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What is Pretty?

pink flowers

Since the dawn of time, we have had societal beauty standards shoved down our throats; and these standards are continuously changing. We have been going through a bit of an evolution of stuff recently, whereby there are many people using their voices and their platforms to tell people that they are beautiful no matter what they look like or what their body size is. But due to social media (and I'm looking at you in particular, Instagram), we cannot help but compare ourselves to the people we see on there. Why can't my eyebrows look like that? Why doesn't my face have that shape? Why can't I look that glowing? Why doesn't my body look like that? The truth of the matter is, we are all beautiful, regardless of what society and social media tell us. But what is pretty? This is something I am aiming to answer by the end of this blog post.

*Before we start, I would just like to say that this post is a look at women's beauty standards. If you would like me to look at men's beauty standards, or if you have written a blog post yourself on men's beauty standards, please feel free to let me know in the comments below.*

To start off with, let's take a look at societal beauty standards throughout history. In Ancient Egypt (1292-1069BC), the ideal woman was slender, had narrow shoulders, had a high waist, and had a symmetrical face (I mean, after that TikTok trend of using the inverted face filter, do any of us really have a symmetrical face?). In Ancient Greece (500-300BC), the ideal woman was plump, was full-bodied and had light skin. During the Italian Renaissance (1400-1700), the ideal woman had an ample bosom, a rounded stomach, full hips and fair skin. In the Victorian era (1837-1901), the ideal woman was plump, full-figured and had a cinched waist. During the 1920s, the ideal woman had a flat chest, a downplayed waist, a short bob hairstyle, and a boyish figure. During the golden age of Hollywood (1930s-1950s), the ideal woman had curves, an hourglass figure, large breasts, and a slim waist. During the 1960s, the ideal woman was willowy, thin, had long, slim legs, and had an adolescent physique. During the 1980s, the ideal woman was athletic, svelte but curvy, tall, and had toned arms. During the 1990s, the ideal woman was waifish, extremely thin, had translucent skin, and was androgynous. By today's standards (from the 2000s), the ideal woman should have a flat stomach, look healthily skinny, have large breasts and bum, and a thigh gap. Some, if not all, of these standards are pretty shocking and I'm sorry (not) but what does 'healthily skinny' actually mean? I'm sorry but how are we meant to live up to these standards when they change so quickly (ESPECIALLY over the last eighty years).

Not only do beauty standards change historically, but there are also different cultural beauty standards too. In Korea, you are seen as beautiful if you have pale skin, however, in Hawaii, you have to have tanned skin to be seen as beautiful. In Kenya, if you are thin you are seen as poor, but the bigger you are, the wealthier you appear. In France, beauty is seen as being very thin to the point of having a flat stomach. In the Middle East, it is less to do with what you wear, but the more make-up and jewellery you have on and your hair always being done perfectly is an indication of beauty. By Western culture standards, women should be tall and slender, have relatively large but perky boobs (which I'm pretty sure is near enough impossible), and a small waist. In India, there is an encouragement for women to lighten their skin and be slimmer as a way of keeping up with Western beauty standards due to colonization, along with having thick and lustrous hair. In New Zealand, Maori beauty standards involve having a tattoo on your face, with it being believed that you are most beautiful if this tattoo is on your chin and lips. In Brazil and South America, their beauty standards are mostly on the bottom half over the top half of the body; including having a toned and curvy bottom half, thick and muscular legs and hips and carrying yourself in a confident way. In Thailand, their beauty standards involve having pale skin, a small frame and having a pronounced nose and eyes. In Burma, the Kayan tribe attribute beauty to stacking brass coils around your neck to make your neck look longer and as more of these coils are added, the shoulders start to be pushed down and the neck ends up being lengthened.

There are so many different beauty standards for women, both across history and culturally, that it is impossible for any of us to keep up with these standards. I have already said that these standards have become even more heightened due to the rise of social media. We see influencers who appear to have the perfect skin, perfect body size/shape, when in reality it is more than likely they use facetune and good lighting to smooth their skin and use a combination of angles and editing to make it look like they have the 'perfect' hourglass figure (or whichever figure they want to make it out that they have). I guess in part this is due to them feeling like they have to live up to societal beauty standards that are merely something set up by society and don't actually exist, leading to them and many others feeling insecure. But if we all try and live up to these standards, at least while we're posting on Instagram, all that's going to happen is these standards are going to increase and cause more and more people to become insecure. Yes, we're in an age now where we're starting to discuss that everyone is beautiful in their own way, but unfortunately, the standards still stand.

I have never really had an issue with looking at other people's bodies and wishing I could have their body. Yes, I'm currently working on my own body, but that is more because it is something I want to do for myself, rather than doing it to live up to some made-up beauty standards. A lot of my issues around the way I look lie with other people's and where people are put into a category by society based on whether they are societally attractive or not. I look at people and wonder why my eyebrows can't look like theirs when resting, causing me to have a resting bitch face, why my face can't be as symmetrical as theirs, or why my lips aren't as plump as theirs. These issues also stem from me only knowing what I look like to myself when looking in the mirror or taking a selfie (why is it that you always look better in the mirror? - major Chandler Bing going to have his engagement photos taken vibes going on over here) and I don't know what I look like to other people. Am I even attractive to other people? If so, how come others girls have had guys come over to them on a night out because they're interested and I haven't? Does that mean I'm not attractive?

At the end of the day, we're all pretty. It takes a lot to try and love yourself and I'm definitely nowhere near that stage (yet). I often see people saying if you want to learn to love yourself you have to stand and look in the mirror every day and instead of focusing on the things you hate about yourself (both inside and outside), focus on the positives. Start by looking at any features that you even remotely love about yourself and then move on to the negatives and turn them into positives. It's a lot easier said than done and is not something that can happen overnight as it takes a lot of practice. It's just about reminding yourself that you are beautiful, no matter what you or anyone else thinks of you or what societal beauty standards say.

You are beautiful.

You are worthy.

You are important.

You are special.

You are unique.

You are wonderful.

You are talented.

You are irreplaceable.

Love Beth xx

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