As the new year begins, we may find ourselves contemplative about what we want in the year to come. And often, this includes reflection about the person we are and the person we have been. I believe that, for women, our relationship with our beauty is a big part of who we are, and I think that the new year is an ample opportunity to dig a little deeper into who and what define our beauty.
I'll start by saying that our relationship with our beauty is riddled with layers. Where do we learn what "beauty" is? Is it our parents? Advertising? Our friends? As a child, I learned that fair skin, light eyes, and straight hair were the most desirable features in America, but these were not features that I possessed. I simply didn't meet the standard of beauty - and there was nothing I could do to change it. I learned from my mother that makeup should be minimalist - just enough, and not too much - and that makeup was purchased at the drugstore, where I found it next to impossible to find colors that worked for my brown skin. My grandmother would take me with her to the beauty parlor for her monthly permanents, and I learned about the magic of transformation - where a woman showed up, ready to be curled and coiffed to her highest self.
In spite of feeling like an outsider to the world of beauty, I absolutely loved being around it: the rituals, the experimentation, the transformation to a higher self. And luckily, in my teenage years, my relationship with my own beauty began to expand in positive ways. I got encouragement from my peers to experiment with accentuating my own unique features - things that I had never considered before, like navy blue or deep purple eyeshadow to bring out my brown eyes. Later on in my 20's, I took a trip to New York with a friend who introduced me to an ENTIRE salon dedicated to curly hair. My relationship with my beauty was revolutionized by notion that anyone of any color or hair texture could cultivate a positive relationship with her beauty. I learned that none of us have to live as though we are excluded from this feminine right.
I share all of this to highlight my own varied experience with the various contributors to my relationship with my beauty: media, peers, maternal figures, personal taste. I'm grateful that I went from despising my curly hair to loving it. I went from the depressing acceptance that makeup just wasn't created for "women like me" - to carving out my own space and experimenting with a whole range of colors. And I am also aware that there are so many of us who still struggle with feeling like we will never meet an impossible standard of beauty.
As you do your typical beginning of the year introspection, I invite you all to share your beauty story. Who decides if we are beautiful? Who influenced your relationship with your beauty?