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Let’s talk about beauty

Note: I'm not a psychologist, I am just someone who loves to learn and loves to listen to others.

How many times I haven’t heard about unrealistic beauty standards. Uncountable times I’ve heard from friends and loved ones, that they didn’t do things because they thought they’re ‘not pretty enough’. It makes me so angry to hear how people are affected by the opinions from others and the judging atmosphere on social media.

Now, I want to tell you a few anecdotes. To show you, you’re not alone and hopefully to inspire you as well. The stories are very personal and I hope you will respect them.

Beauty when I was younger

So when I was in my puberty, I was filled with emotions and hormones and insecurities. I remember wishing to be perfect. And it was never enough. One night, I was lying in bed, overthinking every aspect of my insecurities and I asked myself: “Why does one need to be perfect? And what is perfection anyway?”

There are many causes of insecurities (read the three most common causes here) and perfectionism was one of mine. Perfection is a concept made up myself, where there’s always an unreachable and unrealistic goal. It’s good to strive for a better version of yourself every day, but it’s unhealthy to wish you were someone else or be completely different. One cannot undermine its character and preferences. One can only try to polish its behaviour and become more accepting and comfortable.

So after I asked myself these questions, I came to realise I did not want to live with (beauty) insecurities anymore, I talked to my mom and we came up with a strategy. Changing the way we think doesn’t happen overnight, it’s an active way of learning, where we have to build new connections in our brain. Instead of thinking I was ugly, I wanted to accept myself and learn otherwise.

Therefore, I took a lipstick from my mom and wrote on my mirror: “I am beautiful”. And every morning, when I’d wake up and do my make-up or get dressed, I’d see this little text and I read it out loud. Every night, before I went to sleep and brushed my hair, I’d read it again and I’d think of things where I was thankful for. Beauty is in the way I am, not the way I look.

This process continued for months. And after a year I didn’t need the text to remind myself. Instead, when I was going down the spiral of hating myself for not being perfect, I’d remind myself that I was enough and that I was beautiful the way I am. Now I can interrupt my negative thoughts and I can stop the spiralling and overthinking, because I’ve learned how to.

And of course, it doesn’t mean that I’m never insecure anymore or that I’m liking every aspect of my body or my life. Rather it’s an active acceptance of myself and recognising I’m enough, but can still improve when I wish to. I still have to fight some insecurities and this is something that will probably continue all life, but I now know this will only happen when I actively decide to fight them.

Beauty standards affect men too

Someone I know really well, was always hesitant to go to the beach. I suggested many times that we could go and hang around the water, eat some salads and crisps and maybe drink a wine or some sparkling water. Yet, he never wanted to go and he’d tell me: “He doesn’t like to go to the beach”.

After a while, I came to realise how the hate for the beach was connected to being in a swimsuit and not being able to cover his body. He was looking absolutely fine and he was gorgeous. However, he thought he was ugly and fat and he didn’t want people to see him.

I thought he was beautiful and didn’t see a need to be insecure. We’ve discussed this so many times, but I wasn’t able to convince him to believe otherwise.

So one day, I took his phone and made a note: “I am beautiful”. I’ve set an alarm for this note everyday at 8 AM, so when he’d wake up, he needed to read the note and check the box in order to make it disappear. At first he thought this was stupid and it wouldn’t change a thing. However, I was so stubborn and convinced about this active learning, that I kept the note and let the alarm ring every single day.

Then, after months, maybe a year, I started noticing a change in his behaviour. He still isn’t the biggest beach fan, but when I ask him: “Do you think you’re beautiful?”, he can now say “yes”.

One should not be afraid of someones opinions

And that brings me to the last anecdote and I want to tell. It’s not so much about beauty, rather about insecurities on a broader level.

Last week I met up with a good friend of mine. She is doing her master’s in Spanish education. Therefore she needs to do a one year internship on two high schools, where she teaches the kids Spanish. And she told me that she’d already learned so much during the first semester. Not only from the books, but she especially learned a lot about herself. And I asked her: “What is the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?”

So she started telling.

Part of her internship is doing weekly reflections with her mentor. They would discuss what she could do better and what is going great. And during these conversations, my friend would continuously try to find out whether her mentor likes her or not. Of course, she didn’t ask it straight away, but with subtle insinuations.

One day, her mentor said: “I know what you’re doing, you want to know if I like you.” And my friend turned red and had to admit this. Then her mentor said: “Okay, but what happens when I don’t like you? Does that change anything about you? Does that suddenly become the truth?” Of course not.

What someone thinks of you does not become the truth about you. When someone dislikes you, it does not mean you’re a horrible person. When someone thinks you’re ugly, it does not become the truth.

That’s the most important lesson my friend has learned and it inspired me a lot. I’m very affected by what people think of me. I start doubting myself easily when someone criticises me. Yet, critique doesn’t become the truth, it’s just someone’s opinion on how one could do better (at least when it’s constructive criticism).

Accept yourself: you are enough

As I said before, insecurities do not disappear all of a sudden. It’s an active way of changing the way we think about ourselves. It takes a very long time. But then again, what is one year of learning to love yourself compared to hating yourself the rest of your life?

I hope this inspired you to learn more bout how to fight insecurities. When you need more inspiration, read one of my first blog posts on how to Balance in a fast moving world. Or check out this super helpful post on how to fight insecurities.

Note: I'm not a psychologist, I am just someone who loves to learn and loves to listen to others.

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