Beauty: in All Its Glory and Pain


Trigger warning: talking about self-image

If someone were to ask me, "How beautiful are you?", I would say that I was, at best, average. I am not saying this out of modesty, but rather because I feel this way. Beauty, although I hate to admit it, means a lot to me because, as I was growing up, I quite quickly understood how much value others placed on it. Whether it be showering someone who is 'prettier than you' with more attention, or immediately befriending them, beauty inadvertently carries with it unfair advantages. I myself appreciate beautiful things, whether it be an attractive person or a pretty flower in the garden, but I have also experienced what it feels like to not be the most beautiful person in the room.

My beautiful sister

(This is not my older sister.)

My older sister is extremely beautiful. Almond-shaped eyes. Luscious hair. Big, round lips. Just like a princess out of a book. For me, she is the epitome of beauty. However, every time anyone compliments my sister on her captivating appearance, she merely looks away and nods her head, ignoring that those words of appreciation were even mentioned to her. But, why? Shouldn't she be beaming from ear to ear every time she hears that? That's what I thought. However, what I forgot to mention to you is that my sister is also very intelligent. She is a hard worker, a deep-thinker, and an incredible dancer. But, her charming smile seemingly 'masks' those traits, as though she is nothing more than a beautifully empty vessel. Although she has countless compliments regarding her looks, she fails to recall moments praising what is beyond that. Her personality. Her character. Her intellect. Soon enough, she hated being called "beautiful", as though it had become almost like an insult to her. I remember this one time when my sister completely stopped talking to one of her male friends. I curiously asked her, "Why?". And to that she replied, "The only reason he started talking to me was because I was beautiful." Thereafter, I began to notice how she would always wear her hair down, deliberately trying to cover her face and wonderful smile. Whenever she met someone new, she would immediately start muttering under her breath, "Please, don't call me beautiful." One shouldn't have to feel burdened by their beauty, right?

My relationship with beauty

When I was around seven or eight, someone had said to me, "Your face isn't really worth a look. Unlike your older sister." During the time, it didn't have too much of an impact on me. I suppose I hadn't yet come to understand the importance of beauty. So, I brushed it off without thinking much about it. However, it certainly meant something to me because, now, fast-forward almost ten years, I still remember it like a wound that never heals. I stand in front of the mirror sometimes and suddenly, that comment will rush into my head and I begin to grow a distaste towards the way I look. I say to people, "No. The way I look doesn't really bother me that much." But, it does. No matter how hard I try to disregard it. I felt shallow thinking like that, but I also could not help but wonder how one would perceive the way I look. I was plagued by the one-dimensional notion that beauty could be a tangible thing that I could achieve. Furthermore, the cultural expectations and ideas surrounding beauty helped to develop this toxic relationship I had with beauty. The idea that if 'you are beautiful', there is a 'higher probability of you being loved more'.

However, at the same time, I was torn between the two contradicting beliefs held towards beautiful people: "beautiful people are good people", and "beautiful people are arrogant". I remember this one evening when my older sister, my aunt, and I were watching TV together. We were watching a dance performance by a boy band. All of the boys were handsome, but there was one individual who stood out the most. We were all marveling over how attractive he was when my aunt said something. Something which made me realize how fragmented the world's notion is when it comes to beauty. Even mine. "Just look at him. You can tell just by looking at him how arrogant he is in real life." How can you tell? Is it by the look in their eyes? Can you not be beautiful without being arrogant at the same time? Those words kept on ringing in my ears. Why did she say that? At that moment, I realized that perhaps beauty may not be the 'golden ticket' to winning over the world. Yes, you do get praised frequently, but at the same time, you have to endure these erroneous comments passed onto you. You cannot please the world and its cynical desires.

Will I ever be beautiful?

This question, more so a desire, used to play on my mind rather frequently. And I would be lying if I said that it no longer does. I had to force myself to acknowledge that beauty had become an obsession, and more importantly, that it was not healthy. It damaged my self-image, but also, it damaged the way I looked at beautiful people. I started to view them as objects that had nothing else to offer other than their unblemished beauty. It frightens me now to even think about it, but that very obsession with wanting to become 'beautiful' could've disfigured my relationship with my older sister, whom I love very much. And not because of how beautiful she is, but because she is a magnificent individual, who has so much more to offer than 'just a pretty face'. "Will I ever be as beautiful as my older sister?". That is a question that I shouldn't even ask myself, because it is wrong in so many ways. In all my years of pursuit of something that is perhaps completely intangible, I became oblivious to the fact that true beauty lies within one's acceptance of themselves and of whatever state one may be in.

At the end of the day, beauty comes down to one thing: individuality. True, there are certain things and certain people that are considered to be universally beautiful. Science explains that as having "a symmetrical face". However, then there are certain faces that not everyone would describe as "beautiful", and maybe that is okay. What if there is beauty in that disagreement, too? And what if beauty lies within the eye of the beholder?

Fairooz Jahan
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Fairooz Jahan is a high school student in the UK. Originally from Bangladesh, she discovered her passion for writing whilst she was exploring the process of acquiring English as a second language. Besides writing, she enjoys watching films, cooking and talking a lot.