In the Boom community, we often talk about rethinking the messages society gives us, especially the ideas about how we’re supposed to look.
We grow up surrounded by magazines and advertising that push a narrow, restrictive idea of what counts as “beautiful.” It’s a concept that completely leaves out women over the age of 40.
When we’re young, these messages seep in because we aren’t equipped to filter them out yet. These messages wind up shaping our idea of what’s “beautiful”—whether we want them to or not.
Over time, holding these narrow images of “beauty” can cause us to be really tough on ourselves.
Almost nobody naturally fits our society’s mainstream beauty ideal—extremely slender (but large-breasted), very tall, very young, smooth, perfectly symmetrical, delicate, and usually Caucasian. And so if we don’t fit that one specific image, we get all sorts of stories in our head about how we’re not “beautiful” enough.
But what if “beauty” wasn’t defined that narrowly? What if there were thousands of different ways to be “beautiful?”
Different cultures all over the world have upheld different beauty ideals from the beginning of time—and none of them are universally “true.” There’s nothing objectively true about our society’s definition of what’s beautiful.
And that means that we get to define “beauty” for ourselves.
So when we’ve been inundated with this one single definition of beauty from the time we’re born, how do we undo that and start to actually see other things as beautiful?
Here are a few practices I’ve found that have helped me expand my definition of beauty and see it everywhere...
Start with yourself.
When you look in the mirror in the morning, find one new feature every day to focus on and appreciate.
Maybe it’s your bone structure or the lines around your eyes, or your collarbone or your hair. Perhaps it’s the way a pair of earrings offsets your jawline, or the way your eyes light up when you smile.
Find one new thing to appreciate on its own merits—not because it measures up to society’s ideal. Try focusing on it for 20 seconds.
After two weeks of this practice, take a step back and ask yourself: How has your view of yourself changed? Can you see more of the beauty in yourself?
If that’s too hard, start with someone you love!
Some of us have spent so many years struggling with not feeling beautiful enough that it can feel overwhelming to embrace the way we look.
But regardless, I bet there are a bunch of women in your life you think are just exquisite and amazing. Whether it’s your best girlfriend, your sister, mother, or the women in your community, try the same practice above with other women you know and care about.
Try focusing on what you think looks beautiful about her, just as she is.
What we focus on grows, so when we focus on appreciating unique beauty that doesn’t fit the societal ideal, our awareness of that beauty grows.
Try a loving-kindness exercise.
Loving-kindness is a meditation practice that extends positive loving feeling toward those around us (and ultimately to ourselves).
It’s easy to do. You can practice it throughout your day just by extending loving attention to whoever you see around you. And you can do a version of it that focuses on looking for the beauty in everyone.
When you’re walking down the street, try to see one thing that’s beautiful in everyone you see. Whether it’s the kindness in their eyes, their smile, the unique shape of their shoulders or their great hair! See what happens if you practice this next time you’re out—even for two minutes.
I find that not only does it help expand my concept of beauty, it puts me in a wonderful mood and shifts how I relate to everyone around me.
What has helped you expand your concept of what’s beautiful? Let us know in the comments below!