“Beauty is pain” was my mother’s favorite saying.
I heard it constantly growing up.
I can’t count the number of times she repeated it as she yanked on my wild, curly, brown hair with a brush. “Beauty is pain!”
Eyebrows a bit thick? Time to wax!
Arm hair a bit dark? Nothing good old bleach can’t fix!
Toes a bit crooked? “You’ll never catch a husband with feet like that,” she’d say. “Let’s straighten them out surgically!” Beauty, after all, is pain.
Still hungry? Ignore your growling stomach and chew on a piece of sugar free gum!
Want a perkier butt? Slimmer legs? Better learn to walk in those heels because you guessed it: beauty is pain
But is beauty really synonymous with pain? If you ask, society will answer yes, beauty is pain. That if you want to be loved then you better grin and bear it.
But pain isn’t always a physical feeling. We feel emotional pain too. We feel the effects of lost time, depleted resources and a fragile, murky sense of self at best.
In America over 85% of women apply an average of 16 skincare and cosmetic products every day. American women will spend approximately $225,360 on beauty products in their lifetime. American men will only spend one fourth of that. In 2016 Americans spent over $16 billion on cosmetic plastic surgeries. An estimated 92% of those cosmetic surgeries were performed on women.
Was my mother trying to warn me? Trying to tell me that no matter what I may think or feel it doesn’t matter because the way I look will always come first? That my relationships, my career, even my own happiness can all be dependent upon whether or not society deems me attractive? Was she trying to drill the lie into my head because the sooner I accepted these “truths” the easier my life would be?
I don’t believe she meant to be cruel. I actually think she was trying to be honest.
Still. Nothing about this feels right, because it isn’t right. Beauty is NOT pain. When I woke up from toe surgery with a dry mouth and chapped lips, an IV dangling from my arm, and two shiny metal rods sticking out of my foot no-one was calling me pretty but I sure as hell was in a lot of pain.
If beauty and pain are not the same then why do we pretend otherwise?
For years I accepted the lie that beauty equates to pain. I conformed and did my best to “make myself beautiful”, the same way my mother did. I accepted the lie every time I wore something trendy, even if it didn’t fit right or feel good. I accepted it with each Brazilian wax and body piercing. I put on my Spanx one leg at a time and sucked my gut in for every photo.
In my quest to find beauty I made the problem worse for myself and everyone else. I perpetuated the lie. My acceptance reinforced it and my actions validated it.
Well, I’m done pretending. I will no longer breathe life into this lie. I don’t have to hurt myself to feel beautiful. I just have to know myself to feel beautiful.
I vow to truly know myself.
I vow to start listening to myself.
I vow to learn about myself.
I vow to pay attention to all of the little things my body tells me.
I vow to trust myself.
I vow to nurture myself.
I vow to give myself time.
I vow to love myself.
Ask me if beauty is pain and I’ll answer with a resounding “Hell, no!”
Beauty is feeling beautiful. Beauty is feeling good. Beauty is feeling like you.
This post is part of The Beauty of a Woman BlogFest VII! To read more entries, and potentially win a fun prize, visit the fest page on August’s McLaughlin’s site between today and 11pm PST on Friday, March 9th.