Beauty is the Beast: 3 Tips to Feel Beautiful at All Ages
From the time we’re kids, women are fed a societal definition of what “beauty” is. We hear messages every day about whether we live up to that standard.
As the mother of a daughter, I’ve watched strangers try to talk to her about her looks from the time she was two years old. I remember my own experiences of trying to figure out whether I measured up to that societal standard of beauty as a young woman.
I remember sitting around a table with my female friends in high school—a group of brilliant, powerful young women. We confided in each other how much time and energy we spent feeling anxious about meeting that beauty standard, even though we knew it was artificial and false.
Every young woman at that table was beautiful—and yet, every one of us worried that she wasn’t. We were struggling to get free of an impossible standard that had been handed down to us by the media, advertising, our communities, well-meaning strangers—and sometimes even our own families.
We knew this standard of beauty was false. We knew it was limited—and limiting. But as young women, we still felt we had to measure up to it.
No wonder we struggle with feeling beautiful.
Girls and women are flooded with thousands of images a day depicting “beautiful” women—most of which are limited and unrealistic.
These images start early. According to Common Sense Media, 87% of female TV characters aged 10-17 are below average in weight, with those fitting conventional beauty standards modeling the most positive personality traits.
No wonder we struggle with feeling beautiful.
No wonder we hang our sense of value on whether we fit a societal definition of
No wonder we spend tons of energy and worry trying to look a certain way—thinking that will make us feel a certain way.
We’re trained to look at ourselves through that lens. It takes effort, intention—and a healthy sense of rebellion—to undo that training. But it can be done.
I’ve kept in touch with most of the girls around that table as we’ve all
grown up. All of us have grown into loving, vibrant women who have survived a lot, thrived a lot and accomplished a lot of incredible work in the world. We’re also only feeling sexier, more beautiful and more vibrant as we get older.
I love feeling beautiful, but now I define “beautiful” for myself. I no longer measure my feelings of self-worth against an impossible—and limiting—standard of beauty.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered along the way that have helped me learn how to do that...
1. Remind yourself where that impossible standard comes from.
My freedom from impossible beauty standards started with thinking critically about the media—and noticing when I was being fed information that didn’t feel true to me.
Critical thinking doesn’t automatically change how we feel. But if you practice it, it can really help.
We see thousands of images a day of “beautiful women” in advertising and media—most of which fit a really narrow standard that has very little to do with real life, and most of which are trying to sell us stuff.
If we don’t remind ourselves of that fact, it can be easy to just soak it all in, absorb it and wind up feeling inadequate.
I find that when I practice intentionally reminding myself that those images are unrealistic, I care a lot less about whether I look like them.
2. Be friends with women who are truly beautiful on the inside.
I see so much true beauty in my female friends.
I know so many women who are powerful, resilient, funny, vibrant, brilliant and creative—who are all different ages, body types, ethnicities and abilities.
I have female friends in all decades of life who all look gorgeously different from each other. None of them match advertising’s narrow definition of beauty—and every one of them is exquisitely beautiful, each in her own way.
When I look at these women, I see many different examples of beauty right in front of me. This real-life beauty is deeper, stronger and more powerful than the two-dimensional one the media hands me.
If I take a moment every once in a while to reflect on my friends’ diverse beauty, it’s easier to remember that beauty includes me too.
3. Notice when you’re feeling really good, then look in the mirror.
True beauty—in all its forms—comes from the inside.
When we’re feeling good, when our circulation is revved up, when our body is rested and energized, when we’re feeling creative and engaged—our true beauty radiates from within.
That beauty is so much more powerful and real than any two-dimensional, skinny, symmetrical photoshopped image on a glossy page.
There is nothing more beautiful than your unique life force. When you’re feeling good, that life force radiates from the inside out.
So the next time you catch yourself feeling really good—whether it’s because the sun is shining on your face, you’ve been spending time with someone who inspires you, you’ve been in a creative flow or you just had a big victory in life—take a second and catch yourself in a mirror.
That woman looking back at you in the mirror—she’s unique, valuable, irreplaceable and so much more beautiful than the narrow, limited, two-dimensional idea of beauty that we’ve been taught.
What do you think of this? Have you already moved past society’s idea of beauty? Where do you still struggle—and what tools are you using to get through that struggle? Let us know in the comments below!