What is the Definition of Beauty?
Someone asked me this today. The first paragraph here is what I thought in the moment, and then what flowed from further reflection:
I don't think there is a singular definition. Beauty, in humans, is our amazing diversity, our singular quirks, the marks and shapes of our bodies that make us uniquely us. The textures, the asymmetries, the colours, together form something special and wonderful in each of us.
I would also say that attractiveness is something else, because that’s about what the viewer favours. So certainly, there are features I find more attractive, which to my eye will make me consider someone more attractive. But that doesn’t mean a person I don’t find attractive is unattractive, simply, that they do not attract my specific aesthetic preferences.
Whether I find you attractive, or you find me attractive, does not deny that each of us are in our own right beautiful. We can see that in each other without any need for attraction. But when attraction is there it merely enhances how we see each other.
People often talk about having “rose-tinted glasses”, as if to suggest we are blind to the unattractiveness of someone we find desirable. But that seems an unnecessarily negative way to perceive beauty to me. Why assume everyone starts from a baseline of ugly, when we could consider that everyone is in fact beautiful?
The idea to me that you can define beauty by a particular body type, skin tone, or shape or size of any particular body part is so absurd. Yet that seems to be what happens in the popular consciousness. The consequence is the majority of people that don’t then fit into such a narrow definition of beauty feel ugly, or at least inadequate.
But beauty surrounds us; walk down any street and the world is amassed with beauty, sadly often overlooked by the very people who exude it. I think even those who have let themselves believe in such narrowly defined beauty will often still see the beauty in others, that they might deny in themselves.
It’s odd, to say the least, that the collective concept of beauty is something linked to fashions and trends. In my own lifetime, when I was younger, the idea of super-skinny tall supermodels seemed pervasive. The result: A generation of inadequacy; with the most extreme reactions bringing about anorexia, bulimia, and sometimes deadly outcomes. More recently we seem to have come to (and maybe started to move past already, to the next fad), a period of fetishising curvaceous bodies, and longing for a “booty”. So as a result those who fit the previous beauty standard now feel they do not have the curves and plump features that would make them beautiful today. Absurd.
Both body types, and many (all!) others, are perfectly valid, natural, and yes beautiful. So why crave for one when you have the other, which is freaking great anyway.
How can a body type even be trendy? For sure bodies are not fixed, by means natural or otherwise they can be changed. Although only to a limited degree, as there’s only so much flexibility for the body to expand or contract one way or another. But should they be intentionally changed anyway, just to fit a fashion? Should we not appreciate simply who and what we are, and all the wonders we have?
There is also the matter of time. Even without trying, our bodies are always changing. We age, we are damaged and heal, we cut our hair, or exfoliate our skin just in the process of everyday washing.
I find people often fixate on trying to return to the body they once had, or aiming for body they dream of. Obsessions that can mean they never simply enjoy being who they are right now.
So even if you desire change in some way, I think it important to appreciate and love the body you have in the present. Because you will change anyway, and it may or may not fit the vision for what you want to be. But that change is in the future or has been in the past. Whereas your feelings are in the present, and it will only hurt you to not feel good where you are right now.
While the future will become the present, or the present has already become the past, your body is simply what is it right now. So that is the body you should love right now, as you will only have that exact body at this exact moment in your life—Cherish this fleeting moment shared with something you will not get to experience again, whether the future brings you a version of yourself you hope for or not.
Does it devalue beauty to see it as universal, as eternal? I don’t think so, because it makes beauty more. Beauty is an abundant renewable commodity that we all have access to. We don’t have to pretend it’s something reserved for an elite few. We each of us have it now, in the past, and in the future. If we could all see it, imagine how the world would glow with our mutual positivity!