More than a word

I never remember from where or whom I got this quote, but it has always been my inspiration when making decision about what clothes I will wear today or how I want myself to present, at school or any places I will be.

I think girls should feel good about themselves.

Girls should feel good. Not be beautiful. And by feeling good, they shine.


When thinking about beauty from the lens of the world, I see it as something people wish to accomplish but always fail to.

I remember talking to my friends, saying I never have to spend approximately 40 minutes every other week to straighten my hair or never get burned badly when exposed to intense sunlight. I used to not understand why tanned skin is the goal for so many girls because I was born being tanned and have seen that color shade on every person around me growing up.

Yet, I also remember how I look at my own reflection in the mirror and disgust what I look like, wishing I can change just exactly everything about my body. I am not what the world says to be beautiful, despite that color of my skin desired by some and that dim feeling of proud when being able to say, “I never struggle to find clothes my size, ever.”

And I know many people feel the same way. Many girls hear that voice in their head saying they do not measure up, and that the girl in the other side of the room looks prettier.

And I wonder, after all, who gets to decide what beauty is? Who gets the rights to judge if someone is beautiful?

At least not human. But it seems that humans are ridiculously astonishing at pretending — pretend that they are powerful to take the lead.

The last few years have been filled with mind-blowing experience for me. I see beauty in the people who I believed had never been beautiful, not only because of how they look, but also because of who they are when surrounding people. Each person has something for me to compliment on, and I start wondering if any of them ever need to […]

Beauty is subjective. It is what people feel toward something that makes it attractive or not. Each person is born to be a separate self from others in terms of opinions and perception — each person perceives the world differently. Beauty, as a result, evokes distinct feelings and emotions.

Social groups of people come together not only because of how similar their appearances to each other are, but also because of how they think beauty is and should be.

Nations of the world come together not only because human started learning to appreciate differences, but also because egocentricity is replaced with the recognization of beauty in distinct selves.

But the problem emerges when people take beauty out of the context of cultures. Each culture whispers to the ears of ancestors what beauty should be, passing it down from generations to generations. Beauty in this context no longer is just what people think or feel, but what people believe and work hard to achieve. Take foot-binding as an example. How Chinese folks hundreds of years ago think about beauty — women having small feet and being obedient to their and their husbands’ families — create their traditions of foot-binding, of giving respect to males more than female, and of making families without sons to continue the family blood socially unacceptable. Women were born to be burdens of their birth families. Women also were born to sacrifice for beauty, to accomplish a high status in society that eventually never belong to them but the husbands they got married to.

All their lives, they were searching for the kind of beauty that was made up by the gossips passing around in town.

We agree that this tradition is cruel, is inhumane. Decades have passed and this tradition is no longer practiced, but let’s think about this more critically. In this modern era, even though we don’t pursue beauty the same way, it is still at the back of our head this voice saying that we are not beautiful enough, not worthy enough, not living up enough to what others expect us to be. Not just in how we perceive ourselves, though. We also categorize people as beautiful and not: you need to lose/gain weight; you need to dye your hair because it looks dull; you need to…. We start associating peers as chubby or petite. We make up standards, forgetting that humans are supposed to be unique individuals.

How can this not be cruel? How can this be accepted more than what other ancient cultures used to practice?

The good thing about beauty in the context of cultures is that each person is born beautiful, but when cultures come together, instead of appreciating differences, we start applying others’ definition of beauty to ourselves without understanding that we are trying to accomplish the impossibles.

Should this be changed? Yes. How?

Looking for what is in front of us. When standing in front of a mirror, looking for what you can be grateful for about yourself. When standing in front of others, looking for what you can appreciate about them. But don’t look too hard, though. Don’t look too hard. Beauty is not that difficult to find.

Beauty also blooms from the inside. What your values are and how you treat others convey to people the message of your beauty. What can you do to be loving? What can we do to have a world that value differences?

And finally, looking for what you yourself feel good about. Next time you put on a layer of makeup, think if it is because you are embarrassed of how you look, or because it is a good day and you feel like pretty.

Published by Thi Le


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