[Originally posted on April 9, 2017]
When she was a little girl, she would lie in bed at night trying to imagine what her life would be like when she got older, hoping with all her might that she would be pretty. Fast forward a few years, and sure enough, her wish came true. But now, as she stands here, a very beautiful woman, she contemplates what her life was like before that prettiness defined her. She thinks back to a time when she was praised for being smart and talented. Back to a time when her beauty was not the first compliment out of a strangers mouth, leading her to believe that her looks were her most important quality. Leaving her to put too much focus on her outer appearance, resulting in her having a distorted view of her own body, who she was and what she was worth. What she was capable of. How others would see her. Leaving her desperate to hear these validations of her beauty in order to feel okay.
She thinks back to a time when she could walk down the street without strange men honking their horns, whistling, or telling her how pretty she was. Making her feel unsafe. Forever putting a negative connotation on the idea of beauty. Making her wish she was never seen at all. She began to hate being called pretty just as much as society made her need to hear it. And when she did hear it, I hope you don’t think for a second that it ever actually shifted the way she felt about herself. It just put further focus on the world’s obsession with outer beauty. And how impossible the expectation was to live up to.
It scared her how easily beauty could be turned into objectification and fear, but she also couldn’t let go of the obsession. This obsessive need for the world to see her as their version of beautiful. The obsession would then transform into guilt. Guilt for eating too many cookies. Guilt for not working out enough. Hatred for that little bit of fat on her belly and her arms. Obsession with clean eating followed by tears of self-disgust after binging on chips and ice cream. She was tired of fighting with herself. She was tired of trying to keep up with society’s idea of what made a “pretty girl.” She knew it was bullshit, but it was there just the same, playing over and over in her head. Taunting her. Shaming her. She was tired of finally feeling confident enough to freely express her version of beauty out in the open only to be scared back into hiding herself because of unwanted words and lingering stares from men. She was torn between needing to be told she was pretty and needing to never hear that word directed at her ever again.
But one thing was for certain: she was tired of this beauty defining her in all of its forms. And most of all, she was tired of being misunderstood. She was tired of not being seen for who she really was. But she wasn’t ready to entirely give up on the idea of beauty. She had seen enough of the world by now to understand that beauty is not skin deep, but it does exist. It is real. Beauty is something that is found inside each and every one of us. She was tired of being told she was pretty by people she’d never met, because how could they know? They’d never seen her soul.
Today, she no longer wishes to be pretty. She wishes to be free. Free from the prison society has created. These nights, she lies in bed dreaming of being brave. Kind. Inspiring. She dreams of a world where she can feel safe walking down the street, without having to avoid eye contact in case a passing stranger decides to view a friendly smile as an invitation. A world where being pretty can mean more than one thing and can look different from person to person. Where beauty is all inclusive. Where beauty is synonymous with strength and fire. Bravery and passion. Raw, real emotion. Authenticity. Vulnerability. She is ready to let the world’s limited and disturbing idea of beauty go. She wants to move on.
Today, she knows that beauty is more than being pretty. If only she could rewind her life to tell that little girl that being seen as pretty isn’t everything. That her body is perfect, no matter what everyone else looks like. That being pretty on the outside only matters when it comes from the inside. From being kind. Compassionate. Authentic. That being herself is what makes her pretty. She wishes she could rewind her life to every single moment she’s ever felt inadequate. To every time someone told her she was beautiful but she just didn’t have it in her to believe them. She wishes she could erase the pain of wanting so much to be thought of as pretty but never feeling like she was enough in the eyes of the world. She’s done with it all. She’s letting it all go. Because we all have beauty inside of us. Every single one of us. We just need a little self-love and creative expression to give it wings and to set it free from its prison deep inside our hearts.
This is where yoga can come in. Self-love is the practice, and yoga is the tool to cleanse the negative thoughts from our beautiful minds. Yoga can set our beauty free. Yoga can bring out the love in all of us. Maybe if we begin to heal ourselves from the inside out there will be less anger in the world. Leading to less violence. Less hate. Maybe if we begin to heal and love ourselves, we can begin to love others. Maybe women can feel safe and supported for being beautiful and expressing themselves openly in the world. Maybe we will all begin to see the beauty in everyone around us. Maybe young girls will stop hating and hurting themselves to fit in with a narrow standard of beauty. Maybe these girls will begin to understand that those things that make them weird and different are the same things that make them beautiful. Maybe we can all come together, no matter our differences, and make our world a more accepting place. Maybe compassion and kindness can be the new standard of beauty. Maybe this love can cure all of our hearts. Can cure our pain and our fear. Maybe self-love can cure us all.