Dear No One,
It’s 4am on a Saturday in March, and after a week with my school abroad and a trip that took over six hours longer than anticipated, I step off the bus. I know that I have purple bags under my eyes, that my hair is a mess and that the hoodie I’m wearing doesn’t conceal the creases in my clothes.
I do not feel beautiful.
Years later, it’s a November Friday when I arrive at an anticipated party. Glitters sparkle all over my figure-hugging dress; they highlight my cheekbones and have quite literally found their way into my eyes. I feel pretty, perhaps even attractive for the right person.
But I do not feel beautiful.
Actually, I have never felt beautiful. That statement is not self-derogatory – in fact, there are plenty of times that I almost arrogantly called myself stunning, good-looking, or gorgeous. But never beautiful.
And that’s because it’s a fact. Some people are just born with that undeniable beauty imprinted on their bodies. Others are not. I’m not. By enforcing a standard in which everyone is beautiful, we are equating physical beauty to a worth. If you’re beautiful, you matter. If you’re not, you don’t.
It stems from times when physical beauty was the leading factor that your life depended on. Years and years ago, more beauty gave you more chances at landing a high-ranking and wealthy spouse. Later, it decided your chances of being accepted in society. More recently, this started changing. People began criticizing companies for their models, who were all too often skinny, white, had clear skin, white teeth, perky breasts, long legs. People that did not look like that felt ashamed, which led to the realisation that the existing beauty standards were harmful. To this day, people are called too fat, too thin, too curvy, too flat, too ethnic, too scarred, too anything. In a daily fight against those beauty standards, we are being convinced that everyone is beautiful.
However, that new standard that “everyone is beautiful” is just as toxic. Because scientifically, biologically, and factually, not everyone is. That isn’t an insult. I’m not saying that those outdated beauty standards are fair, because tons of people that fall outside of that ship are still beautiful, but not everyone is. Just like not everyone has advanced athletic ability. Not everyone is born with artistic talent. Physical beauty is only one of many qualities that a person can have, and not having it shouldn’t decrease one’s value in this world.
On top of that, thinking that repeating “everyone is beautiful” will cure eating disorders, body dysphoria or even insecurities, is naive. Believing that everyone is beautiful will not end struggles. Not even the phrase “true beauty comes from within” will do that, because it still raises beauty as a standard that everyone has to acquire. And just what exactly does it mean to be beautiful on the inside? What personality traits does it grant me? What traits can I absolutely not have if I want to be regarded as beautiful on the inside? It continues to view beauty as a standard that should be met in order to master life, when no human on this planet is born with the purpose of being beautiful.
I’m not ending this letter by saying that you are beautiful. I’m not even ending with a note to tell you that you’re beautiful on the inside. Instead, I’ll express my hope that you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m not beautiful – so what?”
Beauty is a standard that does not define your worth. You do not need it to be successful, to be respected, let alone to be happy. Be beautiful, don’t be beautiful. It doesn’t matter. Be you.