with lines, and colors and textures and looking at faces.

what makes people beautiful.

anyways, i'm slightly obsessed. i think beauty is kind of a burden for women. either being gorgeous, or not being gorgeous. both has its weight.

silvernic said...

Yeah buddy. I used to look exactly like Brad Pitt. I'm not sure what happened, but one day I look in the mirror and all I see is a Salvador Dali impression of the old Brad Pitt-Me: all bloated and stretched and confused!?! I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm not the eye-pleasing chick magnet that I once was on the outside, but it's interesting to me to realize how much impact that fact really has on the rest of me.

Alice said...

Beauty is an interesting things for sure. I often wonder why is some ways it is subjective? I also get a little irritated by the measure of beauty hollywood and the media has perpetuated.

I notice beautiful things. I like nice looking clean and simple designs. When it comes to people I can't help but measure the beauty I know of (or lack thereof) on the inside much more, which I think most would agree. But even people I don't know, total strangers, something in me some how is attracted to something more than what they look like on the outside? Am I making sense?

I probably would have done better to just say Amen! :)

Alice said...

oh more thing, that niece of yours is SO FUNNY! I had to giggle at Wemdu Pea's comment. Already demanding her brother stay away since her boobies are growing "longer". hehehehe

Confessions of a Music Loving Bookworm said...

I TOTALLY AGREE, BECAUSE WELL I AIN'T THE BEAUTY EITHER.

I MEAN OTHER PEOPLE DO, BUT NOT YET DO I THINK I AM, WELL KINDA. I ALSO WOULD LIKE TO QUOTE WEMDU, AMEN SISTA!

I THINK THAT I AM HITTING THAT STAGE IN YOUR TEENAGE YEARS WERE YOU THINK ALOT ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE. WELL I DON'T GO ALL OUT WITH CLOTHS, SHOES, ALTHOUGH I DO LOVE SHOES AND CUTE CLOTHS BUT I'M NOT A BIT LIKE THE PLASTIC BARBIES!

I MEAN TODAY I WAS SO TIRED THAT I JUST THREW ON A T-SHIRT, JEANS, AND PUT MY HAIR DOWN (BUT MY HAIR LOOKS PRETTY GOOD DOWN).
I DON'T EVEN WEAR MAKE-UP YET, ALTHOUGH MY FRIENDS DO. I THINK IT IS A HASSEL! SO I DON'T REALLY CARE ABOUT BEAUTY SO MUCH.

I THINK THOSE FEW YEARS WITH THE POLY'S IN HAWAII REALLY AFFECTED ME. WE COULD GET AWAY WITH BBALL SHORTS AND A BAGGY TEE AT SCHOOL. HERE WHERE I LIVE I SEE GIRLS GO ALL OUT.

ANYWAY THAT'S MY OPINION ON BEAUTY. I SHOULD PUT IT ON MY BLOG DON'T YA THINK? WELL MAYBE LATER, MY MOTHER IS CALLING!!

LATER SISTA!

Jen said...

I like this post because two members of my immediate family have done body enhancing surgeries, and I just wish they loved their bodies. I may be floppy rather than perky, but I love myself just the way I am, inside and out (most days).

Stine said...

Preach on sistah! And I do mean sister.