I hope my blog this week touches those among us ready to help me begin to redefine what we perceive as beauty. The reason for my concern is America’s obsession with perfection, beauty and age, not only among the general population but especially our teens and young adults.
Society long ago created a notion equating beauty with worth and it has been a concept most of us have accepted all of our lives. We have continued to allow and even perpetuate this notion, leading our children to think that they need to fix things they perceive as imperfect on the outside to be worthy of admiration, while ignoring the work that needs to be done inside for lifelong happiness and true beauty.
I was sitting in a restaurant recently surrounded with teens and young adults and couldn’t help but overhear their conversations. I was shocked that they were focused entirely on appearance; what “work” friends had done or should have done to “fix” things that were not perfect. Using the first name of stars as if they knew them intimately and praising their beauty and attributes. As far as I am aware none of the stars among the names mentioned had ever accomplished anything great or even made a movie; at least not one I or the general public would have seen. I know what you are thinking; they are just kids but it is much more than just kids talking. It is a prevailing belief in our society that beauty and perfection is a trait to be valued above all else.
I simply don’t understand the statistics I uncovered; numbers that are dramatically increasing each year. Last year alone 13 million elective cosmetic surgeries were performed in the United States with 218,000 of those performed on children between the ages of 13 and 19. These are elective cosmetic surgeries. Parents actually gave their children lifts and enhancements for birthday and graduation gifts, I don’t understand, why would any parent fulfill such a request?
It don’t judge grown women and men who choose this path for themselves, but because we as a society influence all children, not only our own children, I believe it is an area we all need to examine in our own lives.
Why are we failing to teach our children where their real value lies? To make a difference in the world you do not need to be attractive or perfect. Doing great works in your community or the world does not require that you look much younger than you actually are. One of the most beautiful faces I have ever seen is that of a woman whose lifelong commitment to the destitute and dying was defined by the lines that traced the contours of her smile. I am speaking of Mother Theresa.
Think of your Grandmother’s face. Dove soap and Ponds cream was all she needed to remain beautiful in your eyes. The lines on her face only served to show that she lived a full life. Wisdom spilled from her lips as you sat listening to how difficult her life was growing up. Those trials and tribulations were what created the beautiful person and loving her went far beyond appearance.
When you think of your mother, do you remember the way her eyes twinkled when she looked at you or the crows feet that lined the corners of that twinkle. Look at how wonderful you turned out; imagine what you could have accomplished if you had an anatomically perfect mother!
We all age but nothing ages as poorly as a person who believes their value lies in the way they look. Growing older is a gift that I am grateful for receiving each and every day. I neither envy young women nor dread growing older. I refuse to be defined only by the way I look or my age which if you are a regular reader you already know I only remember on my birthday.
When I speak to groups of women and I look out over the crowd, I am taken aback to see so many beautiful faces. A glow of genuine humanity appears and I can tell immediately when someone has paralyzed their face or had extensive work done. It is unnatural and neither tricks nor disguises their age but brings attention to the fact that they felt that they needed to change their appearance. Each and every person whether physically attractive or not is truly beautiful to me. This is a belief that we all must work towards, creating a new definition of beautiful for our future generations.
I am not implying that we should not try to look better. Taking care of yourself and caring about your appearance shows that you value yourself. Being healthy and fit allows you to be active longer, showing a respect for the life you have been gifted with. If you value yourself, you will care of yourself for your entire life. There is nothing wrong with looking good for your age; the line is crossed when we are fearful of looking our age or feel imperfect and don’t place value on what is truly the most beautiful part of ourselves.
Each and every year that passes we should all feel more confident and secure with who we are. It comes as a result of growing, learning and reaching for more, focusing on helping others, not worrying about what others think of us; that is simply a reflection of the limitations of their minds. The reward for learning to love yourself when you are younger is the gift of confidence and peace with who you have become as you grow older.
Without consciously realizing it, we have slowly allowed our minds to be manipulated into believing our value somehow lies in our appearance and not remembering that true beauty lies inside our hearts and minds. By not speaking out to our children, we are silently reinforcing the message they receive from the media and peers. If you are not beautiful or perfect on the exterior, you are less valuable.
How do we begin to change our own thinking and then ultimately influence our children when the exterior is the first thing we notice about another person? How can we intervene in our own natural tendencies? It is accomplished by refusing to allow a comment to slip from our minds to our mouths unedited, choosing to intervene by verbalizing about a different quality, something admirable, such as kindness or generosity, is how we will begin to change our own perception and then that of our children.
Begin talking to your children about inspiring people, those who have made an amazing difference in the lives of others. Talk to your friends and family about world leaders as well as everyday people who are working to change the world for the better. Acknowledge the intelligence and talents of others, teaching our children that beauty lies in being able to play a musical instrument or write poetry and that each of us is beautiful because we all have been created for a purpose. Showing them that our value lies not in being externally perfect but in their entirety of our essence?
Let them know that you believe true beauty is found in the sincerity of our words, the depth of love in our heart and the brightness of our spirit and that is what we need to share with our children throughout their entire life. If you believe it is found in the looks that you were blessed with or in being returned to the appearance of years ago, I hope you will take some time to think about your beliefs.
No one is perfect and that should not be how anyone is measured. When we move on to the next journey, we will all want to have our maker recognize our face, the one he has gifted us with and I know he will say to each of us that we are beautiful, not because we have remained frozen in time, but evolved and changed just as it was meant to be.
We will not be judged at the end of our journey by the way we look, but rather in the fulfillment of our purpose and the unconditional love and compassion we gave to everyone. Let’s work together to create a new definition of beauty by each living our life filled with appreciation for ourselves, just as we are and looking for the beauty within everyone while sharing our new definition of beauty with our children and the world.