We like to blame the media for pretty much everything. Politics are out of whack. It’s the media! Kids are bringing guns to school. It’s the media! Everyone has low self-esteem. It’s the media! It is easy to blame something that cannot answer back and is so vast that there is no all-encompassing way to really track its influence. I will probably write about the other issues I mentioned in later posts, but here I want to focus on self-image and self-love.
What is mainstream beauty? Tall, skinny, and pale? Blue or green eyes? Exotic and tan? I guess it depends on where you are from to answer that question. Just like those photo experiments where a girl sent her picture to several photographers around the world to edit to fit the beauty standards of their country – the answer varies. We also can note that there has been attempts to include the “non-conventional” model in fashion shows, commercials, and movies. However, for the most part, the image of mainstream beauty is not me.
This is not a pity party. There are some advantages in not being the target audience of every beauty product, romantic comedy, award ceremony, and popularity contest. Growing up I was allowed to be a care free girl for as long as I needed to be. I looked up to Grace from Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and shared her adventures and wonders. I was also tall and lanky, had my hair styled in corn rows or braids with colorful bubbles, and had a big imagination.
I looked up to Nzingha from The Royal Diaries by Patricia McKissack and believed that I too was a warrior princess ready to save all of Africa. I looked up to Hermione from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling and felt encouraged to continue striving to have good grades. Even if the teacher did not want to acknowledge my worth, just like Hermione, I was learning for me and not for anyone else.
I looked up to Dagny Taggart from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, whom I am named after, and felt empowered in my transition to becoming a young lady with a boss plan. Now, I did not only read when I was a child. I also played with Barbies, but I also played Nintendo, created fake mad-scientist experiments in the kitchen, and enjoyed pretending the grass outside was larva while climbing the swing set.
These are the characters, along with my parents, who helped me develop my sense of self-love and respect. I was so involved and happy with my little world of positivity as a child that I do not remember noticing the lack of images that looked like me on TV or in magazines. My imagination was not warped. I did not wonder why my eyes were not purple like my Barbie. I really did not compare myself to what I saw in magazines or online until College, and even then, it was more about emphasizing what I want to be known for and how I want to portray my essence.
I am grateful for my self-love journey. I still have some glitches to work on, but I think I am heading in the right direction. Sometimes I feel concerned about what is portrayed online and wonder if it really affects people like “experts” criticize. In case you are working on uncovering your beauty or are unsure of your radiance, here is some guidance:
1. Visualize and Articulate your Identity
Who are you? Who do you want to be? If your name was listed in a dictionary, what would the definition say? I am not only talking about how you want others to see you, but more for how you feel about yourself. You should feel proud of yourself. Your presence is a gift to anyone who has the privilege to experience it.
2. Appreciate your Jewels and Scars
We all have experiences we love to share and prefer to hide. You need to appreciate both your assets and your flaws. Once you own both sides of your essence, you will feel a boost of inner strength in knowing no one can shame or phase you by bringing up your past or chastising your future. You have to find peace with yourself before you can expect to move beyond grudges and hurt feelings.
3. Only Compete With Who You Were Yesterday
This ties in the two tips above plus push it further. I think one of the reasons why my persona presents a calm confidence is because I do not focus on competing with others. I genuinely celebrate others achievements, but I keep my game plan separate. It is easier said then done, but with persistence and determination you will find clarity in almost everything you do. Less time will be spent questioning your dreams and other people’s intentions.
Now, I know these tips sound more like meditation guidelines, but stick with me here. Uncovering your beauty is not only about finding the right shade of lipstick, style of clothes, exercise routine, and diet habits. It is also about nurturing your mind and soul. It is about achieving a balance of contentment with how you have progressed and where you are heading. I really feel this is the way to allow your inner radiance to shine.
What are you doing to uncover your beauty? How can we as a community help each other feel comfortable with our unique radiance?