Today’s Beauty standards are dictated by celebrities, media & entertainment, and brands. We’ve allowed these factors to paint an artificial picture of beauty that we now idolize. So, how do we define Natural Beauty within a society that glorifies surgical enhancement’s, skin lighting products, hair extensions, etc. specifically within the black community?
Let’s refer back to our textbook days, according to the Merriam Webster dictionary “Beauty” is defined as follows; the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit. Based on this definition we can determine that no matter how one chooses to perceive Beauty, that their perception must exalt the mind or spirit. However, who’s mind or spirit do we aim to please? Whether we choose to embrace our natural selves or embrace society’s idea of beauty, we must first decide for whom are we beautifying ourselves for.
Research suggests that the racist standard of what beauty should be will continuously put Non-Caucasian women at higher risk of physical health problems. Women of color are exposed to higher levels of toxins due to a constant effort to conform to a European standard of beauty. However, the more deep-rooted issue is the mental effect that these false standards have on Minority Women. According to www.hypehair.com Black women spend 9 times more than their non-black counterparts on beauty products. Which estimates to about 1.1 billion dollars on our so-called “beauty enhancement” products, that’s absurd! In 2016, I calculated every dollar amount I spent on anything that fell into the category of artificial beauty and by the end of the year, I had totaled an average of $2,532 dollars. And this was in hair extensions and makeup alone. How absurd is that? How many women readings this content at this very moment could use $2,532 dollars? Reflecting back on my own mission to appear “perfect” in such an imperfect world I question whether or not I to am a victim of low self-esteem. Or, possibly even internalized racism. Why else would we condition ourselves into believing that our natural state isn’t enough?
Many may argue that there is no connection between using artificial beauty and identifying as a confident black woman; that their love for these things doesn’t make them any less confident in themselves than a sister who has chosen to embrace her afro or dreadlocks. But, ask yourself if stripped of it all, how would you feel? Will the person looking back at you in the mirror still feel as attractive as the artificial version?
Let’s not act like Hip-hop and Social Media hasn’t shaped the way Black Women and Black Men feel a Black Women should look. Butt implants seem to be the augmentation of choice for all of our favorite social media baddies. Our younger generation has been led to believe that they aren’t attractive because their bodies don’t fit the lyrics in a song or because their curves aren’t similar to those of a video vixens.
So, where does body image fit into this puzzle? A 2017 Pennsylvania study revealed that young minority girls as young as age 8 years old are beginning to idolize body enhancement procedures. I find this to be very troubling and I worry about the future of our youth if they are already seeking self-esteem through surgery. It saddens me that the youth are barraged with images of “ideal women” who aren’t even real but simply smoke screens.
According to the New York Times, a recent survey of more than 1,000 girls in the United States ages 8-17 sponsored by the Dove- Self Esteem fund showed that 7 in 10 girls surveyed believed that when it came to issues including beauty and body image they did not “ measure up”.
If you are someone who is struggling with body image, here are a few tips on creating a healthier perception of your physical appearance.
Surround yourself with positive people. People who make fun of or consistently criticize you give off negative energy that can easily rub off on you and make you more critical, not only of others but of yourself as well.
Take new pictures of yourself and take down the old ones. While old pictures can remind you of how far you’ve come, new ones help you see what you look like now.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. ANY time you start to think negative thoughts, like “I hate my thighs,” replace them with something you love about yourself such as, “I really look good in this skirt,” or, “I love that I have strong legs.”
Take notice of the things your body can do. As you lose weight, notice how much easier it is to do things or how strong your body feels.
Do nice things for your body and mind. Get a massage, take a warm bath, or wear nice lotions or colognes.
Make a list of the things you love about your body and yourself. Add to this list when needed and read it when you’re feeling down.
Stop comparing yourself to others. Love and appreciate your body for what it is and what it is becoming as you live a healthier life.
It all boils down to Self-Love. It cannot be brought. Self-love cannot be found in a Mac Cosmetic store, a Beauty Supply store, or a Plastic Surgeons office. The answer isn’t in a twerk video or on a Instagram models page. It is learned by gaining an appreciation for who you are. It is learning to appreciate and love the real you!